(Pictured Wearing Makeda Satin-Lined Turban)
Name: Adrienne Monroe
Hometown: East Harlem, New York
Currently Living: West Babylon, New York
Occupation: Curly Hair Educator and Writer
College: SUNY Empire State College
Tam: Tell us what placed you on your curly girl journey? Did you big chop?
AM: I did not do a big chop. I wasn’t comfortable within my own skin yet to accept myself fully. I was still way too concerned with how everyone around me would view me. I wish I had some inspiring and empowering reason for stumbling across my curly girl journey, I don’t. It was simple, I have a liver condition. I was in the middle of one of my worst battles and my hair was falling out in bunches. I began to develop this bald spot at the very front of my head. I was embarrassed because I was afraid it was just another obvious sign to the world that I was really sick and things weren’t looking too good for me. One day, I decided to treat myself to the salon. I straightened my hair. Normally, that would make me feel pretty. But this time, my hair was see-through, weak, breaking off, and the spot was so noticeable. I went on Instagram and saw a girl I went to college with, post about her self-love journey through her hair. I reached out asking what I had to do so my hair looked healthy and I could conceal how sick and unhappy I was at the time. She told me about the Curly Girl Method and from there my obsession began. I figured even if the health battle wasn’t a winnable one, at least I would have a few pretty curls to make me feel better through every treatment. My hair because my stepping stone to getting to know, appreciate, and love myself. As my hair strand got stronger and shined brighter, so did my bond with myself, as did my health.
Tam: Growing up what were some of the standards of beauty in your community?
AM: Well I grew up in East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem, or to us, El Barrio. Unfortunately, the latino culture models their beauty standards on the Eurocentric idea of beauty, which many times none of us truly fit. All my family members, friends, and neighbors went to the same few hair salons to get their hair either straightened or relaxed to achieve what we had been conditioned to believe was beautiful. The women in my life taught me my frizzy curly hair was unattractive. If I had to take photos or be somewhere important like the first day of school or a family event, I had to look “nice,” meaning my hair needed to be straightened or my mother would never hear the end of the snickers about how “untidy” I looked. I was taught since my skin was so light, it was in my benefit to keep my hair straightened because it “opened more doorways.” It didn’t matter how unhappy I felt in my skin because everyone told me the same thing, “You look so much better with straight hair!” The women of my family taught me that hating the way you looked was normal. So, I followed that, and quietly cherished the few moments when I couldn't afford to straighten my hair and had to leave it curly. At least, in my home, when my hair was big and unruly, I could for those fleeting moments feel like Me, Adrienne, not the alter-ego the world required me to put on to be considered beautiful. The real me wasn’t considered beautiful until I told my family, friends, and neighbors, this was me, uniquely me. I had to help redefine the definition and conversation inside my home before I could attempt to do the same for the world.
Tam: What would you say one of the biggest misconceptions that you feel women in the curly hair community have about their hair?
AM: One of the biggest misconceptions is how expensive it is to properly care for naturally textured hair. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, many of us get caught in the product junkie phase. It happens to everyone! You see YouTube tutorials and you think it’s the product of your dreams, then another and another, and the next thing you know your closet holds more hair products than clothes. You don’t need a million products, especially if you don’t know much about your hair just yet. Start slow, DIY’s are often a great place to start. Aloe Vera from your supermarket makes a great weekly deep conditioner for less than $3. Not to mention aloe contains over 70 minerals and nutrients the hair and scalp needs to repair and thrive. If you take the time to learn the facts first you will save yourself HUNDREDS even THOUSANDS of dollars. Focus on learning about what your hair likes, and what specific ingredients do. If you know what ingredients your hair likes, then you know what to look for on labels and you will always choose the right products.
Tam: What’s your curly hair routine?
AM: Since we have entered the pandemic, my hair routine hasn’t been as extensive as it once was. I wash my hair once a week with gentle cleansing shampoos like low-poos or co-washes. I deep condition once a week for thirty minutes using some form of indirect heat like the Thermal Hair Care Hot Head or the Q-Redew Hair Steamer. I have fine density 3a/3b curls. My hair doesn’t require much more than two products to moisturize and seal my high porosity strands. That’s why I always use a leave-in conditioner and gel as my go-to for Wash N’ Go’s. When my hair is dry I scrunch out the gel cast and seal my ends with a few drops of oil. Since I have been spending all my time at home, I immediately put it up in a satin accessory. My current obsession is the Loza Tam turbans and headwraps. I've already bought about 8 turbans in the cutest designs. These keep me confident as I protect my curls from drying fabrics from my bed, couch, or clothing.
Otherwise if it isn’t a washday, I spend most of the week doing the same routine. Wake up, do a scalp massage, refresh my curls with steam, then seal my ends with a few drops of oil before putting on one of my turbans. I do have a video on my youtube channel if you want to visually see the routine.
(Pictured Wearing Green Satin Lined Turban)
Tam: Top 3 hair products - cleanser, conditioner, and styler/leave-in?
AM: Inahsi Naturals Soothing Mint Sulfate Free Clarifying Shampoo, Bourn Beautiful Naturals Avocado Smoothie Conditioner, and for styler the Elaine Beaute High Porosity Hair Moisturizer
Tam: How Did You Learn To Care For Your Curls?
AM: After reaching out to my friend from college, I joined a few curly girl method facebook groups and started following some influencers. Soon I started hearing a lot of conflicting information and wanted only the scientific fact. When I was in college I took a workshop in the University Library about finding credible academic sources for whatever you are researching. So, I started using Google Scholar instead of Google, because the difference is Google Scholar focuses on the scholarly literature available on the internet as opposed to just the most popular options like conflicting blogs. That’s how I learned about Trichology - the scientific study of hair and scalp and just applied that to my Curly Girl Method journey to refine my routine and figure out once and for all what my hair truly wants and needs for frizz-free curls every single washday.
Tam: Top Fall Hair Care Tips for Girls With Curls?
AM: Absolutely! I actually just uploaded my newest podcast episode that focuses on this exactly haha, my five best winter hair care tips. 1) Make sure to step your deep conditioning game up. The winter winds are incredibly harsh and drying on the hair, increasing the frequency in which you deep condition or even adding special hair treats like honey or protein will help greatly with moisture retention and overall health. Deep conditioning is non-negotiable, the most important step. So do NOT skip this step ever! 2) Make sure you aren’t shampooing too often, don’t grab the clarifying shampoo too often (only 1-2x a month) otherwise try to shampoo with more moisture based products like no-poos, low-poos, or co-washes. 3) Protect your hair in satin any chance you get. The sun naturally damages the hair, so satin protects the health and integrity of your hair to help you reach your hair growth goals. 4) Try to utilize steam, this will help extend hairstyles to prevent from over washing, and steam naturally encourages hair growth and moisture retention. It’s a win-win situation. For the rest of my tips you can check out my podcast episode here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1295747/episodes/5442346