Over the past few years, the natural curly hair movement has taken the beauty world by storm. We've seen more and more women embracing their natural textures, doing away with relaxers, keratin treatments, and in some cases — even blow dryers!
But getting there hasn't always been easy, especially for many of us Latinas who grew up hearing the negative connotations surrounding curly hair. Curly hair was many times referred to as "pelo malo" while straight hair was considered "pelo bueno." A mentality this negative could have a very damaging impact on a young girl's self-esteem, but it's great to see many women today embracing their curls and natural texture.
We spoke with nine fabulous, curly-haired Latinas on growing up with curls, how they finally embraced their hair, and the products they use to maintain those gorgeous rizos and crespos!
Alyssa Burgos, 22
Nationality: Puerto Rican
Occupation: Spin instructor and Actress
On growing up with curly hair: "I didn't even know I had curly hair until I was like 13 because my mom started relaxing it when I was 5 years old. My whole life I always felt like people didn't know how to handle me because I've always been very dramatic and sensitive. They couldn't handle my personality, my emotions, or even my wild hair. So I never really felt accepted."
On finally embracing her curls: “I started doing research on Tumblr and YouTube and looking at other women with curly hair like mine and thought, ‘Wait that’s really beautiful and I have that.’ When you see someone beautiful that looks like you, it allows you to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m beautiful too.’”
How she feels about her curls today: "I feel beautiful and feel like this is how I'm supposed to look like."
Sharon Gallardo, 25
Occupation: Actress and Model
On growing up with curly hair: "Growing up, I hated my curls because back home in the Dominican Republic, naturally curly hair is perceived as messy, vacation hair or suggests you didn't have time to go to the beauty salon. So my mom would always take me to the salon and when people around you act like your hair is a problem then you think it is too."
On finally embracing her curls: "In college I just got tired of stressing over it and realized it actually looked good and it's my hair and i have it curly for a reason."
How she feels about her curls today: "I feel really comfortable and more like myself."
Stephanie Ferreira, 25
Occupation: Teacher's Aide for special needs children
On growing up with curly hair: "My mom always straightened my hair so I just always assumed that it was supposed to be straight. I grew up hearing that I had "Pelo Malo" and always believed that I had the "bad" end of the Dominican hair spectrum."
On finally embracing her curls: "I just got sick of straightening it. I started following all these girls on YouTube and was like 'Maybe my hair really is fabulous and I just don't know it because I've never embraced it.' I stopped blow-drying, stopped chemically straightening it, started using better products and cutting it. It was a long a process, but I'm so happy that I did it."
How she feels about her curls today: "I didn't even think that my hair was going to make such a big difference, but I'm a lot more confident now because I feel like I finally love my hair."
Leilah Peralta, 24
Nationality: Dominican and Bermudian
Occupation: Social Media Coordinator for CafeMom
On growing up with curly hair: "It was rough. It didn't look good. I don't think I understood that curly hair needed lots of moisture, it needed to be conditioned well, and detangled in the shower. So it took me a while for me to get my hair to a point where I liked the way it looked curly and out."
On finally embracing her curls: "High school was when I first gave wearing my hair out in it's natural form a go. When I went to college, I went back to blow-drying it straight a lot which did a lot of damage. In the last year I've stopped using heat and straightening and I like it so much more."
Favorite products: Camile Rose Naturals Coconut Water Leave-In Hair Treatment, $14, Camilerosenaturals.com, SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque, $11; Target.com and Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Hair Sheen, $12; Carolsdaughter.com
How she feels about her curls today: "Generally I'm a pretty quiet and reserved person but I feel like my hair has all this personality and it makes me stand out — I do like that."
Kenia Molina, 31
Occupation: Sales Planner
On growing up with curly hair: "When I was 9, I saw a commercial for this relaxer that targeted children. I begged my mother to relax my hair because I wanted my hair to be straightened. As a child you grow up hearing terms, like "pelo malo" and it's not until you get older that you really understand what they really mean."
On finally embracing her curls: "Not perming my hair or having to go to the Dominican salons every week allowed me to do more physical activities. I started swimming, running, and doing triathlons. All those things really pushed for me to go completely natural. I started to evolve as a person and my hair became a part of my personality."
Favorite products: SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, $11; Target.com and Kinky Curly Custard Gel, $17; Target.com
How she feels about her curls today: "Its freedom. It's being free to accept yourself how you are regardless of what other people say or how others feel. My hair is a reflection of my personality. It's wild, it's crazy, it's fun, it's free, and it's untamable."
Dominique Tueré Dodson, 26
Nationality: Crucian, Bajan, Panamanian, and Mexican
On growing up with curly hair: "I never knew what my natural texture was because my mom was always perming and straightening it. Having long, straight hair was considered beautiful. Wearing your hair curly was never an option."
On finally embracing her curls: "When I got to college I didn't have the money or time to constantly keep up and straighten my hair. So I started letting the relaxer grow out. But I was still very nervous about wearing my curls out because I didn't know how it was going to be received by society, by friends, or even family. My boyfriend saw it curly one day when I was getting out of the shower and he was the one that really encouraged me to embrace it."
Favorite products: Organics Olive Oil Deep Conditioner, $30; Houseofbeauty.com and SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, $11; Target.com
How she feels about her curls today: "I love it, my family loves my hair. My grandmother even started to wear her hair natural afterwards. I kind of inspired her."
Shaina Andrews, 29
Nationality: Black and Puerto Rican
Occupation: Graphic Designer
On growing up with curly hair: "I'm black and Puerto Rican so when my hair was frizzy or would fro up, there was always this consciousness that I was being perceived as "less Latina" and "more black." In the Dominican salons I would hear that I had "pelo malo" and that needed to relax my hair because my roots were too curly."
On finally embracing her curls: "Once it hit me that I didn't need to relax my hair and that I could embrace my natural texture instead of trying to look like someone else, I instantly started to feel better about myself."
Favorite product: Alba Botanica Hawaiian Drink it Up Coconut Milk Hawaiian Conditioner, $15; Target.com
How she feels about her curls today: “I’m black and Puerto Rican so when my hair was frizzy or would fro up, there was always this consciousness that I was being perceived as “less Latina” and “more black.” In the Dominican salons I would hear that I had “pelo malo” and that I needed to relax my hair because my roots were too curly.”
Stephanie Diaz, 30
Occupation: Beauty Salesperson and Grad Student
On growing up with curly hair: "When I was 9 my mom relaxed my hair. So I was conditioned from that age [to believe] that straight hair was the best thing. Growing up I understood that curly hair was always associated with "pelo malo" and straight hair was "pelo bueno."
On finally embracing her curls: "After years of doing regular relaxers, I decided to do the Brazilian keratin treatment. It looked great at first but the second my hair started growing out it looked horrendous with my roots super curly and the rest of my hair was straight. I said, "No more," and decided to grow out the processed hair and just rock it curly from then on."
How she feels about her curls today: "This is who I am, I am 100 percent confident that I look good with my curly hair. I feel like I'm whole now."
Nicole Castro, 25
Nationality: Colombian and Peruvian
Occupation: Speech Pathologist
On growing up with curly hair: "I always had problems managing my hair because of the frizz. It always looked so poufy no matter what products I used."
On finally embracing her curls: "I got a haircut when I was around 19 that made my curls a lot more manageable. I really learned to love wearing my hair curly after that. All I had to do was let it air-dry, add some products, and I was good to go."
Favorite products: John Frieda Extra Strength Six Effects Serum, $8; Drugstore.com and John Frieda Frizz Ease Dream Curls Air-Dry Waves Styling Foam, $9; Target.com
How she feels about her curls today: "I feel great when I wear my hair curly. I feel like it accentuates my features and makes me look prettier."
Delaila Catalino, 29
Nationality: Puerto Rican and Dominican
On growing up with curly hair: "I had a lot of hair and by high school I was blowdrying it myself. I felt like it always looked frizzy and puffy and could never get it to look as straight as I wanted. I didn't feel confident about my hair at all."
On finally embracing her curls: "My curls always frustrated me and I realized it was time to just fully embrace them."
Favorite products: Mixed Chicks Leave-In Conditioner, $17; Mixedchicks.net, Eden Coconut Shea Coconut Control Edge Glaze, $9, Eden-bodyworks.com, SheaMoisture Superfruit Complex 10-iin-1 Renewal System Hair Masque, $12; Drugstore.com
How she feels about her curls today: : "I love it. I'm still trying to bring my curl pattern back from all the heat-damage it's endured from constant blow-drying, but I'm finally learning to appreciate my natural hair."