My curls have always defined me. They are as much part of my identity as spinach is to Popeye and freckles to Pippi Longstocking. Embracing natural curly hair, however, is a changeable journey. Sometimes, and I think I can say this for the majority of people with curly hair, your curls are on point, other times they’re frizzy and chaotic. It’s as if they have a mind of their own.
Switching products to find one that controls the frizz, defines the curls and keeps them shiny and bouncy on the second, third and fourth day after washing sometimes feels like an impossible task.
As radiant as curly hair looks when you get it right, knowing how to care for it is worthy of a diploma. The lack of focus on curly hair both from mainstream hair brands and hair salons often leaves curly heads with traumatising experiences, making their self-care journey even bumpier.
“I used to hate my hair,” said Kerri Marcou of @mediterraneancurls, a local Instagram account that shares curly tips, “my mum would take me to a hairdresser to relax my front fringe, and it always ended up awful but I would go through with it just to try and tame my hair. We don’t really have hairdressers that focus on curly hair in Cyprus,” she said.
Curly hair is dry. It needs lots of moisture and products to look alive. This is no secret. Finding which gels, creams or mousse works for your curls can take years. To an extent, that’s normal as hair gets used to a product, stops responding it to and requires a change. Similar to when your body gets used to an exercise and needs something different.
A brand-new Cypriot initiative aims to educate people on caring for their curls, using products that are healthy for the hair, and encourage them to embrace natural curls. Boucles Project is Cyprus’ only online shop dedicated entirely to curly hair, selling plant-based products and offering tips on how to get the most from curls.
The couple behind it are, of course, curly heads themselves, putting their personal journey and curly education to good use to help others learn all the tricks of the trade. “I used to straighten my hair all the time until I was about 15,” said Boucles Project founder Sama Meibar, “then my mum’s friend suggested I try putting mousse in it which I slowly started to like.”
It took a lot of trial and error before learning how to apply products and with the help of a London hairdresser who specialises and cuts only curly hair, Sama finally owned her locks. And I could hardly keep my eyes off them when we met. Shiny and frizz-free with tidy curls even though they had not been just washed! I was impressed.
Sama is passionate about educating people on how to treat their curls and her list of tips is endless. Sleeping on silk pillowcases to protect the curls from frizzing overnight was one that took me by surprise. A rice water rinse was another. Although without a hairdresser’s background, Sama’s extensive research throughout the years and thorough knowledge are obvious.
“A lot of styling products,” she explained, “have silicones in them which form a plastic coating around the hair strand and don’t let moisture in. Silicones aren’t water-soluble, so you need a sulphate-based shampoo to get the silicones out of your hair, but sulphates (which are also found in washing up liquid) strip all the good oils from your hair, so it’s counterproductive.”
Bringing plant-based products without sulphate or silicones (for women, children and men) to Cyprus is an essential part of the Boucles Project. Besides creams, conditioners and gels, as the initiative grows it aims to also sell accessories such as silk head wraps, towels, hairbrushes and more. At this stage, Sama collaborates with three UK-based brands owned by women of colour: Bouclème, CurlyEllie and Flora&Curl.
Each one works in its own way. Bouclème has been proven to work on most types of curly hair from wavy to afro. CurlyEllie is targeted at children, though adults can use it as well. “If I’m really going to change people’s perception of curly hair,” said Sama, “then I have to give children the opportunity to embrace their natural hair. Education has to happen at a young age.” Kerri who used CurlyEllie on her 22-month old was thrilled to see how light and fragrant it is, making bath time with her daughter much easier and faster.
Flora&Curl is flower-powered. Scents such as rose, hibiscus and African citrus bloom are used – all smells that reminded Sama of her homeland Cyprus, even though her roots are Syrian.
“Try Bouclème,” suggested Sama after a thorough discussion and studying my hair. Curl definition and taming the frizz were my goals. So, Sama recommended it as it has a stronger hold. I got a gel and a cream as better results come from mixing the two – something my hairdresser had me doing for a while now as well.
That same evening, I washed my hair with my standard shampoo and conditioner and applied the new products as soon as I got out of the shower. This was tip number 1 – to apply the products on almost soaking wet hair to lock in the moisture and begin styling them before the frizz breaks out.
I let my hair air dry. My curls were smaller and shinier than usual. Some frizz was still there but they felt light and airy. For the first two washes I used too much product which broke my curls into thinner strands. Now, I try to use a bit less and mix it evenly around my hair. When the bottles run out, I think I’ll give Flora&Curl a go, purely because I liked the smell (!), plus I’d like to see how that responds to my hair.
It’s a process that takes trial and error and to see the full effect I’d need to switch out my old shampoo and conditioner and allow time for my hair to essentially detox from all the chemicals they’re used to – including dye. It’s a series of baby steps into rejuvenating the curls.
All of the brands can be found online and purchased directly from their sites. So, why buy from Boucles Project?
In terms of pricing, they’re almost the same as the brands’ websites but Boucles Project also offers support and advice. “When people are starting out on their curl journey, it can be really confusing to know which products to buy and how to apply them. We encourage all our customers to send us photos of their hair, tell us about their hair concerns and we’ll do our best to put together products that will work for them,” said Sama.
Fast delivery without the long wait for shipping is another reason, as is supporting a small local business. In the future, Boucles Project will bring more brands and accessories. Right now ordering takes place through their Facebook shop until a website is set up.
Sama said her Instagram inbox is full of messages from people saying they don’t know what to do with their hair or that they’ve been looking for curly-haired products in Cyprus and they feel like their needs have never been catered to.
“Making people happy with their natural hair is our aim. So many people hate their natural hair and it’s a huge part of your identity and confidence… If I can help people embrace their curls then that’s a mission accomplished.”
In the future, Sama hopes to team up with hairdressers to support the curly community and promote cutting curls in their dry state. This, she knows, is a fairly new concept to many and it might be a while until it is adopted, but she’s determined to show people why it’s important.
Later on, she wants to work with charities who support women and refugees and collaborate with an environmental body on becoming carbon neutral. Still in its very early days, Boucles Project dreams big and is determined to show people the beauty of natural curls. Perhaps the journey of mastering your curls may never end but at least we can learn to care for them in a healthy, natural manner.