Born in Brazil but adopted by German parents, influencer and social media manager Andrea C. Da Silva always felt like the odd one out growing up because of her hair. After a trip to her birth country earlier this year, she’s learned how deeply connected our hair is with our sense of belonging and identity.*
What was your relationship like with your hair when you were younger?
When I was a child my hair was super curly, like kinky curls. I lived in a small town in Germany where everyone’s hair was straight and mostly blonde, so I always felt like I was standing out around others who didn’t have my hair type. Now, I see it in a good way but back then I just thought “why is my hair not like that?”
Did your parents ever explain to you why your hair looked different to your friends’?
My parents were always honest about my brother and me being adopted. I don’t remember a specific moment, but they never kept it secret and they pointed out where Brazil was on the map and showed us pictures of Brazilian people so that we could identify with them.
Did your parents struggle when it came to styling your hair?
I think my mum always struggled with my hair because she didn’t know what to do with my curls. My mum’s friends were all European/White, so she didn’t have anyone who could help her and YouTube didn’t exist! She didn’t really verbalise it but I noticed from the way she held my hair and she would often say to me “you have really nice hair but it’s so difficult to comb it”.
I always hated her touching my hair because it was so hard for her to ‘get through’. I remember once I had a clip stuck in my hair and I couldn’t get it out and for some reason, I think my mum was at work, so I just cut it out!
How did going to university in England change your thoughts about your hair?
I learnt more about my own hair through them (my uni friends) and the way they styled theirs.
Starting uni introduced me to more friends from different backgrounds who I could identify more with and I learnt more about my own hair through them and the way they styled theirs. It wasn’t until uni that I even knew braids existed! Growing up no one around me ever had braids, so when I first saw friends wearing them at uni I thought “maybe I should try this!”.
You went to Brazil earlier this year in search of your birth family. Was this something you’d been thinking about for a while?
It had been a long time coming. I always said I was going to go to Brazil to try and find my birth family when I finished uni, but after my bachelors I decided to do my masters and then after my masters, I started working and just got caught up in all of that and it never happened. But last year I broke up with my ex-boyfriend of 6 years and realised I needed to think about myself more and do the things that I’ve always wanted to do and Brazil was at the top of my list.
Does your hair make you feel connected to your Brazilian side?
Brazil is a super diverse country, so you see people with all different types of hair but when I visited the area where I’m from (Cabedolo, near Recife on the East coast), I saw lots of people with the same hair type – wavy curls like mine or a bit curlier.
What was it like being surrounded by people with the same hair as you?
When I went to Brazil it was as if I was home. Obviously, I look similar to them with my hair and skin colour, so when they spoke to me in Portuguese they were really confused when I couldn’t answer them! It really felt like I was blending in, no-one looked at me like I was any different there.
Did you get any tips from the Brazilian women while you were there?
I got loads of tips from the people I met and also brought back some products to try out.
The most important tips they told me were to always let my hair air dry, not to use a hairdryer and they also use lots of shea butter and coconut oil products on their hair.
I’d go up to someone and tell them “I love your hair!” and ask them what they do to it and it would start off a whole conversation. The most important tips they told me were to always let my hair air dry, not to use a hairdryer and they also use lots of shea butter and coconut oil products on their hair. I brought some pure shea butter back, which I use as a mask and leave in overnight and it makes my hair perfect.
Since getting back, how has your routine changed?
I’m way more conscious about my hair now, both what products I use on it and how I treat it. I always used to dry my hair with a hairdryer and now I don’t do that anymore, I just take my time and let it air dry. If I’m buying new products, I try to look for ingredients that are more natural like shea butter, just because when I came back I really noticed the difference that the shea butter made to my hair.
Andrea’s 5 Top Tips for Curly Hair
Use mousse to define your curls
Get regular trims
“It’s important to cut your ends every now and then when they’re frizzy to keep your hair healthy.”
Use a mask once a week to keep your hair hydrated
“I really love the Love Beauty And Planet Hope & Repair 2 Minute Magic Masque because it’s not as heavy on my hair as usual hair masks. I have a lot of hair but it’s quite thin so this hair mask, first of all it smells really good but it’s not as heavy on my hair.”
Get a satin pillowcase
“Sleep on a satin pillow or use a satin scarf to protect your hair at night because you’re in bed and your hair will be all over the place, even if you put your hair up, it will still affect your hair, trust me.”
Protect your hair from the sun
Our Top Curly Hair Products
Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment
Care for your curls with the Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment. This lightweight oil blend nourishes hair, giving you radiant, glossy curls with enviable shine.
TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Hydrating Mist
Keep curls protected and hydrated between washes with the TRESemmé Botanique Nourish & Replenish Hydrating Mist. Enriched with coconut milk and aloe vera, it helps to redefine curls without washing and detangles to make styling easier.
*As told to Bethany Strong