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Gracie Dyer | graciedyer

I Gave Up My Heat Styling Tools For a Week—And Lived To Tell About It

Aug 12th 2015 at 10:00 PM

My first flatiron memory came in the form of my older sister's Solano Sapphire, a tool that more closely resembled the Jaws of Life than anything you'd be wise to put near your face. She was a high-school freshman when she started straightening her hair, which meant I was in fourth grade when I started doing it, too. (One of many things I was exposed to early thanks to my older siblings. I can also thank my brother for teaching me all the words to TLC's "No Scrubs" a few years prior.) The goal then was to get my naturally curly hair as pin-straight as possible. And although my style has evolved over the past 14 years (I now embrace a bit of body and bend), the end goal has stayed much the same: to get rid of all traces of my natural curls. Don't get me wrong: I've always admired curls on other people. AnnaLynne McCord, Shakira, and Tracee Ellis Ross come to mind. It's just that I've never felt able to pull them off.

Despite my efforts (above) to hide my true identity as a curly-hair-haver, I was recently outed, and it didn't take long for a coworker-prescribed challenge to follow. The rules were simple: I had to give up my beloved heat tools for one entire week, no exceptions. And document it for science, of course. Even though what I really wanted to do was run to my local blowout bar and hide out, I reluctantly accepted. The week is now over, and I'm pleased to report that I survived—and I even learned a few important things along the way.

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1. My hair is not technically curly. This one blew my mind. As it turns out, I'm more of a member of the wavy clan. And according to this chart, I fall somewhere between a 2A and a 2B.

2. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. I finally understand why all of my friends with curls seem to be on a never-ending hunt for the perfect technique and product combo. After a shower on my first day of the challenge, I realized I had no idea where to start, and none of the necessary styling products. One dreadful messy bun later, I turned straight to our resident curl experts. By day five I had finally found the product cocktail that worked for me, a recipe that called for a combo of Lexi Novak's go-to curl products (a gel and cream mixture) with Chloe Metzger's technique (product on sopping wet hair before it goes up in a towel).

3. Air-drying your hair doesn't necessarily save you time (at least right away). Normally, after each wash, I'll either blow out my hair with a round brush or let it air-dry overnight before running a flat iron over it the next morning. This might sound like a lot of effort, but I have it down to a science. (And I don't wash my hair every day.) What did take over my life was figuring out what to do with my curls once they were dry. Here are a few looks I tested throughout the week with Chloe's help. In all fairness to her, the two on the left were my doing on second-day curls. I still haven't quite nailed the technique, as you can see.

4. People will compliment you on your hair, but you won't know if it's because they genuinely like it, or if it's just that they noticed you did something different and felt obligated to comment on it. I may never know the truth.

5. I tend to hide behind my hair. This experience made me realize that my hair is my security blanket. No matter what's going on with my outfit, if my hair looks great, I feel great. And taking that feeling of hair confidence away caused me to be much more aware of other insecurities. I felt the need to have perfect makeup or extra-cute accessories just to compensate for what I perceived as non-ideal hair.

6. Forcing yourself to step out of your comfort zone is a good thing, but that doesn't mean you need to stay on the outside forever. This was probably the most important lesson this little experiment taught me. Will I wear my hair curly 100 percent of the time? Definitely not! I got a blowout first thing on day eight. But I also learned that that's ok. I don't have to love my natural curls all of the time. I think the great thing about hair is that it gives you options. It can be styled and transformed into a look you feel is best representative of your personality and how you wish to be perceived by the world.

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