I had my first curly hair cut at 26 - this is what I learnt

Lydia debuted her new look at London Fashion Week
Lydia debuted her new look at London Fashion Week

One of my earliest memories of my hair is complaining to my Mum that my ponytail didn’t swing when I ran like the rest of the girls in the playground.

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I started straightening my hair when I was about 12 because it was easier to get ready for school in the mornings.

But the truth of it is, when you’re in senior school, you just want to look like everyone else - and I felt like I fit in more.

Junior Beauty Writer Lydia Mormen with straight hair
I started straightening my hair in senior school

It wasn’t until college that I decided to start embracing my curls more and yet I still couldn’t commit to a curly cut. Every time I went to the hairdresser I’d ask them to cut it straight, and only wear it curly occasionally.

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I guess a combination of laziness and simply growing up meant that during lockdown, I became more confident in myself and I fell out of love with my straighteners. I began to accept that my curls made me unique and got into a routine of styling them in a way that made me feel confident and like the best version of myself.

If you’ve got curls, you’ll know the struggle of going to a salon that doesn’t know what to do with curly hair - and yes, that’s still a thing. The first time I mustered up the courage to ask for my hair to be styled naturally (instead of a bouncy blowout) it left a lot to be desired.

Lydia with curly hair before her cut
My curly hair before the cut

So terrified by the thought of not sticking with the status quo, my stylist forgo brushing my hair after my wash and simply diffused it into the shape it was in when she removed the towel - my horror was confirmed when my brother told me I resembled Brian May.

I was laughing about it, but I left feeling humiliated and frustrated. For two years after that incident, I clung to my heat-damaged curls, prioritising length over health, nervous to let anyone else touch them.

Our relationship with our hair can be so deeply personal that I swore I’d only ever style it again myself

Around the beginning of this year, I fell out of love with my hair for the second time. It felt thin, it was snapping off, and it wasn’t cooperating. When you’ve spent a long time cultivating a relationship with your curls that can feel so frustrating. I found myself scraping it back into a bun, a punishment for its unruliness.

Slowly, as the weeks passed, my Instagram explore page started filling up with the juiciest, healthiest curly bobs and I knew what I needed to do. It was time for a big chop. If I truly meant what I said about loving my locks I had to lose the length that I’d been clinging onto for so long.

I wasn’t taking any risks with whom I trusted this time, and got booked in to see Celebrity Hair Stylist Charlotte Mensah at her Notting Hill salon. It was my first experience of being in a salon that was dedicated to textured hair.

Not only did they know what to do with my curls, how to treat them, cut them and style them, but my hair was actually celebrated - something I had never experienced or understood before.

There was no muttering under their breath at the backwash asking for extra assistance, no talk of a bouncy blow dry, no 'umming' or 'ahhing' about the best way to tackle it in the shortest time possible. I felt for the first time that I was fully seen, accepted and in safe hands.

After an initial consultation, my scalp was scrubbed, my curls were treated and steamed and Charlotte worked her magic by sculpting a beautiful shape out of my strands. We decided to opt for lusciousness over length and I couldn’t be happier with it.

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The finished result looks and feels intentional. Each curl is defined and joyously juicy now it has been released from the weight of the heat-damaged ends I’d been clinging on to. It might sound like I’m exaggerating, but it was an emotionally freeing experience too.

The notion of letting go of something that is no longer serving you in favour of a happier, healthier outcome is something that I not only want for my hair but for my whole life.

Lydia debuted her new look at London Fashion Week
I debuted my new look at London Fashion Week

It’s given me a fresh start where I can focus on caring for my curls and embracing them at their best.

I had so many reservations. What if it didn’t suit me? What if I looked really young? What if I didn’t feel as feminine with a short style? Ultimately it has taught me that there is so much strength to be found in celebrating your natural beauty and seeking out people that will celebrate it with you. If you’ve been looking for a sign to start afresh, then let this be it.