It’s estimated that 55% of caucasian hair is either wavy or curly. Yet recently, there has been a sudden increase of women on TikTok realizing for the first time that their hair isn’t actually straight.

Following a rise in curly hair tutorials across social media, more women are testing these tips on their own locks, and discovering that their hair isn’t straight after all – it’s curly as fuck. The majority of the products used in these tutorials are usually only aimed at women of color with kinky, coily hair. 

@ellamayjackson5

Can’t believe I Didn’t know I had curly hair 😱😱#curlyhair

♬ original sound – Danielle Elizabeth

But how can someone go their whole life not realizing their hair is naturally curly? In the same way that eurocentric beauty standards have made us believe that the thinner you are, the more beautiful you seem — they have also made us believe that longer and straighter hair is the epitome of perfection.

As a result, many women have never let their hair dry naturally and discovered their dormant curls. Instead, they’ve spent their whole life rushing straight to the blow dryer and straighteners.

Many have also been unknowingly straightening out their curls by brushing their hair when it’s dry, something experts say damages hair cuticles and only leads to frizz. It seems the women in these TikTok tutorial videos have spent their entire life thinking their hair is just thick and frizzy, rather than thick and curly. 

Unlike the women on TikTok who had no idea of their natural curls, I’ve always known that my hair is curly. However, I still spent the first 18 years of my life straightening it. It wasn’t until I went to university that I finally started to embrace my curls and actively encourage my natural hair texture.

I’ve grown up with the idea that curly hair isn’t attractive as the only curly hair deemed fashionable by mainstream media was salty beach waves. And the two things are mutually exclusive. While I’m speaking from my personal experiences as a white woman with curly hair, it’s important to note that women of color have been subject to these harmful eurocentric beauty standards most of all – especially when it comes to the so-called “perfect” hair texture.

The idea that natural kinky coily hair is “bad hair”, while smoother locks are “good hair”, has caused many black women to relax their curls to make them smoother and straighter. My friend Gabby has only just started to embrace her natural hair after having it relaxed for most of her teenage years. This narrative that the smoother, straighter, and more white-looking your hair is, the more attractive you are, not only perpetuates the harmful idea that ‘ugliness’ is tied to non-whiteness, but also the idea that curly hair is less beautiful than straight hair. 

For example, let’s take The Princess Diaries — a series of books and two feature films that were a huge part of my childhood growing up. Despite being caucasian, a big part of Mia Thermopolis’s transformation into Princess of Genovia is straightening out her frizzy curls. According to the royal hairdresser, only with smooth locks is Mia ready to begin her journey to the throne.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that some women are only just discovering their natural curls now — eurocentric hair and beauty standards are ingrained in all sides of the hairdressing industry. As well as drugstores hiding curly hair products at the back of the shop in the already lackluster selection for black textured hair, most white salons have absolutely no idea how to cut and style natural curls.

I am left with two choices when my hairdresser brushes my hair when it’s dry (and turns it into a frizzy disaster). I can either blow dry it straight and then add in curls with straighteners, or diffuse my curls without a speck of curling gel or holding product. Either way, I end up leaving the salon looking like a mix between Charles 2nd of England, and Lord Farquaad from Shrek — neither the vibe I was going for.  

However, despite hairdressers still looking dumbfounded whenever I ask them if I can leave the salon with damp hair to air dry my curls, there has been a rise in appreciation for curly hair over the last few years. This is largely due to the increase of people becoming more aware of the dangerous realities of these eurocentric hair and beauty standards.

Social media has also provided more education on how to care for natural curls. As well as a sudden influx of curly hair routines on TikTok, curly hair appreciation accounts have popped up all over Instagram. Celebrities are also beginning to embrace their curls and share their natural hair on their feeds. Take Jade Thirwall from Little Mix, for example.

For me, Western beauty standards meant that it took me 18 years to fully embrace my curls, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally got a good curly hair routine down. If you’re thinking about investing in Olaplex, this is your sign to do it. But for women of color, these standards have caused years’ worth of chemical and heat damage by relaxing and smoothing out their hair with straightening irons.

While this TikTok trend and recent appreciation for natural curls on social media doesn’t undo the harm that these eurocentric beauty standards have caused, it’s great that more and more people are finally realizing that their frizzy hair is actually full of beautiful curls.

So, if you’re wondering why your locks have never been totally smooth, why not try whacking in a ton of curl cream and chucking out your straighteners? You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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  • Tilly Brogan

    Part-writer, part-booktuber, Tilly is an Editorial Fellow at The Tempest. She loves writing about current affairs and women’s rights, but also passionately defends YA books and considers herself a regular in most YA fandoms. She can pluck her eyebrows without wincing and sink enough vodka shots to raise the Titanic.

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