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How to Work the Curl

Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
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Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
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Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
Beatriz Cardenas McMonagle
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New mom (and former Bumble and bumble bigwig) Bea McMonagle loves her corkscrew locks, but isn’t modern beauty about options? Spurred on by our look at curly bangs, the Miami native comes clean about embracing the wave, going stick-straight, and back again.

One of my childhood best friends was named Karen Lipschitz ** ***...and I envied her. You might think anyone named “Karen Lipschitz” should be pitied and not envied, at least during those cruel elementary school years, but it was her Kirsty Hume hair I coveted. Thanks to an unfortunate haircut at my dad’s local barber shop [2], Karen and I were the Luke and Laura (remember, from General Hospital?) of the third grade. Guess who was Luke?

My mass of thick, super-tight curls (I’m Cuban-American) can be very “editorial.” In fact, there’s a popular backstage technique used to approximate my natural texture: the model’s hair is twisted into one-inch braids, sprayed with a medium-hold hairspray, and flat-ironed. It’s then released and brushed or back-combed to create a pretty intense cloud of cotton-candy frizz. (You can achieve this with a half-inch curling iron pin set, as well.) Check out Bottega Veneta’s fall ‘13 show for a visual, if you don’t believe me. The whole thing takes forever, and it’s “a lot of look,” as they say. And lots of models LOVE it; iPhone selfies for all!

Over the years, I’ve been overwhelmingly pleased with my ‘fro, although it took work. Some of my high school pics aren’t cute [1]. And I still scoff at girls who possess Julia Roberts tresses and pretend to feel a kinship with me, exclaiming, “I have curly hair, too!” No. You. Don’t. My hair coils from root to end, while Julia’s hairline is smooth with soft mermaid waves. Mine is a particular hair type—for those familiar with the curl-speak popularized by Oprah’s hairdresser, Andre Walker, I’ve got a 3B with some serious 3C areas; Julia’s is really 2B. Anyway, I’ve done a lifetime of research to arrive at a sensible routine for my unruly hair.

I’ve traveled to Bed-Stuy, venturing into a semisecret brownstone to have my hair crafted into a choppy, curly mop (with bangs). I’ve grown it long and religiously followed the no-‘poo routine, resulting in a nicely moisturized, albeit kind of dull, curl. But I found my holy grail of hairstyles at Bumble and bumble (where I was the longtime director of global communications) eight years ago. It’s often hard to give long spirals like mine any sort of edge, but I found two stylists at the downtown New York salon who’ve done me proud: Michelle Fiona (the chick behind Zooey Deschanel’s perfect bangs) and—when Michelle left four years ago to open her San Francisco salon, Barrow StreetSabrina Michals. Turns out it’s a mix of cutting and razoring the hair. It’s rad. I love it.

Of course, there are also tons of lines and specific products that are all about embracing the kink. I use Bumble and bumble’s Curl Conscious range, particularly their Defining Creme, which is technically designed for finer curls; I just like the hold it delivers. I am also a fan of Miss Jessie's, developed by two sisters of Japanese and African American backgrounds. Their Curly Pudding is genius—a thick purple cream that imparts the control of a gel without any of the dreaded crunch. Terax Crema is an amazing conditioner, not exclusively created for curls, that hydrates beautifully without leaving any residue and smells like a baby.

Credit the massive influence of Daria’s Céline ads, but I’ve recently moved away from my crazy curls to a relatively smooth, wavy “lob” (long bob) [9, 10]. To arrive at said smoothness, I have a process…a long one. I use Bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil on my damp hair, part it to the side, and then scrape my damp hair into a low pony tail. I spray the hairline with a medium hold hairspray (like Bb. Spray de Mode). I sleep on it, and in the morning, I twist a few face-framing sections around a 1.25-inch curling iron. Then, I don’t wash it for a week; it gets cooler every day. I’ll touch up occasionally with hair powder. (Confession: I’ve definitely gone two weeks w/o washing my hair, don’t hate.).

Yes, modern beauty is all about options. And sometimes, no matter how much you love your curls, you just want super straight hair. I highly recommend los Dominicanos for that task.

The Dominican Blow Out (DBO) is not for everyone, especially not for wusses [3-8]. They give you a deep-conditioning treatment, often avocado-based, roll your wet hair onto large two-inch plastic rollers and leave you under the dryer. FOREVER. Then, they pull the crap out of your hair with a round brush and a high-powered blower, all while listening to Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero.” I find the experience oddly pleasing, the way I find Tracy Anderson’s arm series pleasing—the pain means it’s working. The roller set really seals the hair cuticle, gives it movement, and imparts shine. Plus, it’s less damaging than the dry heat of a flat iron.

Another fabulous thing about the DBO? The particular attention to your hairline. Regardless of the style, I always use hairspray on my hairline for a smoother, polished look. Most Dominican salons offer special little plastic ear-coverings to ensure they smooth every little hair around the ear, which I find particularly satisfying.

The end result is amazing: silkiness that lasts until you just have to wash it. For those interested in a more permanent ‘solution,’ these salons also offer keratin treatments, for which they apply the same detail-oriented tough tension. My sparer style and even sparer free time as a new mom compelled me to seek such a treatment at Marcella’s, my favorite Dominican spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am a big fan of the result, though my enjoyment is tempered by the ongoing debate over its safety (due to the presence of formaldehyde). I’ve done my research... You’ve got to pick your battles.

Despite my straighter ‘do, I don’t feel I’ve succumbed to the male gaze…maybe the Phoebe Philo gaze, but can you blame me? The gaze I care most about—aside from Phoebe’s—is my husband’s, and he prefers curls. He thinks my Ruby Woo looks like clown makeup and I rarely rock a bold lip around him, but I’m completely immune to his preferences when it comes to my hair.

Bea's DBO spots :

Marcella’s Dominican Beauty Salon

249 South 1st Street

Williamsburg, NY 11211

Monday-Saturday 9am-7pm

Sunday 9am-5pm

Annabelle’s

159 Essex Street

New York, NY 10022

Mon-Fri 10am-7pm

Sat 9am-7pm

Sun 11am-3pm

—Bea McMonagle

** *** Name (slightly) changed

Bea McMonagle is a freelance beauty and fashion consultant living in Brooklyn, NY. Follow her on Instagram here. McMonagle and salons photographed by Jane Houle; other images courtesy of McMonagle.