Writer Tells African-American Hair Tales In “Curly Like Me”

June 21, 2010  |  

By Demetria Irwin

Stretch, pull, burn, slather in grease. These are just a few of the ways some of us naturally curly Madames have tortured our hair and scalp over the years. Teri LaFlesh, author of Curly Like Me: How to Grow Your Hair Healthy, Long and Strong, understands that struggle and she’s here to help.

After years of trying to figure out ways to make her naturally curly hair unnaturally straight, LaFlesh finally embraced her curls and began to view her hair as an asset rather than an enemy. “This book will tell you not only how to manage your curls, but how to make them happy,” says LaFlesh in the Curly Like Me introduction. Happy curls? Oh, do tell!

LaFlesh begins the book by sharing her own “hairstory”, complete with cringe-worthy pictures. The product of a marriage between a black woman and a white man, LaFlesh’s hair was a fuzzy, unpredictable, notoriously dry mystery to her and her family. Jheri curls, weaves and extensions are just some of the styles that LaFlesh rocked for the first 20 years or so of her life.

One day, LaFlesh decided to go natural and eventually found that she actually liked the natural texture of her hair. Like a lot of women with processed hair, she hadn’t seen her God-given texture since she was a kid.

The rest of Curly Like Me is part science, part how-to and all the way helpful. LaFlesh explains the anatomy of a hair follicle (she even has diagrams) in understandable terms and then provides chapters of step-by-step instructions on how to properly and inexpensively care for natural curls. Essentially, LaFlesh advocates for gentle combing and leaving in hair conditioner, even when the label instructs to rinse it out. This is not exactly revolutionary hair care advice, but it is laid out in a very simple and helpful way.

By far the most useful part of the book is the section on hair product ingredients. Though she does name-check some products, she also lists common ingredients and explains what they do to your hair and scalp. That is priceless information because it takes the guesswork out of shopping at the beauty supply store and helps make you immune to those pretty, sparkly marketing tricks.

LaFlesh also includes information on curly hair tools, do-it-yourself styling options and other hair care resources. She has her own website: Tightly Curly, but she spreads the love by shouting out other popular curly hair sites as well.

Curly Like Me is a quick, easy read. The way LaFlesh cares for her own waist-length hair might not be perfectly suited to your needs and she acknowledges this, but she offers resources and information that pretty much any curly Madame would find useful.

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