The Great Hair Debate: Curly or Straight Hair
Girls and their curls—it’s a complicated relationship. When all our styling efforts align, we love our curly hair. At other times, we can’t jump back into the shower or grab our flat iron faster for a hairstyling do-over.
Despite the whimsical ways of our curls, there are still some curly hair girls who embrace their ringlets rain or shine, while others haven’t let their curly locks see the light of day in years!
We caught up with two 40-something women with naturally curly hair. Ivy is a Wall Street exec in Manhattan who loves her tresses smooth and sleek. Annie is a creative marketer for a large nonprofit in Washington D.C. who steps out each and every day with her gorgeous red ringlets on full display.
We get to the root of their hairstyling proclivities in our latest hair debate. Here’s what they had to say:
BNY: How would you describe your curly hair?
Annie: I have a huge mound of different types of curls. In the front, they are looping ringlets, and in the back—well, those curls have a mind of their own!
Ivy: My curly hair has changed over the years. For the majority of my life it was coarse and extremely thick. At 29 I had hairy cell leukemia—I didn’t lose my hair, but it definitely thinned and the texture changed. It became a little less coarse and definitely less thick, but still very unruly!
BNY: What do you like most and least about your hair type?
Annie: I love how wild it is. When I take the time to care for my hair properly, people will stop me on the street to compliment it. The bulk can be challenging though. My hair is very thick, my curls are large, and it grows quickly! So if I don’t get regular haircuts—a hairdresser who specializes in curly hair is key—it can quickly become unmanageable. I have lots of funny childhood photos!
Ivy: I like that my hair is pretty malleable. Barring any massive humidity, it is easy to wear straight, curly or wavy. It has thinned significantly, however, in the last 10 years, and I can’t seem to grow it as long as I once could.
BNY: What drives your hairstyling decision?
Annie: I don't have the talent to straighten it—nor the energy to battle the curls on a daily basis. They will always win! As I’ve aged, I’ve become even more low-maintenance. My location is also a factor: I live in very humid Washington, D.C., and I am a rower, which means I sweat a lot. My hair can't compete with the moisture when it has been straightened. It just expands sideways!
Ivy: I work in finance, in a sales and client-facing role, so my industry definitely influences my hairstyling. Women in finance generally have a put-together style that’s more formal and conservative. For me, straight styles feel more polished and professional.
BNY: How does your decision affect how you feel about yourself?
Annie: I feel good about my natural hair—it is an extension of my personality. Wild curls are simply more “me." I recently discovered the world of curly hair influencers. I've learned great curly hair-care and styling techniques. One of my favorites is "net plopping." People may be familiar with "plopping" using a T-shirt, but I've discovered I can get amazing results when I use a pair of fishnet stockings instead. I learned this from @hif3licia on Instagram.
Ivy: It is most definitely a conscious decision. If I feel more polished, I'm more confident. I feel like my natural hair looks messy and unprofessional.
BNY: Are there times you switch up your hairstyling?
Annie: My hair has often been my identity. Growing up as a natural redhead with big curls named Annie, people always made comparisons to Little Orphan Annie. In college when I would go out, I would try to straighten my hair by covering it with pomade and then flat ironing it. Heat protectant wasn’t yet part of my hairstyling vocabulary so I was essentially deep-frying my hair. Even today, I enjoy getting my hair straightened at the salon from time to time—part of the fun is looking like a completely different person for a few days. In fact, in my 30s, I tried a Brazilian hair straightening treatment and a keratin treatment. I love the novelty of straight styles but they never feel quite right.
Ivy: I wear my hair straight almost seven days a week. The only time I reveal my natural hair is if I'm not seeing people and staying home. As a teenager, having a blowout with my haircut was an absolute treat—I looked forward to it and wanted it regularly. I didn't know how to blow out my super-thick hair and survived for many years using a straightening iron, probably damaging the hell out of it. The one saving grace is that because my hair historically was so thick and unruly, I only shampooed and conditioned it two times a week to prevent frizz, meaning less flat ironing. It wasn't until my 30s that I really learned how to properly blow my hair out.
BNY: Do you feel there is a stereotype against women with curly hair, especially in the workplace?
Annie: In my previous corporate world life, I do think curly hair was seen as less put together. I felt like people with straight, polished hair—and perfectly styled clothing to match—were looked on more favorably.
Ivy: There may have been a stereotype in the past, especially on Wall Street. Having your hair straight and neat was viewed as more appropriate. I don't think that is the case any longer. I think women wear their hair however they choose these days—whether that means curly or straight hair. I like curly hair on others but it’s just not for me.
BNY: What are your final thoughts on embracing or transforming your natural hair type and texture?
Annie: All natural hair is beautiful. It may take you a little bit of time and work to figure out what makes you feel great, but everyone has a great starting place.
Ivy: If transforming your hair gives you confidence or poise, then it’s worth it—whether it be curly or straight hair. When you feel that you look good, you perform better. It’s a piece in the confidence puzzle. Do what empowers you!
Tell Us: Curly or straight hair—which hairstyle empowers you most? Share in the comments below!