Any curly girl knows that having kinky locks is a blessing and a curse. When it’s good, it’s really good. Like, hair commercial good – except when it’s so good that creepy strangers come up to you and ask to touch your hair (which has happened to me more times than I can count, or drink away the memories of). But when it’s bad, it’s so bad – which happens any time the humidity is above Sahara level, or it’s raining, or you drive to work with the windows open, or you wear a winter hat, or your hair gets a leetle too dry before putting product in... If you don’t have curly hair, think of it as a temperamental toddler who needs a nap. Sometimes it cooperates and goes down quietly. But most of the time, you’re headed for disaster. Somebody’s going to cry. And it’s probably going to be you.
Alex Mnayarji knows this, having, like me, grown up with curly hair. A North Providence native, she went to beauty school here and then decamped to New York to work for Ouidad, the first name in curl care. After training and educating in curl techniques, she branched out to open Alex Anthony Salon in the West Village, and this year opened a Providence outpost, Alex Anthony Curl and Blowout Bar, in the Arcade.
“There are so many options for women with straight hair,” Alex explains, “but there’s nothing out there for just curly hair.” Sure, some stylists are comfortable with curls, but as Alex has learned as an educator in Rhode Island, most of them aren’t. “There’s no curl-specific education for stylists here,” she says. “Curly haired women are afraid to go to a salon, but usually the stylist is just as scared.”
That resonated. When I’m seeing a stylist for the first time, I’m always terrified. I’ve had my share of bad cuts from stylists who don’t understand curls, or who don’t understand how my curls are different from others. I’ve also given stylists so much direction that when the cut is over, they breathe a huge sigh of relief, admitting how nervous I had made them.
But, as Alex assessed my hair and gave me her proposed plan of action, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was actually excited to have someone who gets it behind the chair. “I see some shelving here,” she said, indicating a layer that wasn’t blended and made a ‘shelf’ of hair. “We’re going to take up the bottom to blend that layer, then puzzle your curls so they spiral more.”
As she cut, Alex gave me some best curl practices. A lot of them I knew – to use a leave-in conditioner after you shower, to use a diffuser that has prongs to get the best shape and volume, to never rake your fingers through your hair, especially when it’s wet. A lot of them, though, I didn’t – especially when it came to choosing good product. “Most curl products are about weighing down the hair with silicone and wax,” not hydration, which is the first rule of good curls. “The one thing that’s not in enough curly hair lines is moisture. You need to provide that moisture so your hair doesn’t expand or frizz. If you put a dry sponge in water, it expands. If you put a wet sponge in wa- ter, it doesn’t. If your hair has enough moisture, it’s not going to try to grab water from the air.”
Lack of good product – and if you’re like me, you have about 100 bottles of bad product that you tried and hated in your bathroom – led Alex to make her own line of Alex Anthony hair care. “My philosophy is less is more,” she says. “You want the products to be like skincare: more breathable, water-based. Most of our products, with long-term use, will make your hair healthier. The mousse has an anti-aging product in it, which as you wear it through the day, helps moisturize your hair.”
I had already been playing with their leave-in conditioner and mousse at home, but as I told Alex, I felt like they were a little light for me. But, it turned out, my cut was the problem, not the product. As she cut my hair, Alex explained that she was creat- ing interior structure designed to “puzzle” the curls together, so they sit closer to the head, and to blend different curl patterns together. She also taught me a technique to make my three fingers into a W-shape and create grids with my hair as I put product in myself, sectioning into pre-made curls to help guide the structure and tame down frizz. It sounds complicated, but it takes about five minutes.
In the time since I’ve had this cut, I’ve noticed a dramatic reduction in frizz and bad hair days, even with the product I had previously dismissed as being “not enough for me.” Even on the worst weather days, I’m still pleased with what I see. Could it be that Alex has the secret formula to making every day a good curly hair day? Maybe so.
“I have a lot of clients in their 40s who are wearing their hair curly for the first time,” she says. “It’s about embracing who you are, and not feeling like you have to hide behind a blowout.”
Alex Anthony Curl & Blowout Bar
65 Weybosset Street
*It’s not just about curls. Alex Anthony also offers a variety of blowouts, named for different neighborhoods in New York City. The Brooklyn is more “big hair don’t care” bounce and swagger, while the downtown is loose curls and the Coney Island is beachy waves that channel summer. They also offer a lunchtime express blowout (no wash, dry shampoo) and a pint-size princess for little divas, ages 10 and under.
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