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I spent 20 years hating my hair – here's how I learned to accept my curls

A third of women admit their hair negatively impacts their mood

hair confidence
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
8 December 2022
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I hate to admit it, but I've been known to throw a hair-based tantrum or two.

There was the time I wouldn't get out of the car because the stylist had cut my hair too short. There was another occasion I cried because my mane didn’t stay smooth even though I'd straightened it within an inch of its life, and there was that time I left the Christmas party early simply because my hair looked frizzy.

SEE: Mum makeover: ‘I tried glamorous hair extensions at 44 – and feel amazing’

I know I sound ridiculous, and anyone with hair who behaves itself will roll their eyes at me, but I'm not alone in my histrionics. A third of women admit that their hair negatively impacts their mood, while 70% say they feel self-conscious when they aren’t happy with the way their hair looks, according to research by haircare brand Hair by Sam McKnight.

"Good hair goes way beyond how you look," says Sam, who has worked with the likes of Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and Priyanka Chopra. "It impacts your mental and emotional health too – your self-worth, self-confidence, how you interact with people, your productivity, how you hold yourself, what you believe about yourself, your resiliency… can all be impacted when you aren’t happy with your hair."

He doesn't need to tell me twice. I've always been fairly confident and can brush off criticism in most areas – except my hair. Every barnet-based insult cuts me deep, and the words of school bullies calling my hair frizzy or telling me I'd missed a patch during meticulously straightening, still echo in my mind.

woman with curly hair smiling, wearing black coat

I've never appreciated my curly hair 

My hair-based horrors began as a young teenager, when I desperately wanted the straight, shiny hair of my peers. That was what was seen as desirable in the early 2000s – picture Britney, Barbie, Paris and Nicole (not to mention all the girls in S Club 7); they all had the poker straight hair of my dreams, and from the ages of 12 to 16, I straightened my hair twice a day to fit in.

Old habits die hard - to this day if I'm doing anything special, or I want to feel confident for a work event, I still spend an hour taming my hair. I feel scruffy and not well put together with my natural hair. And it's not lost on me that these hours disliking myself could have been spent in a much more productive way.

woman with blow dried hair walking in london

I'm much happier when my hair has been blowdried

I now realise that my unhappiness with my hair came as a result of comparison – I looked at the sleek hair of my friends and idols and felt lesser.

"Comparison is one of the biggest thieves of joy and it is such a confidence killer," says confidence coach Tiwalola Ogunlesi.

READ: 8 best hair straighteners with top reviews

"When you compare yourself to others, the narrative says, 'they're so amazing and I am terrible,' we compare the worst of ourselves to the best of others, making us feel inferior and bad about ourselves.

"When you're not feeling confident it impacts your mood," says Tiwalola. "You have low self-esteem and are more likely to see yourself through a negative lens, lacking true joy and happiness."

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WATCH: Tiwalola gives empowering confidence advice on Instagram

The rise of the body acceptance movement on social media has been pivotal in helping me accept my hair. 

I've watched people of all shapes and sizes celebrate their bodies, casting aside what we 'should' look like, and have unlearnt years of narrative that says only one look is beautiful, and applied this to my hair.

I can't say I've completely learned to love my mane; I still feel a billion times better when it's been professionally blow dried –I know it'll take years to unlearn the rhetoric that only straight, perfect hair is beautiful, but at least now I can wear my hair natural without feeling unhappy. 

SHOP: 13 best hair dryers for a salon-worthy blow dry

I'll leave you with some advice from life coach Michelle Elman that I try to live by when old insecurities about my hair creep in.

For every negative thing you say to yourself, tell yourself three positive things too," Michelle Suggests. "Challenge the thoughts in your brain and understand that just because you believe something, it doesn’t mean it’s true."

And until I can fully accept my hair - I still have my ghds.

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