Growing up, Toni Macaroni felt the pressure to wear her hair straight to ‘fit in’. But she had a turning point and found the curly girl community on Instagram. It encouraged her to finally embrace her hair and in doing so she became an advocate for other curly girls. *
My hair was a disaster when I was in high school. Like many others, I pulled my hair into a super-tight bun with a horrible plastic headband that gave me a ‘facelift’. The frizz was out of control and my poor mum was at a loss with what to do with it.
When I was 16, I discovered straighteners and frazzled my hair day after day. It used to take me around 2-3 hours to straighten it, but I accepted that this was my only option. I grew up in a predominantly white school. Every girl had straight hair and even my two sisters straightened their hair.
The turning point for me was 2 years ago when I suffered from severe depression and anxiety. I’d broken up with my boyfriend, left my job and moved back home. I’d never felt more alone and lost. My hair was thinning and snapping due to bleaching and I had small bald spots at the back of my head. It was in the worst possible state.
I managed to get back on my feet and turn my life around […] And my hair is now a constant reminder of that.
I needed something good in my life and the IG curly girl community became my new haven. Buying new hair products and watching videos was my escape from all the bad things. I managed to get back on my feet and turn my life around with the help of Instagram and my friends. And my hair is now a constant reminder of that.
But not all my friends were supportive. Some ridiculed me and called me names like poodle and mop head. It was a difficult time, but it helped me differentiate real friends and those that didn’t have my best interest at heart.
When it came to styling my hair, it wasn’t easy and I didn’t know anyone with curly hair like me. It was all trial and error. I’d watch videos on Instagram and try different methods and products until I found a combination I liked. I was shocked at how difficult it is to find products for curly hair. I bought only from black-owned companies as I felt that they were more knowledgeable about my hair type and deserved to be supported.
A natural shampoo and conditioner, hair mask and curl cream are staples in my routine now.
Initially, I spent more money because I was trying to find the right product combination for my hair. I’ve switched to sulphate-free products, which can be a little pricey, but I find this works best for my hair.
I’ve been following the curly girl method and think the foundations are fabulous, but I don’t take it too seriously. A natural shampoo and conditioner, hair mask and curl cream are staples in my routine now – I love anything with coconut. But if I use a product that isn’t CG friendly and it works well with my hair, I’m not against using it.
I’ve only straightened my hair twice in the last 2 years. Both times I felt uncomfortable with what I saw in the mirror. I felt disappointed in myself for caving to societal pressure and I’ve since vowed not to straighten my hair again.
Now, people stop me in the street and ask me questions about my hair and whether it’s permed. My curls make me feel special. All my life I wanted to blend in and be like everyone else and now I can’t think of anything worse. I love that my hair makes me unique and that I stand out. Being different is wonderful.
The curly hair movement is more of a family than a community.
Unfortunately, there has been some hurtful comments on social media. I’ve been told I shouldn’t be allowed to use products for black hair and that by wearing my hair curly I’m ‘trying to be black’. But for every bad comment, there are a hundred good ones. I get so many messages from girls saying that they didn’t realise they had curly hair and thought their hair was just frizzy. But no amount of bad comments will ever stop me wearing my hair curly. I owe the Instagram community for supporting me. The curly hair movement is more of a family than a community.
Toni’s top 5 tips for curly hair
1. Only brush/comb your hair in the shower with conditioner in. Brush it into place for styling while your rinsing and leave it alone! The more you mess with it, the more frizz you’ll have.
2. To dry your hair, wring it out gently with your hands and then scrunch out the water. I never use a towel anymore as it creates friction and can lead to breakage as the hair is more prone to breakage when wet.
3. Diffuse your hair with your head upside down, this will double your volume as your roots will dry upwards.
4. Use oil when you’ve finished styling. One pump will help reduce frizz and add a bit of shine.
5. At night, wear a buff (a stretchy tube of material) to protect your curls. I just put it around my neck and then slowly pull it up so it’s in a sausage shape on top of my head (think Marge Simpson!). They are cheap and stops your curls from being crushed while you sleep.
Our Favourite Products For Curly Hair
TRESemmé Botanique Air Dry Natural Hold Gel
With its natural hold and healthy-looking shine, the TRESemmé Botanique Air Dry Natural Hold Gel is a must-have for every curly girl.
Apply your desired amount to the palm of your hands and rub together. Distribute the product evenly through damp hair and let it air dry.
TIGI Bed Head Hard Head Mohawk Gel
Go bold with the TIGI Bed Head Hard Head Mohawk Gel. This stronghold gel is perfect for days when your hair needs serious staying power!
VO5 Mega Hold Styling Gel
Offering 24-hour extra-strong control and humidity protection, the VO5 Mega Hold Styling Gel can be moulded and shaped for your desired style.
Alberto Balsam Ultra Strong Gel
Add texture and definition to your style with the Alberto Balsam Ultra Strong Gel. Apply to damp or dry hair and allow to dry naturally or style as usual.
Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment
Nourish your curls without weighing them down with the Dove Advanced Hair Series Shine Revived Treatment. This luxurious formula is infused with a blend of nourishing oils that leaves your hair silky and shiny.
TONI&GUY Radiating Tropical Oil
Tame frizz and give your curls a soft touchable feel with the TONI&GUY Radiating Tropical Oil. Apply 3-4 pumps through the lengths of dry hair to add a natural shine to your curls.
TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shine Oil
The TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shine Oil helps you to achieve silky smooth hair that’s full of natural movement. Use on wet or dry hair to control frizz and boost shine.
*As told to Leona English.