The One Product This Natural-Haired Beauty Swears By

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1Photo: João Henriques/ Courtesy of Curly Essence.
We caught up this model Rafaela Avidago of Amora, Portugal, who talks about her metamorphosis from a shy high school student teased about her "bulky" hair to a stylish young woman with killer curl confidence.

Curly Essence: Have you ever felt out of your comfort zone because of your hair?
Rafaela: Yes, especially when I was younger. In high school, students joked about my hair for being too bulky. At that time, I didn’t know how take care of it, so either I did a ponytail or a braid, using gel to tame stray hair. I rarely wore my hair loose. Nowadays, I feel exactly the opposite. I get lots of compliments for my hair, which was once the butt of jokes.

Is it easy to be true to yourself?
It is. It takes a lot of mental discipline to disregard the opinions of others, no matter if it's from friends, acquaintances, or the media. I think we assume that we have two options: Either we are ourselves, and we feel confident about the person we are, or we feel excluded, and we allow it to weigh negatively on us. We cannot please everyone. It's a lesson I learned recently, and I continue to feel more comfortable in my person. It's all a matter of mindset and willpower.

It is normal to feel different, yet be who we really are (physically speaking) in front of society? Do you ever feel like you're being stared at?
We are all different, and we all have attributes that we do not like, but there will be someone who would love to have those attributes. We have to learn to like ourselves just as we are, with our qualities and flaws; only then will we feel good within society. We must be critical not to accept everything that society imposes upon us. But, indiscreet looks sometimes bother me. I've learned to live with it, for example by avoiding eye contact in crowded places, where it bothers me.
3Photo: João Henriques/ Courtesy of Curly Essence.
How do you deal on mornings when you wake up, look in the mirror, and scream at your hair, "I woke up like this?"
My hair doesn't give me much trouble. I put it back at night and when I go to the gym, I do a braid to keep it off my neck.

Do you worry about having your curls in perfect shape, or do you follow the "let it be" philosophy?
I used to worry more about my curls. Now, I'm in a "let it be" mood. Also, because I think curly hair has its own personality, I just have to let my curls be as they are.

Do you change up your curl care routine in different seasons?
No. My hair holds up well despite seasonal changes, although I use special care to protect it against the sun during summer.

Have you found your perfect hair product, or does the search continue?
I have a product of choice that I've used for years, which is Small Talk from TIGI. It's a texturizing styler that I apply to hair when it's wet.
4Photo: João Henriques/ Courtesy of Curly Essence.
Compared to the U.S. market, the European — and, especially the Portuguese market — serious lack products for natural hair. How, and where, can you get the products for your daily routine?
I worked in a hair cosmetics store, so I learned a lot about hair. That's where I do my shopping, because they are representatives of my brand of choice, and I use texturizing and styling products.

Would you like to share any more hair care secrets with us?
Personally, I just do hair masks from time to time, because extreme hydration makes my curls start to get soft and lose volume. I always wash my hair upside-down, and diffuse my hair upside-down to give it more body and volume. A well-reputed hairdresser taught me to finish drying with a blast of cold air for the perfect curl fix.

What were your worst hair mistakes? What advice would you give anyone about to try to straighten their curls?
I dyed my hair too often, and that began to ruin the shape of my curls. Now, I dye it once a year, and the difference doesn't grow out too noticeably thanks to my curls. My advice would be to look for the appropriate type of hair products, and not to wash it too often, because the scalp takes about 48 hours to dry. Also, be who you are without fear. if we are not ourselves, who will be?

Styling by Motel Rocks.

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