By Emily Brennan / New York Times News Service
Curly-haired women like myself often recount adolescences spent yearning for sleek, straight tresses falling down their backs. But I was a child of the ’80s, a perm-crazed time when women would stop my mother and me on the street and ask of my hair, “Is it natural?”
While summer humidity can make a girl dream of pin-straight, frizz-resistant hair, I’ve always worn my curly hair curly, and with pride.
So when a “curl power” movement started with the founding of NaturallyCurly.com in 1998 and the arrival of curly-hair-care lines like DevaCurl, I needed none of its empowerment. But I did need its products.
Nowadays, when I walk through drug and beauty-supply stores, my head spins. The past decade has seen an explosion of products customized not just for curly hair, but different types of curly hair (wavy, ringlets, kinky). They include sulfate-free shampoos, creams, gels, mousses, sprays, pomades and puddings.
Some have been around for years, such as DevaCurl, Ouidad, Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter and Jane Carter Solution; others are newer, such as Kinky-Curly, Curl Junkie and Mixed Chicks.
There are also general hair-care lines, such as Redken, whose Curvaceous series is specific to curly hair, and Moroccanoil, a line whose signature ingredient — oil derived from the nuts of argan trees — was recommended to me by a stylist because he said it did not dry out hair (a particular peril for curls).
Ricky Kenig, the founder of Ricky’s, a beauty-supply chain in New York City, says it’s clear the market for curly-hair products is still growing. Lines for the curly-haired that have origins in what Kenig calls the ethnic market have increasingly filled Ricky’s shelves.
By his estimate, about seven years ago these products made up less than 1 percent of the hair-care products sold in his stores; now they make up 10 percent.
Some mainstream hair-care lines have followed curly-specific ones in offering products that are free of sulfates — lathering detergents commonly listed on labels as sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate, which some say strip hair of its moisture.
When DevaCurl came out with its sulfate-free shampoo No-Poo ($19 at drugstore.com) in 2002, it was one of a few such products on the market. But now, even Redken and L’Oréal Paris offer sulfate-free shampoos.
So the next time I return to Ricky’s, which curly-hair products should I buy?
“It’s just a matter of preference,” Kenig says, “like anything else.”