Curly-Haired Jews: This Is for You
Stereotypes, haircare tips, and more.
Curly fries. Curling up with a good book. The sport of curling. All best things in life have curls! Especially curly-haired Jews.
This Drop is dedicated my colleagues and friends, Eliana and Alana, who led a kick-tuchus discussion on curly hair at work. They talked Jewish stereotypes, haircare routines, and more. As someone with mostly straight hair, it made me admire my curly-haired friends so much more for all they put up with. Here are some topics we discussed.
Curl Pattern Type
There’s actually a classification for what type of curly hair you have. Whether it’s kinky, coily, wavy, and/or curly, it’s helpful to know if your curl pattern is 2A (soft waves) or 4C (tightly coiled) so you have a better understanding of how to care for your curls.
There’s a reason I cut my hair so short. It’s not just because I want to look French! It’s mostly because I got tired of the maintenance of it all. So props to my curly-haired friends who spend time maintaining their luscious locks and who shared their curly haircare tips with me:
“I use clarifying shampoo followed by conditioner, then a curl-enhancing smoothie or cream. Once a week I deep condition with a masque.”
“I wash using a clarifying shampoo once a month. I use a hair care product line for spiral curls. I wash with shampoo and conditioner 1-2x / week, use a wet brush while the conditioner is on my hair to detangle. I use a prep spray and styling gel while my hair is wettest and again use a wet brush while the gel us on my hair. I *should* part my hair into sections before applying gel to facilitate the styling process but sometimes I just apply the gel overall. I use my hands to squeeze out the water and facilitate curling, and repeat the process using a microfiber towel before diffusing. I also have a hair oil I can use to release moisture during the drying process and a volumizing spray for my roots.”
“I shampoo and condition and wrap wet hair in a t-shirt before moisturizing and diffusing - the flat cotton of the shirt absorbs water better than a towel and prevents frizz.”
Curly Hair Products
When I’m with my curly friends, they sometimes exchange product recommendations because there’s so many out there that take care of various needs, from detangling to setting. Isitcg.com is a great website to help you find some. Here are some my friends recommend:
Miche Beauty detox shampoo, SheaMoisture curl enhancing smoothie, Kinky-Curly Knot Today, Denman brushes, anything from the Ouidad Vitalcurl and Devacurl lines.
You know the statement that’s often said with an inflection that makes it sound like a compliment, “You don’t look Jewish”? This comes from people’s belief that (typically Ashkenazi) Jews share common physical traits that makes them look inherently “Jewish.” One of these is dark curly hair. They should see my friends! One has long straight blonde hair, another with curly red hair, and they are both fully Jewish. I too have straight brown hair with a slight wave to it. There’s no one Jewish “look.”
That said, many Jewish people might have curly or wavy hair because of their Middle Eastern ancestry, not to mention payot, or sidelocks religious men keep to prove their faith. But not all Jews have curly hair and having curly hair doesn’t make someone “look Jewish.”
In the face of stereotypes it’s important to own and embrace your curls, whether you think they add to your Judaism or not. I asked a few friends what they thought about their curls and here’s what they said:
“My hair was the physical representation of me embracing my Jewish identity and peoplehood. I love it because it represents my heritage and who I am.”
“I love my hair, but it's been a journey to learn to take care of it and I still feel envious of Jewish girls whose curls feel more common (like type 3).”
“I like my curls. It’s fun to have them. It does feel like it’s part of being Jewish to have Jewish girl hair.”
“My curly hair is my identity and recently it hasn’t been has curly as it used to be. Curly hair brings me closer to my Israeli identity vs Jewish identity but it does make me feel different in the USA which I like!!”
If you’re a millennial like me, you grew up on The Princess Diaries, particularly that famous scene where Anne Hathaway gets a makeover to become a pretty, pretty princess. In our curly talk we discussed how scenes like this, when the glasses and curls become contacts, makeup, and straight-as-a-board hair, can affect someone’s view of themselves and typical beauty standards.
We also discussed how curly girls get comments like “Why don’t you straighten your hair?” to which I ask: why don’t they mind their own business?!
Now, it seems more Jewish celebrities and my friends are proudly embracing their curly hair, whether as a celebration of their culture, a reflection of their beauty, or an expression of self-love. As someone with fine, flat hair, I’ve always thought curly, voluminous hair was free flowing and beautiful (we always want what we can’t have, eh?). I love my curly-haired peeps and appreciate the work they put into not only maintaining their curls, but owning their beauty in the face of antisemitism or ads that try to make people feel like they need to change their appearance.
Shabbat Shalom to Jews everywhere, no matter your hair type!
If anything resonated with you in this post or if you have anything to add to the curly convo, comment below!