Why Won't My Asian Hair Hold A Curl?

Not even one of the top hairstylists in the world could get my hair to stay curly for more than a few hours!

Like all good parents, mine told me that there’s nothing in this world that I can’t achieve. If I put my mind to it, they encouraged, I can accomplish anything.

Too bad they weren’t referring to my hopeless hair holding a curl.

Being Asian and born with this straight-as-a-board hair has its perks. And it also has its disadvantages.

My Anglo friends rave over my straight, sleek hair. They tell me how jealous they are that I don’t need to add an hour to my morning prep time to straighten my hair, how I can walk through sheets of rain and wet humidity without worrying that my hair will curl up instantly.

My response to the gushing? Ugh. I've lived with this hair all of my life, so it isn't all that glamorous. I've longed for volume and curl; "personality" for my hair, I call it.

Can you blame me? Even the usage of the word “straight” means boring. If someone is “straight-laced,” then they are puritanical. If a person is “straight as an arrow,” that implies he or she isn’t very adventurous. So why would I want my hair to be straight?

Since I was eight years old, I would try silly at-home remedies to trick my hair into holding a curl. I'd beg my mother to braid my wet hair at night, gathering clumps of my just-showered hair into small braids tied at the end with skinny black hair ties. I'd sleep overnight with them, praying to the curl gods that when I awoke, my hair would emulate Keri Russell's.

After undoing the braids in the morning, success! Waves! My elation was short-lived, though. Like clockwork, an hour into living my Keri Russell dream, my hair uncoiled. So disappointing.

Adulthood hasn't been much different. My hair hasn't grown out of being straight. It still can't hold a curl, even if I threaten it with a hot curling iron.

My hairstylist says that’s just how Asian hair is. Her best friend is Korean and has the same problem. My best friend, a Filipina, also commiserates with me.

But then, a miracle happened.

Last February, via a major hookup and a friend in the business, I was granted a chance to sit in Ted Gibson’s salon chair!

The celebrity hairstylist of “What Not To Wear” fame wooed me with his curling iron, pumping the arm lever methodically with his thumb and without hesitation, and spritzed me with some magical spray that he probably bought from the same guy who sold Jack those magic beans.

Voila! Gorgeous waves that lasted not one, not two, but three hours! As he whipped my chair around for me to get a good look at myself in front of the mirror, I gasped.

“You made me look like I have white-girl hair!” I blurted.

I went to bed that night thinking that if a highly respected, $950-per-haircut celebrity stylist can do it, then so can I.

Knowing full well I couldn’t bottle Ted Gibson and harness his magical hands and spray, I went to work trying to find a home remedy beyond my mother and my makeshift multi-braid system. I was going to beat the Asian odds, determined that Ted's work was not going to be a fluke. All I needed to do was put my mind to it, right?

I bought hot rollers. I bought hairsprays. Curling irons. Even mousse. Like a mad scientist, I experimented in every way I could. I hairsprayed the crap out of a bottle one night to the point that I thought I was going to die of aerosol inhalation asphyxiation.

The best styling assistants I found were from the Nexxus family: Maxximum Super Hold Styling and Finishing Mist (it quickly dries and never looks stiff), and its Hydra-Light Root Lift Mist (to add some temporary volume and “personality” to lift my limp hair).

But the sad truth: None of these products have sustained my curls for longer than two hours. The most I can do is keep the curls for a brief time before they noticeably start unraveling.

So far, I haven’t found a way to really trick my hair into sustaining the beautiful waves my Anglo friends seem to effortlessly achieve (at least not without some semi-permanent manner). My default explanation for my failure is that there’s something anatomically preventing Asian hair from wanting to be anything except straight.

Sorry, parents, but you were wrong this time. Looks like I can’t achieve everything I want.

Any advice to help me find that long-lasting curl?