Born in Brazil but adopted by German parents, Andrea C. Da Silva felt like the odd one out growing up because of how different her hair looked compared to family and friends. After a long-term relationship broke down earlier this year, she took a trip to her birth country and discovered how deeply connected hair is with a 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. 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 when you are young, you don’t want to stand out. Back then it made me self-conscious and I just thought, ‘why is my hair not like that?’.
Did your parents ever explain to you why you looked different?
My parents were always honest about my brother and me being adopted. I don’t remember a specific moment [when then told me], but they never kept it secret and would point out where Brazil is on the map and showed us pictures of Brazilian people so 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 and white, so she didn’t have anyone who could help her and YouTube didn’t exist! She never 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’.
I hated her touching my hair because it was so hard for her to ‘get through it’. I remember once I had a clip stuck in my hair and I couldn’t get it out. I think my mum was at work, so I just cut it out. I was pretty upset.
How did going to university in England change your thoughts about your hair?
Starting uni introduced me to more friends from different backgrounds who I could identify with and I learnt more about my own hair through the way they styled theirs. It wasn’t until uni that I even knew braids existed, for example. 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 would go to Brazil to try and find my birth family when I finished uni, but after my Bachelors I decided to do a Masters and then after that, I started working and just got caught up in life and it never happened. However, last year I broke up with my boyfriend of six years and realised I needed to think about myself more and do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. A visit to 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. It felt like I was home.
What was it like being surrounded by people with the same hair as you?
I looked so similar to the people I met they were confused that I couldn’t answer them in Portuguese! No one looked at me like I was any different there. To blend in so much, felt liked I belonged.
Did you get any good hair tips from the locals?
I got loads of tips from the people I met and also brought back some lovely products to try out.
I’d go up to someone and tell them “I love your hair!” and ask them what they do to it and 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 to use lots of shea butter and coconut oil products. I brought some pure shea butter back, which I use as an overnight mask.
Since getting back, how has your routine changed?
I’m way more conscious about my particular hair type now, and more confident about the products I use and how I care for it. I have stop using a hairdryer and, I just take my time and let it air dry. If I’m buying new products, I look for ingredients that are more natural like shea butter, 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
“Cut your ends 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. This mask smells really good but it’s not heavy on my hair.”
Get a Satin Pillowcase
“Sleep on a satin pillow or with your hair wrapped in a satin scarf to protect your hair at night. Trust me, this works. If you just put it up and hope for the best, you’ll wake up with your hair all over the place.”
Protect Your Hair from the Sun
“When you’re in the sun, remember to keep your hair hydrated by using a leave-in conditioner to stop it going frizzy.
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