The Enigma of My Girlfriend's Hair
February 9, 2021 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I adore my girlfriend and her hair. I've noticed that she says odd things about her hair though. Can you help me help her?

My girlfriend has ample amounts of thick, wavy, brunette hair. It's beautiful. She straightens it every day, and she washes it every other day and blow dries it. Even if it's just us on a lazy Saturday, she immediately straightens it in the morning.

I love her straightened hair, but I asked her the other day why she doesn't ever wear it naturally, or wavy. She said it gets too greasy if she doesn't straighten it. This sounded strange to me. Does straightening hair somehow stop grease from happening?

She's also been experiencing hair breakage, so she's started buying products to stop the breakage. But I was thinking: Isn't it bad for your hair to straighten it every day and blow dry it every couple of days? Could that be where the breakage is coming from?

To save her time, stress, and perhaps her hair, does anyone have any ideas or suggestions for how she might go about doing her hair differently? I'm not very experienced in women's hair, so I find myself a bit lost. I'm happy with her hair as is, but if I can help her out, that'd be great. She's a pretty busy person and doesn't spend much time thinking about style, haircuts, etc.
posted by uncannyslacks to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Noooo stop. This is not something you should be doing. She did not ask for your help, do not offer unasked-for opinions. Let her manage her own personal grooming unless there is a serious problem with it.
posted by brainmouse at 12:59 PM on February 9 [132 favorites]

sweet thought, but your girlfriend has been living with her hair her whole life. You're not going to be the one to "solve" it for her now. And it's... probably not going to be received well, honestly, for you to start giving her advice about her hair.

If she wants to come here and ask for hair anecdata, lots of people will tell her what's worked for them, I'm sure.

If you want to be a good partner you can tell her how beautiful it is, and ask her if she wants you to buy her fancy hair stuff for valentine's day. If she says yes, again, everyone will be delighted to help with recommendations.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:02 PM on February 9 [22 favorites]

It is harder for oil to move down the shaft of curly hair, this can make the scalp feel oilier and the hair strands dryer/frizzier. Straightened hair distributes the scalp oil faster.

I am all for embracing natural hair texture but that's an individual journey. There's nothing wrong with straightened hair if that's what she prefers.
posted by muddgirl at 1:07 PM on February 9 [16 favorites]

I should say that I started wearing my hair natural about 5 years ago and it's not a simple or cheap matter.
posted by muddgirl at 1:09 PM on February 9 [13 favorites]

I have wavy hair that I blow out (straight) every day. (Yes, every day.) I've had boyfriends comment on how they like my wavy hair and I should wear it natural, but I DON'T LIKE MY WAVY HAIR. I appreciated that they liked it, but it's not about them, it's about me and how I want to present myself to the world. You sound like your heart is in the right place, but let her do her own thing when it comes to her body.
posted by ATX Peanut at 1:14 PM on February 9 [55 favorites]

Please don't try to "help" your girlfriend with her hair. It sounds like there is nothing wrong with her hair, and people get to make their own decisions about their bodies and how they style what sprouts from said bodies.

I have a lot of feelings on this because I also have ample, wavy/curly hair that has earned me many (unwanted) comments on how "beautiful" it is.

I like to wear my hair long (the better to hide behind), and long curly hair is a pain in the tush to take care of in my experience. Mine tangles and snarls when you look at it wrong. There are plenty of products I could use but sometimes it's easier to wear it straight. Obviously, everyone's hair is different. Please believe your GF when she tells you that she does her hair her way for reasons and love her by embracing her styling her hair the way she prefers and is comfortable with.

Also, some people are really judgy or creepy or fetishistic about the texture of other people's hair. That stuff is not okay. Do you think when she straightens her hair she isn't "beautiful"? I don't think you want to come off that way, but that's how it reads to me when people have opinions on my hair.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 1:20 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]

Hair is a super sensitive topic for most women- I think because the culture values it more than man hair, and there is also an intersection of race with hair, and then everyone thinks they get to have an opinion about it, and get to tell you how to make it better...

Don't do this. Tell her she is beautiful, support her hair goals.

(Deep down, if my husband commented that he liked my hair a way I didn't wear it, I might think "wait, so he's not attracted to my normal hair?" - maybe your gf doesn't care but worth bearing in mind how your words might affect her feelings.)
posted by freethefeet at 1:22 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]

Straightening (and some other hair treatments) can dry out hair, so that might be what's preventing greasiness if she naturally produces a lot of oil, and there's nothing inherently terrible about that. I definitely agree with not second-guessing her hair choices or offering advice unless she explicitly asks you for it.
posted by randomnity at 1:25 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

She's also been experiencing hair breakage, so she's started buying products to stop the breakage. But I was thinking: Isn't it bad for your hair to straighten it every day and blow dry it every couple of days? Could that be where the breakage is coming from?

You think she has a nail, but you're wrong. Leave this be.
posted by flabdablet at 1:36 PM on February 9 [7 favorites]

Your intentions are obviously good. The potential outcomes from you trying to "help" your girlfriend with what you perceive as her hair issues are not. Hair is incredibly touchy as a subject and any attempt you make to research her hair and help her is highly likely to backfire. e.g. I am pretty damn sure that your girlfriend is aware that heat-treating and straightening hair is a potential source of hair damage/breakage - she doesn't need you to tell her that, and if you tell her anyway, it's likely to come across badly.

Let her know you love her and her hair no matter what and then back off. IF AND ONLY IF she decides on her own to explore her hair texture differently, you can ask questions and maybe encourage her to spend some money on exploring it. (Natural hair texture: much more expensive and time-consuming than you might think!) But don't try to lead her in that direction.

For the record, I'm saying this as someone with curly hair who wears it curly. It's a personal choice that will be affected by her family of origin, possibly racial and cultural factors, her workplace's expectations, etc etc etc. There can be a lot of baggage you wouldn't expect.
posted by pie ninja at 1:39 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]

I love her straightened hair
I'm happy with her hair as is

If those things are true, then that's all that matters. Is part of your concern about whether you think her straightening her hair is a valuable use of her time, or that it takes time away from your relationship? Do you have an issue with her spending money on hair care products? Is something else going on here?

It's really great that you want to be helpful. It really is. Part of the challenge here is that you're trying to problem-solve in a domain where you have little knowledge or lived experience, and where you're dealing with someone who has a lot of lived experience in this arena because they have to. Is it possible that her fund of hair care knowledge isn't perfect? Absolutely. Are you well-positioned to evaluate that? Not exactly. Surely she knows that straightening one's hair is a potential source of damage - but it's a concern that needs to be weighed against the other reasons she may want to straighten her hair. Not all those variables will be obvious or relatable to you, and it's not necessarily her job to convince you of their importance to her.

Your not knowing what you don't know and attempting to solve a problem for a person who does know what you don't know can be really harmful to the dynamic of your relationship in a way that I don't think you've fully anticipated. It can be awkward to tell your male partner that they don't fully understand what they're trying to solve for you and have them hear that without assuming that you're closed off to new perspectives or being obstinate. It's uncomfortable, especially when it pertains to how you take care of your own body. You don't want to create that source of tension in the relationship, so either leave this be or seek to understand her knowledge if she asks for help.
posted by blerghamot at 1:50 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]

No hairsplaining.

This is way more complicated than you think.
posted by amtho at 2:01 PM on February 9 [26 favorites]

You’ve created a non existent problem about your girlfriend’s hair and now you’re trying to solve it. Interfering with your partner’s bodily autonomy is never going to end well. I would drop this immediately.
posted by Jubey at 2:34 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]

Every woman on earth knows that heat-treating hair damages it. I promise you that she has spent her whole life awash in hair care advice and knows where to go to get it if she wants it.
posted by HotToddy at 2:41 PM on February 9 [24 favorites]

Your intentions seem good, but the big problems here are - you admit you don't know much about hair, and your girlfriend hasn't asked for specific help. There is no way we can give you good hair advice for a third party, based on a description from someone who admits they don't know about hair.

It's like me, who knows nothing about programming, trying to observe and then describe someone else's programming problem. There is no way I will be getting the specific problem and solution requirements right.

You should leave this alone unless she actually asks you for help.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:45 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

You mentioned your girlfriend is busy and doesn't spend much time thinking about this stuff. This is exactly why she has a routine. Changing the routine is not a fast magic bullet to "saving" anything, ever.

I'm with everyone else that you don't need to help her with this.
posted by sm1tten at 3:33 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]

Here's the thing about wavy/curly hair: "going natural" is A LOT OF FUCKING WORK. It's not just a matter of letting your hair do its thing. It often means using specific products and techniques to coax the hair's natural texture into something presentable. I find that it's often wayyy easier and less time-consuming to just straighten my hair than it is to wash and style it wavy.

I know your heart's in the right place with this question, but I'd leave it alone.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 3:53 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]

Even if she is 100% wrong about her hair being oilier when it’s wavy, even if it’s all in her imagination, it is her business.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:56 PM on February 9 [10 favorites]

I think your logic may be right, but this is about beauty and beauty standards and they don’t have anything to do with logic. Age and race also play important roles in how women choose to style their hair. There are many cultural and economic standards that your girlfriend has likely been facing, even perhaps subconsciously, her entire life. (That’s assuming she’s white because obviously women of color have even more stereotypes to battle and racist shit to think about when making hair style decisions). I’m white and I didn’t learn how to style my wavy hair until I was forty. I’m probably still not that great at it. Most of the white women I know with curly hair straighten it either daily or weekly. Straight hair was considered more stylish (and not as a coincidence is more “white”) for the 90s and the 2000s and she may have grown up in that era or been influenced by a mom or role model who grew up in that era. I think it’s only been the past ten years or so that wavy hair is in mainstream style and even now, it’s this sort of wavy “beach wave” that has to be first straightened and then added in with a curling wand or styling tool. It’s bananas and I don’t blame you for noticing that. It’s kind of cute like “awww he just noticed sexism.” Fashion is confusing and illogical. I can imagine your girlfriend has decided straightening her hair is the easiest way to not think about her hair any more than she wants to. My advice is give her a hug and tell her she’s perfect.
posted by areaperson at 4:38 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]

I'm a white person with curly/wavy hair that I wear naturally. It took me a straight year of faffing about with different products to get it to look acceptable and non greasy. I still frequently have to tie it back because it's not presentable, or at least not to "smart workplace" standards. Sleeping on this kind of hair really messes it up!

I never would have made the transition if I hadn't had an extended period of isolation where nobody got a good look at my head. I still may go back to the previous version once I have to leave the house again.
posted by quacks like a duck at 11:24 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

About the only thing you can do is, IF she complains about it out loud, say "Hey, I'm on this internet forum where people often have good advice about a variety of topics. If you want to, you can write down a question about an issue you have problems with, I can post it and we could see if they have any ideas you haven't tried yet."
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:59 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]

Rather than assuming she has a problem why not just have a conversation about hair in general. How do you feel about yours? Are there any hairstyles you would have loved to try had you had the right length/texture/colour? What about facial hair, how do you feel about shaving or management thereof. See if she's interested in sharing . Don't judge or compare. Find out what she cares about. Be interested in what she tells you.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:52 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Without knowing anything about your girlfriend, I will also say that for Jews (and maybe other ethnic minorities) straightening our thick, wavy hair is often an attempt at protection against anti-semitism.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:17 AM on February 10 [5 favorites]

As a guy, I understand you wanting to "help" your GF, but you really should let HER take the first step.

If you REALLY want to help, here's my idea: take her to a fancy salon (where the stylist will no doubt be horrified at what she tried to do to her own hair) and get some real hair care tips. Or just hand her a large gift certificate (enough for one or more sessions) so she can be pampered. Heck, a spa day for both of you would be nice too, but it's COVID times, who knows... Just make sure it can only be spent by her, not her friend, her relatives, or the like.
posted by kschang at 7:30 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

I think the above people have it covered re: not telling your girlfriend what to do with her hair. My hair is wavy and I also straighten it every day just because it's easier to deal with.

I also think that your girlfriend might like a silk pillowcase, which removes some of the frizz that comes after sleeping for both natural and straightened hair. It might help her avoid straightening every single day while still maintaining the look she wants. These pillowcases are usually $100+, so they are cost prohibitive for most people. You should frame it as a nice luxury item that you thought she might like, rather than a "use this so you don't hurt your hair."
posted by little king trashmouth at 7:34 AM on February 10

There are lots of silk pillowcases for affordable prices! If she gets enamored with it you can upgrade, but start basic.
posted by reksb at 1:28 PM on February 10

Thanks everybody! Very helpful feedback. I'll just roll with it unless she specifically asks me about it!
posted by uncannyslacks at 8:22 AM on February 12

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