When you think of Southeast Asian women (and men) having curly hair, what comes to mind?

Is it beautiful waves like this?

wavy hair

Or a perfectly, manicured perm like this?

permed hair
Image credit: Hai Nguyen / Pexels

The reality is far from it though, especially if you’re living in a tropical, humid climate like Singapore and Malaysia. Frizz, kinks, BIG HAIR – those are what it’s really like to have curly hair in a humid country.

Big And Curly

Growing up with curly hair, it is definitely not a texture that is glorified or often liked in Southeast Asian culture. Straight hair is more common, and the ideal, in fact.

My mother always chided me for having messy hair and I would work extra hard to comb my hair straight, even breaking my comb once (true story!) because I was yanking hard at it to get rid of the knots.

My curly hair often brought me shame because it’s big, frizzy and never dries the same — far from typical Southeast Asian beauty ideals. So I would use tonnes of products – moisturising shampoos, hair straighteners, anti-frizz serums (you name it, I’ve tried it) – just to make it look straighter. Spending so much time, effort and money straightening it, just to have it all go up in a great big flame of frizz the moment I step out of the house can get pretty frustrating.

curly hair on humid day
Image credit: Buzzfeed

But over the years, instead of working against it, I’ve learnt to embrace my curls. It gives me personality as it almost has a life of its own!

Loving my big, curly hair means wearing it with confidence. But it takes some work and special care to keep it looking funky, fresh and beautiful.

So here are a couple of my favourite tips and tricks to help you manage your curly hair in this humid country.

Tender Loving Care For Curly Hair

Avoid combing curly hair when it’s dry as it breaks easily, making it frizz up more. What works for me is combing out the knots while applying my conditioner and then using a detangling brush to comb my hair while it’s damp.

Invest in a microfibre towel! I only bought my microfibre towel four months ago and I never looked back. It’s supposed to absorb excess water from your hair while lessening the frizz, and using it has definitely helped my curls keep their definition after drying.

Trust me when I say that good hair products are your best friend. It took me years of trying out different products based on recommendations and extensive research. I tried out homemade hair mask recipes and various shampoos, conditioners and serums. But I think I’ve finally found my holy grail product.

As my biggest issue with my hair is the frizz, my must-have product is L’Oreal Extraordinary Oil. Applying it after a shower throughout my damp hair gives my hair a smoother, more moisturised texture. The oil is absorbed fast and doesn’t leave my hair looking oily even with a generous amount applied.

Finding the right products and routine for your curly hair takes a little trial and error. But in time, you will learn what works best for you and completely embrace that #curlyhair life!