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Curl Changing Hair History

According to Vogue's 1977 Body And Beauty Book by Bronwen Meredith, Karl Ludwig Nessler under the Nestle banner invented a "wonder machine for perming" hair in 1906.  By 1920 the machine hit the masses and the business of making curls available for everyone was the hottest new hair changing option.

(Image of advertisement for the Nestle perming machine - Wikipedia - All Rights Reserved)

As Bronwen Meredith put it, the new perm machine "changed the manes of the masses."  Curls were forever changed at this point in history.  Those with natural curls had new options and those with stick straight strands could have man made curls and waves.

The advertisements for the Nestle Wave touted the fact that 'there is no difference between Nature's Wave and The Nestle Wave.'

Historic Curl Changing Events

Looking back at that 1920s curl changing historic event, a lot of the texturizing hairstyling philosophies and practices which are popular today, were started way back then.

Eugene - Hair Waving And Curling Expert

The introduction of the perming machine, which eventually was replaced by chemical options, also ushered in the era of the curl experts.  In London, Eugene proclaimed himself to be the "ablest and most renowned permanent Hair Waver" of all of London and Paris.  During the beginning of the curl craze, Eugene was the self proclaimed texture expert creating curls in straight hair and refining texture patterns in those blessed with natural curls.

Eugene's advertisements stated simply 'Eugene Rules The Waves'.

Successful Business Built Around Hair Texture

Other curl experts on both sides of the pond followed Eugene's example recognizing the opportunity to build a successful hair business built around advertised hair texture expertise.

Although the perming machines were designed to create curls for those with straight tresses, they were also utilized to control natural waves and curls by applying a more uniform pattern.  If you had hair, regardless of the natural texture (straight, wavy, curly, kinky) or type (fine/thin, medium, thick, very thick) you could have your hair treated by the wonder machines.

The Mason Pearson brush, still popular in 2010, was considered a mainstay styling tool for all types of hair from natural to permed curls. A range of hair care products were introduced to help care for the newly permed and textured tresses.

Dispensing Curl Care Advice

Magazines such as Vogue dispensed curl care advice to consumers.  According to Bronwen Meredith Vogue magazine warned "ill-kept hair spoils all possibilities of good looks and smartness" and hair products designed to offer a wide range of benefits were being endorsed by leading hairdressers and used by royalty.

By the 1930s women were concerned with keeping their natural or artificially created curls neat and tidy.  The beauty magazines warned 'curls must never appear untidy'.

Lady Jane Sumbernet For Controlling Sleeping Curls

Of course the hair industry responded by providing methods for women to control their textures.  During this time the  Lady Jane Slumbernet was introduced as a way to control curls while sleeping.  The idea behind the famous nighttime hair net was to keep curls contained and in perfect control upon awakening.

The concern with controlled curls and texture continued until the 1940s when the war dictated hair fashions.  All hair was covered up in the wartime factories as both straight and textured tresses were protected by an array of turbans and snoods to keep strands segregated from dangerous machinery.

The Introduction Of Wigs

In the 1950s the Carita Sisters of Paris invented wigs which were worn to cover up unruly curls, waves or other challenging tresses.  By the 1960s the famous Harrods department store introduced the first dedicated wig counter.

Wigs were also a curl changing device.  For those with out of control textures, wigs were the perfect solution.  They could be used to visually change the look of unruly strands.

Vidal Sassoon's Geometic Haircuts

In 1963 Vidal Sassoon introduced his thick shaped bob which focused on creating straight strands.  Of course natural curls were not the ideal texture for the new geometric hair shapes and eventually ripple waves and the first natural 'afro' styles became popular.

1970s Healthy Hair Movement

The 1970s ushered in the area of healthy hair which means less focus on chemicals, back combing, lacquers and other products thought to make hair unhealthy.  The goal was to have healthy, shiny and natural tresses.

Ouidad In 1982

In 1982 the curly hair industry took another new direction courtesy of New York based curl expert Ouidad.  After years of struggling with her own natural curls, Ouidad opened the very first salon in the United States which catered only to curly hair.  The licensed stylist, mother, author and educator is considered the pioneer of the curly hair industry which has grown into a very lucrative hair business for the current times.

Ouidad - The Original Voice Of Natural Curls

As the 1980s rolled into the 1990s and beyond, Ouidad became the voice of natural curls.  Beauty and fashion magazines turned to Ouidad for her curly hair soundbites and advice.   She also created an amazing trademarked cutting technique and specialized product line of award winning formulas for curly hair.

Ouidad has dedicated her entire hair career to instilling confidence in curly haired women everywhere. And Ouidad

One of the very first hair experts I personally interviewed at the dawn of was Ouidad.  She was very kind, supportive and full of great curl wisdom.

I immediately incorporated some of her suggestions for curly hair care into my own hair with great results.  During our first phone call in the later part of the 1990s she encouraged me to continue to share information about natural curls and textures on, which I have continued to do since that first call.

Other Curl Experts Entering Market

Just as Eugene was the first curl expert in London back in the 1920s, he eventually was surrounded by other curls experts with their own take on the best way to create, style, manage and maintain permed or natural curls and waves.  Nestle also eventually received competition.  Unfortunately it's the way of business and life.

Curl Care Product Overload

Since 1982 when Ouidad pioneered the business of curly hair care, she's been joined by many other self proclaimed curl and texture experts who have written books, promoted a range of texture related hair products and care techniques while providing their own marketing spin on the business.

Curl Care Expertise

I have met many of the curl experts or talked to them over the past thirteen years, but for the purpose of brevity it's impossible to mention all of them in this blog.  Several such as Lorraine Massey, Barbara Lhotan and Robert Hallowell and have been extremely generous with their time and willingness to help me by providing detailed information on their own personal texture care philosophies.

I will always have a great respect for Ouidad and her curl expertise because she was the very first to support my goals in providing curly hair care information to consumers during the earliest days of  Ouidad always was willing to take time out of her busy life to answer any of my questions and support my education in the world of curls.

Fast Forward To 2010 Curl Care

Fast forward to 2010 and curl care or texture enhancing products are hawked by a dizzying array of curl experts, celebrities, bloggers and DIYers.  Whereas ten years ago there were a handful of renowned curl experts, today there are too many to keep track of.

In fact, there are so many so called celebrity hair care lines designed specifically for textured hair that consumers are experiencing product overload.

Curl Care Into The Future

Although it's impossible to predict where curly hair  and natural textured hair care trends will transition to into the future one thing is certain, history will continue to repeat itself and trends will continue to change.  One thing I can promise, I will be right there watching and recording as the trends unfold.

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