Sascha Koki
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

You know what I used to be painfully, hyper-aware of? My curls. Or, specifically the lack thereof because it was usually a brushed out fluffy cloud on my head by 10 a.m. even if my mom tamed it into braids, a bun or a ponytail. 

A few years ago, Kim Kardashian caught a lot of flack for letting North (her eldest daughter) wear her hair straightened and then caught flack again for wearing her own hair in matching braids. While many criticized that it felt like she was appropriating Black culture and encouraging North to shun her heritage (at the same time?), I understood Kim’s motives: she was likely trying her best to support her daughter who only wanted to look like mom. I understood because I used to beg my mom for Japanese relaxers and flat irons while loving when she’d perm her hair. She loved my curls but all I wanted was to look like I had her hair; wavy and manageable.

Growing up in Hawai‘i and spending summers in Japan meant everyone around me had straight or wavy hair. I was the only Japanese and Black girl anywhere I went. Still, the chemicals in Japanese hair products were often too harsh, while the castor oil and shea butter in natural hair care products were too heavy for my fine hair. Add in the fact that the famous, gorgeous Black women like Naomi Campbell, Beyoncé and Tyra Banks rocked straightened hair, there was no way I was wearing it curly. I was also teased mercilessly over my hair in elementary school, so there’s that, too. 

It wasn’t until my sons (I call them my cubs) sprouted the most beautiful, enviable curls did I start to fret. Like his Daddy, my older one wanted to grow out a man bun, and as his hair got longer, the curls became the size and shape I could only dream about. But as we brushed out his curls and tied it up in a little top knot, I knew that I had to confront my fears once and for all and embrace my own. How can I take care of their curls if I can’t even care for my own? Also, if Daddy’s hair is straight and Mommy always straightens her hair, why would our boys want to wear their curls? 

And so, I went for it. The timing was right: my trusty hairdryer finally broke, I had chopped my hair into a very short bob a few months prior, and – most crucially – we began working from home. After spending a weekend doing a deep, deep dive into the curl community, I started my own curl journey on Tuesday, March 17, 2020; the day after our office shifted to working from home. 

Three years later, I can say without a doubt, it was one of the best decisions that rippled out and positively impacted other areas of my life. The confidence boost it gave encouraged me to go on other journeys of self improvement and I’m a better person for it.

As I reflect on my childhood, I can see there were moments that I could have fully embraced my curls sooner. Good curl days when the ringlets were just so or days when there was just enough humidity in the air that my straightened hair waved up the right way. But, those instances were fleeting because I didn’t know how it happened or how I could recreate those conditions. It was frustrating and overwhelming. No doubt, my mother also felt helpless in those moments, too.

These days, I have parents with curly-haired children asking me about my curls. I’m an eager advice-giver; anything to be sure that they feel they’ve got someone to turn to or at least help them find the right resources to get their child’s curls maintained.

So, while I’m no certified curl expert, over time, I’ve compiled a starter list from my extensive research and personal experience. Whether or not you have curls, if your kids have them, this is worth a read so that you can learn how to properly manage their hair so that they can wear it with pride.  

  1. There is a hair type spectrum based on curl patterns that go from 1 to 4. Type 1 hair is straight, Type 2 is wavy, Type 3 is curly and Type 4 is coiled. The pattern is based on how loose or tight of an S-shape your hair gets, and each hair type is subcategorized as A, B or C.
  2. For example, Type 2C is the most defined “S” shape, while Type 4C is a tiny “z” shape. Because it takes longer for the natural oils on your head to travel down the curl spirals, hair care looks entirely different for each hair type. 
  3. When you hear about natural hair care or the “Curly Community,” most often, they are referring to people with Type 3 and Type 4 hair. If you are starting your curl journey and moving away from using chemicals and heat in your hair, it’s called transitioning. It’s common to see more than one curl pattern in your hair, especially when you’re multiracial. It’s also common to see your hair curl pattern change based on its length. My cubs’ hair falls under 2C/3A while mine began at 3C/4A but recently has gone more 3B/3C because it’s grown longer.
  4. While washing your hair daily is not recommended, no matter the hair type, washing too often does long-lasting damage to curls in particular. This is because of a thing called hygral fatigue, or when excessive moisture enters and exits your hair cuticles. It’s recommended that you don’t wash curls — yes, even on kids that sweat daily! — more than twice a week.
  5. The simplest way to wash your hair is shampoo twice, then condition. Be sure to use a detangling brush in that process.
  6. Curl type is not the only thing that determines your curly hair routine. Its porosity (easily takes to moisture) and density (is it fine, medium or coarse?) will ultimately steer how you manage your care. This applies to all pattern types, not just curls.
  7. Like makeup and art, there’s a brush for everything, and what you use will make a massive difference in the final outcome. I can get into more on that if you’d like but some research online will yield results, too.
  8. Also, curls and standard towels don’t mix well, so if you or your kids have curls, pat them dry with a microfiber towel or a 100% cotton t-shirt. I find that the swaddles I kept from when my boys were babies are perfectly sized for this, too. 
  9. Your diet and amount of exercise you get also makes a huge impact on growth. I went for about 18 months into my curl journey before I started my weight loss journey, too. When I started to regularly exercise and eat right, my hair grew twice its length in that six-month period. 

Which is easier, maintaining curls or straightening it? Honestly, both have pros and cons. I was strictly wearing my hair naturally curled for over 2.5 years before I got myself a new Dyson Airwrap and a flat iron. I currently wear my hair both curly and straightened, depending on my mood. I think the difference now is that I have learned to embrace both and am confident in my ability to adapt.

Join me on my journey to self care and happiness and see how I do with the rest of my goals. You can find me at @saschakoki on Instagram for more.

Sascha Koki is the vice president of Media Etc., a PR & Marketing company based in Honolulu. As a Japanese and Black hapa bilingual woman who grew up in Hawai‘i and Japan, Sascha has a unique perspective on growing up with three rich cultures; she sees herself as a bridge that connects these worlds through her career and in life. Happily married and a mother of two humans and one pup, she strives to raise her pack of wild cubs into compassionate beings that wield their powers for good while enjoying all that life has to offer. Passionate about fashion, beauty, wellness and good (okay, and bad) TV in near equal measures, this former Miss Waikiki and UH Rainbow dancer is a true Aquarius.

 In her column, she plans to write about “lifestyle” which really means anything and everything, all at once. Her wish is to inspire and shed light on everything from cultural issues to hilarious culture shock moments through personal stories.


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