Backstage

Michelle Breyer

In honor of this week’s launch of Curl Gloss, our new lightweight glossing gel that shapes, shines and offers ultra-hydrating control without crunch, we wanted to dive deeper into the curl community. Who better to ask than its unofficial leader, Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com? We talked to Breyer about how her mega successful website came to be, why curly girls are so passionate and some tips for curls that she’s picked up along the way.

How did the idea for Naturally Curly come about?


We started NaturallyCurly.com 16 years ago, before blogs, social media, etc. We were frustrated with our hair, and knew there were others who felt the same, but there were so few curl-focused stylists and products and even fewer curly haired models in magazines to learn from. Someone overheard us complaining about our hair at brunch and suggested we start a website. My neighbor’s 13-year-old son created the site. We started with a session board that people could use to share their thoughts, tips and more. Then we started posting product and stylist reviews. The stylist reviews were such a key part of it because finding stylist who can work with curly hair is essential.

The site evolved out of the community, which was extremely active. Approximately 60 percent of the population has some texture to their hair, and they weren’t being heard before. Our boards were the core of the site. We now have about 11 million unique visitors to our sites (which also include CurlyNikki, CurlMart and CurlStylist) and social media.

Why was it so important for you to help build the curl community?


The curl community can really help each other feel good about themselves. It’s so much about support. I didn’t feel like I had that growing up because my mom and sister had straight hair and couldn’t relate to me. Everyone around me in California had Farrah Fawcett hair—except me.

Why do you think the curl community is so passionate?


It truly is a unique community. People have self-image issues that they bond over; they have shared experiences. Curly hair is always a struggle. With curly hair, you can use the same product every day and your hair will look different every day—it has its own personality!

There are so many nuances to curly hair. In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of women of color transitioning from relaxers to natural hair because it’s becoming so much more acceptable. Other women blew out their hair every day and are now learning to work with their natural texture. Our members like to give and get advice.


How have you seen the curl community change over the last several years?


It’s a completely different world than when we started the site. There are so many more options product options, and pop culture accepts so many more standards of beauty. It’s now more of a multicultural society with more texture. Social media has also really helped. Before, we had to rely on magazines and movie stars telling us what was pretty; normal people weren’t sharing what they thought was pretty. Social media has really created an open dialogue and given us access to so much inspiration.
I’ve seen an increased number of hairstylists becoming passionate about working with texture, but there’s still a long way to go! Curls are not a trend or fad—this is a 365-day-a-year thing.

What are some of the most common discussion topics on the site?


Some of the most popular topics include hair growth, hair breakage, transitioning to natural hair, frizz, adding moisture and keratin treatments to loosen curls and make them more defined and predictable. We also have moms who don’t have curly hair but have curly kids and women who suddenly get curls after chemotherapy. People are also really into ingredients—they’re very savvy, educated and curious.

Your website focuses a lot on texture types. How have you defined those?


Inspired by Andre Walker's hair types, our Texture Typing system details the varieties of wavy, curly and coily hair to give people a starting point to figure out what kind of products they should use. Along with curl pattern, porosity, density, width and length of your hair play a part as well. We help you see products other people with hair like yours have used.

We have a “test” visitors can take. Curly Spirally (3B) is most common on the site, followed by Curly Twirly (3a). We have quite a few people with wavy hair as well—they struggle because they go back and forth between texture and straight and don’t know how to work with their wave.

You started CurlStylist a few years ago. Why is this such a big deal?


Most beauty schools still don’t train hairdressers how to work with curls, but it’s important for stylists to get educated! You want to feel comfortable with curls; they are a totally different animal than straight hair. There are so many unique techniques for curls, and you have to know how the hair will react with shrinkage and lack of uniformity.

Curly haired clients will be your best friends—they are extremely loyal!


What are some of the top curly hair tips you’ve picked up over the years?


• Never use a towel to dry your hair; always use t-shirt, which is gentler.
• A good diffuser is a must.
• Don’t brush your hair when it’s dry.
• Don’t fight the weather—if it’s going to be a muggy day, choose a style that will work with the humidity.
• Always have a Plan B (a bun is my best friend!).
• Find a stylist who knows how to work with curly hair and feels comfortable with it. A lot of salons have curl experts within them, so always ask. We have salon review database for this reason.

Your company has done a lot of research on the curly hair community. What are some of the key insights you’ve learned?


• 85% of people with curly hair say they are more likely to embrace their natural texture than they were five years ago
• 50% of coily consumers have 11 or more hair care products in their house, compared with 20% of straight-haired consumers
• 64% of coily consumers say they are much less likely to use a relaxer today vs. a year ago
• When purchasing a styling product, definition is the most important attribute for curly consumers, followed by moisture
• 65% of curly consumers cocktail hair care proucts
• Curly girls willing to travel three or more hours to go to a stylist that specializes in curls


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