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I spent days binging videos, learning why I shouldn't brush dry hair, what is deep conditioning, and all the curly hair commandments. With a lack of South Asian curly hair representation, I relied on Black women — the community which began the natural hair movement — to educate me on hair care.
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Not everything worked — because Black hair is not the same as Asian hair. For example, detangling hair in the shower worked but my brown hair required way less product.
After years of heat damage, the process of transitioning my fried hair required lots of trial-and-error with different gels and creams, but I realized that my culture always had its own secrets for achieving beautiful hair that I'd ignored until that point.
I didn't want to be that desi girl who went to school with pigtails drenched in coconut oil. But I leaned into tradition and held my nose, and my natural curls bounced back in a few months.
I wore my natural hair down for the first time to a cultural gathering shortly after, feeling like a rebel and expecting sly looks of disapproval. To my surprise, so many women came up and asked me how they, too, could achieve the same curls.
Even my mother started transitioning to her natural curls and it's a win-win situation for us at home: I teach her curly techniques I learned from YouTube and she creates the best DIY deep conditioning treatments for us based on Pakistani knowledge.
Embracing my curly hair has been empowering and allowed me to own who I truly am. It's given me the freedom to choose however I want to wear my hair and feel beautiful, confident, and unapologetically myself, alongside other South Asian curlies experiencing the same journey.
The best, most unexpected thing that has come out of my curly hair journey? A community of rebellious, supportive South Asian women working to reject Eurocentric beauty standards and reclaim our curls, together.
And now, when you search for “South Asian curly hair” on YouTube, you get plenty of results. It's a stark difference from when I started my curly hair journey in 2014. A new generation of South Asians are embracing their natural curls with social media making curly hair education increasingly accessible.
South Asian actresses and celebrities like Taapsee Pannu, Kangana Ranuat, Ayesha Malik, and Poorna Jagannathan have brought their curls into the mainstream, representing a huge population of brown girls and boys who will grow up with curly-haired role models to look up to and learn from — something I wish I had as a kid.
Now, that seven-year-old girl who cried over her frizzy hair is a curly-haired brown woman on a mission. When I wear my hair down, and flip my curls over my shoulder, I'm part of a revolution of South Asian women, owning and slaying their curls, because we can.
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