Ellie shares her tried-and-tested product recommendations for curly hair
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When my resolutely straight hair suddenly started turning curly as I entered my 40s, I had no idea what could be causing such a noticeable change.
My nephew had always likened my thick, straight dark bob to Mowgli, the ‘man-cub’ raised by wolves in The Jungle Book.
But, at 41, my locks were starting to look more like Moana’s mane (another favourite Disney character) and were becoming harder and harder to control.
Where once I was blessed with glossy, need-little-attention locks, now there was serious work to be done each morning.
In the past, I’d been used to giving it a quick run-through with my fingertips and seeing it fall into place; now, it was stubbornly resistant to lying flat, even after a 20-minute blast with my 2,000-watt hairdryer.
The change: Ellie’s previously straight hair (left) and her now curly tresses
Brushing it — even with a gentle, wide-toothed comb — created an unmanageable mesh of frizz.
With personal grooming time in the morning at a premium, I adopted the favoured school-run-mum look: hair scraped back in a messy bun, big shades and a decent handbag.
As the months passed, my new-found curls continued to flourish. What was going on?
It turns out that changes in your natural hair type are a common occurrence when hormones fluctuate in midlife.
Even though I was still in my early 40s, I had started to experience peri-menopausal symptoms, such as poor sleep and anxiety, but I hadn’t connected ‘the change’ to the changes in my hair.
I thought menopause meant hair thinning or loss, not a full re-style.
‘Women do report their hair changing its natural texture in their middle years,’ explains Dr Amanda Gemmill, a GP who advises on the menopause.
‘The reduction in oestrogen can cause hair follicles to change in size, number and shape. If they change from being circle-shaped, which produces straight hair, to oval-shaped follicles, then your hair becomes curly.’
Ellie was used to giving her hair a quick run-through with her fingertips and seeing it fall into place when it was straight
Now I understood what was happening, I decided I’d better learn how to style my bouncy new ‘do’. For this, I turned to curl guru Ester Hunter from @LunaCurlStudio.
Over a two-hour ‘Curl Education’ session, she explained how I needed to embrace a different grooming regime, starting with the revelation that curl care is more about hydration than expensive products.
Hair mustn’t dry out before you’ve applied the products, so Ester advised just patting hair dry after a wash, to keep it damp, and using a fine spritz of water from a spray bottle to ensure maximum moisture is locked in as you apply products.
The same spritz technique proves effective in refreshing curls each morning, too.
‘Curly hair needs moisture over products,’ she explains. ‘Think 80 per cent water to 20 per cent products.
‘Curly hair tends to be naturally drier than straight because we brush it less, so our natural oils aren’t regularly spread from the scalp downwards to coat the hair strands.’
It was also time to make friends again with that most 1990s of styling tools, the diffuser.
‘A must for curls,’ says Ester. ‘By spreading the air evenly and slowly, the diffuser helps to dry the hair gently, while encouraging its natural curl pattern to form.’
Ellie learned that looking after curly hair is more about hydration than expensive products
Next up was the introduction of a silk sleep bonnet, because curls, apparently, hate to be rubbed against the pillow overnight and will repay you by being even more unruly and knotted in the morning.
While the bonnet is not a look recommended for date nights and I try to pop it on after my husband has nodded off, it is effective in prolonging shine.
With the right management, my thick curls can last a week with no washing. Previously, I’d got away with little investment in hair care products, but now I have a number of curl-taming lotions and potions on my bathroom shelves.
Below are my tried-and-tested product recommendations if you, like me, find yourself in this hair-raising chapter of the menopause.
MAX IT WITH MOUSSE
Curlsmith Bouncy Strength Volume Foam (£24 for 222ml, curlsmith.com)
A strong mousse provides a good foundation and maximises volume without weighing curls down. Enriched with proteins, this should be used as a base before layering on other styling products.
Run a satsuma-sized amount through hair, applying extra at the roots, then diffuse.
As I Am Curling Jelly (£7.39 for 227g, Amazon)
For defined curls, this is a revelation. Made with aloe vera, sugar beet root and vitamin E, it locks in moisture and holds definition for days.
A little goes a long way, so smear a pea-sized amount across your hands, then sweep through hair, from root to tip, before diffusing.
Aussie Lightweight Treat Mega Smooth Hair Oil (on offer at £6.66 for 100ml, Boots)
With macadamia nut and coconut oil, this gives a shiny, frizz-free finish.
After diffusing, rub a little between your fingers, turn your head upside down and gently smooth through to separate clumps. Once upright, glide over to calm fly-away hairs.