Hello, my fellow natural hair peeps! I’m Pallavi, a natural hair advocate, blogger, and Youtuber (at The Curious Jalebi) all the way from Delhi, India! I work in social media marketing by day and, by night, I blog. Through a section on my blog, I teach girls and women (now even men!) how to take care of their waves and curls.
The name “The Curious Jalebi” was chosen because I am incredibly passionate, I love to learn and share with my readers and my hair looks like the squiggly wiggles of an Indian sweet called Jalebi! This is my curly hair story. I hope you can relate to the crazy ride I had, learn a few tips, and find out how it was growing up with curly hair in India.
Having curly hair always made me feel a strong sense of shame and jealousy towards other girls. To me, they were ‘lucky’ enough to be born with straight hair that led to me developing serious insecurity issues. Despite many Indians being born with naturally wavy or curly hair, it is rarely reflected in the media or film industry. Ads on the telly typically had actresses with super sleek, straight hair next to products which helped achieve that look.
This really discouraged me- I found no representation for a long time. No one understood the struggle of being a curly haired girl in India where the only response to messy hair was - “Why don’t you get it straightened/smoothened or why can’t you learn to take care of your hair like other girls?”
After years of hating myself for what I was born with, classmates making fun of the ‘nest’ or ‘Jhaadu’ (“broom” in English), I got a keratin treatment done. Big. Mistake. My hair was silky straight for almost a year and I loved it - everyone was surprised and happy that I got it done. While my vanity was appeased, I was left dreading when the treatment’s effect would reduce. When people indicated in any way that I looked nicer now, it wasn’t always a happy feeling. ‘This isn’t the real me’ I would say to myself. Once the treatment started to fade, my hair became worse than what it had ever been before. It would break easily, much of it was falling out and it looked badly damaged.
One hair stylist at a salon kept lamenting on how terrible my hair’s health was - he suggested I get another Keratin treatment! That was enough for me, so I didn’t go through it. In that same salon appointment, I ended up getting the ‘Big Chop’ and cut off all my damaged hair. Soon after, I discovered bloggers and YouTube and the world of natural hair care.
I came across a popular blogger who had beautiful, thick curly hair. It looked NOTHING like my curls. Hers were healthy and shiny with no sign of frizz. This was the first that I spoke the words: ‘beautiful curly hair’ in the same sentence! Luckily for me, she had recorded her hair care routine and I thought:
“I Don’t Comb Hair Dry? I Use a Curl Cream & Gel? I Deep Condition twice a month?” What the heck!? I had never heard of such products or advice! I had grown up in a small town and who knew how to tame her hair with only oil (as do most people do here), so her routine sounded bizarre. But it clearly worked on her hair. After discovering how differently curly hair is treated, I knew I had to change my products.
India at that time, had no Amazon or stores that sold products for wavy or curly hair. The only ones that ‘tamed frizz’ were serums that were made from silicones. Googling ‘Indian Curly Hair’ just gave lists of websites that sold ‘Raw/Virgin Indian Curly hair’ for wigs and weaves! To make it worse there was the fact that I was a student staying in a hostel, then college and had a very tight budget. So, I stopped hunting and focused only on the techniques used on curly hair.
Initially, in the beginning, it was difficult trying to convince my family members and relatives that I don’t need to comb my curls when they are dry! They found it ‘strange’ that I would not make them look ‘neater’ by combing it into a plait. It can be heart-breaking to not find support in taking care of your natural hair and being pulled down with sly insults that your hair type is “wild” and it’s something to be ashamed of. I even had a reader who wasn’t getting marriage suitors because many families kept asking her to get it straightened!
In the following months, I tried the tips and they changed my life. What was always a frizzy bush that I hated seeing in the mirror, over time, grew healthy, was soft to touch, and curled. I was no longer scared to leave my hair down.
Now, thankfully, times have changed! We finally have Amazon to order international products and there are many Indian natural hair bloggers now trying to spread the word, myself included. With many curly hair brands shipping to India, the Indian natural hair community is finally growing incredibly fast! Remaining challenges that some struggle with is the ability to find products that are CG friendly and that don’t break the budget.
However, the biggest benefit to my life after I started taking care of my curls was the boost to my self-confidence. I felt very unworthy of love and attention in school while growing up and my hair was a big contributor. I no longer felt like I ‘failed’ at taking care of myself and had to change myself to be accepted better by my peers. There is so much stopping us from fiercely loving ourselves, just the way we are, and the natural hair community really broke those barriers for me.
To all my fellow South Asian curly hair peeps - if you have/had similar experiences, comment below and reach out to myself and the Curl Keeper team. How was it like after YOU found out about how to take care of natural hair? How did your friends and families react? What are you struggling with now? I invite you to watch my Top 10 Tips for Beginners with Curly Hair video or grab a cuppa tea and read my Curly Hair Tips for Beginners on my blog.
After all, this community is perfect for you to share your frustrations, learn new tips and discover solutions since we’ve all been there at some point in life. I hope you grow to love, take care and spread the word about curly hair care yourself. You never know when you might give another frustrated person their ‘A-Ha' moment!