Embracing the hair you’re born with sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world, but for some, it’s a huge challenge.
Nikki Walton, a 29-year-old licensed psychotherapist whose own journey to hair acceptance has grown from a passion into a business, knows that hurdle all too well.
As the founder of CurlyNikki.com, Walton now confidently boasts a lush, natural texture that lives up to her online nickname, “Curly Nikki.” On her website, she leads the charge for a community of women seeking a resource and a space where they can let their hair down, just as it is, no straightening required.
But Walton can vividly recall the days when straight hair meant beautiful hair, and if she couldn’t be seen with it straight, she’d rather not go out at all.
As a young adult, Walton would feel “gorgeous” and “ready” to take on the world when her dark hair’s natural twists and turns were straight, sleek and swinging thanks to a stylist’s heat tools.
But when that style fell flat and the frizz began to appear, “I would become an introvert; I didn’t want to do anything,” she said.
Eventually, the boyfriend who was driving her to and from hair appointments–and who’s now her husband and father to their 2½-year-old daughter–intervened.
“He said, ‘This isn’t healthy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you need to step back and assess this. You’re pretty, and I want you to feel pretty no matter what the condition of your hair is,’ ” Walton recalled. “And he was right. My hair was running my life. My confidence was in flux with my hair.”
That conversation inspired Walton to take action, and she soon found herself researching ways she could work with the kind of hair she was born with. Once she unchained herself from her flat iron, she found not only a more genuine confidence but a new freedom to live her life as she chose — not as her hairstyle mandated.
Walton has been lending that helping hand on CurlyNikki.com for the past four years, and she recently compiled her accumulated wealth of hair care know-how into a book, “Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous, Natural Hair.”
By the time she was in middle school, Walton would want to “shrink into a hole” at the salon while she waited for a stylist to blow dry her freshly washed hair.
“I didn’t want people to see my hair. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror,” she recalled. “I didn’t even know what my real texture looked like. … I just knew that if it got a little bit wet, or if I sweat(ed) a little bit too much, I put my hands into my roots, and it felt terrible.”
As a result, Walton had to do both a habitual and a mental shift when she decided that having healthy hair was more important.