beauty

“I went to a curly hair specialist and it completely changed how I approach my hair.”

I’ve been straightening my curly hair all my life, so much so that when I began wearing it naturally a couple of years ago, my family was sure I’d had a perm.

The funny thing is we all have curly hair, but had spent many years wearing it straight, because it seemed to just  be what you do when you have fine but strong hair that can be straightened. This is to the point that we’d never even thought about calling ourselves a curly-haired family.

And yet…this is what we look like, au naturale:

So why did we do this? There’s an inherent, totally subconscious way we think about hair; it shouldn’t ever be frizzy, should look sleek and neat, and straightening it is the best way to achieve that. And I don’t think that’s just something my family thinks; it’s what many of us are led to believe.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my straight hair when I do it well.

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But moving to Sydney changed things. Here, unlike Adelaide, the summer was humid, and being a working gal and sole parent, I’d have no time in the morning to do any styling. So I just bought some curling product and let it dry naturally.

That was only possible because of the miracle product, 3MoreInches Pre Wash Treatment, which I’d sleep in overnight. I found this product myself. Even though I would explain that to every hairdresser, somehow I would still walk out with a cut designed to be straightened, and I was never once sold a curly hair product.

It would take a global pandemic for me to finally realise I needed to see an expert in curly hair. With no professional attention paid to it for three and a half months, my hair was wild and dry and unloved. I thought, there’s got to be a way to need less professional maintenance. So, I decided to educate myself.

I found Rumbie Mutsiwa, who has the salon Rumbie and Co, which according to their Insta profile is a “wavy, curly & afro specialist salon, simplfying curly hair.”

I couldn’t get in for two weeks (an excellent sign) and so by mid-June, I was never more excited to see a hair salon in my life.

The experience was a gamechanger. I even wrote a post afterwards, saying “I was today years old when I learned to wash and style my curly hair.”

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Firstly, Rumbie (who was born in Zimbabwe, and came to Australia as a student), exuded a quiet confidence that made me feel instantly that she knew exactly what I wanted. She knew why I was there.

Rumbie patiently took me through what I should be doing to my hair, rather than telling me off for my mistakes. And boy, had I been making mistakes!

I’d wash and condition my hair every day, towel dry, then put product in. Lots and lots of it. Then leave to dry naturally, adding more product during the day. Rumbie told me that wasn’t an ideal routine for curly hair; there was a simpler way, and it started with how I washed my hair.

Yes, ideally I shouldn’t be washing it daily, but as I insisted I needed to, Rumbie rolled with that. At the sink, the first thing was to brush my hair with a curly haired brush.

“You have to get the tangle out first,” Rumbie explained. “If you brush or comb it while it’s wet, when your hair is at its weakest, you’re damaging your texture.”

Then she applied about a 20 cent coin size of her brand’s curly shampoo to my wet hair, and rubbed. That’s the best way to describe it. You know how in shampoo commercials, the person lathers their hair into a bubbly mountain? Yeah, you shouldn’t do that if you want bouncy, shiny curls.

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Rumbie just rubbed the shampoo into my scalp, cleaning my lengths when she did the rinse. But there was no tangling of the strands together at any point. 

There was also no rinse out conditioner.

“Even leaving a conditioner in for a few minutes isn’t enough,” Rumbie explained. She introduced me to her leave in conditioner spray, which was not lightly sprayed over the top of my head as I would do.

After simply squeezing excess water with her hands, Rumbie sectioned my hair and worked the spray into each part, so after two minutes of effort, every strand on my head was thoroughly hydrated.

It was clear to me after that I really had never made any effort with moisturising my hair, at all.

The final step was to use Rumbie’s Light Curl Gel, which was scrunched into my lengths.

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I’ll admit it felt weird doing all of that without having towel-dried first, but it also made sense to work with the moisture that was already in my hair straight after my shower.

I sat under a diffuser for 30 minutes at the salon, but at home, I’ve let my hair dry naturally after doing the process, and the result is the same.

That result is hair that feels a bit crunchy – but you use your fingers to de-crunch it if you want. My hair feels fresh, clean, totally non-frizzy, moisturised and lush. I didn’t have to worry about dryness or frizz as it dried, and didn’t need to apply any extra product.

It was like learning about skin care; a little bit of effort goes a long way.

The whole experience of going to a curly hair specialist really changed how I approach my hair. I’ve always ‘invested’ (ahem, spent too much money) on it, but I’d never been educated in how to work with my natural hair.

Generally speaking, working with different ethnicities of hair is something it seems is not always taught in hairdressing training, either. That might change, but for now, Rumbie and other curly hair specialists are enjoying the demand for their services.

"When I first came to Sydney, I was so surprised there were no specialists,” she told me.

“Now there's a few. Unless understanding our hair - minority hair - becomes a bigger part of training, there will be a need for specialists. I'm passionate about providing that service."

Just please don’t book her out so I can’t get back in within four to six weeks, ok?

Feature image: Instagram/Nama Winston.

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