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A Naturally Curly Chick Dishes On Her Fave Products

Ana Rita D' Almeida and Denise Sonnemberg — two Lisbon-based twenty-somethings behind the blog Curly Essence — know that you are not your hair. Still, there's no reason not to celebrate the natural hair movement, and now, the ladies are bringing their expertise in everything from the best leave-in conditioners to the top travel spots straight to R29.
Catarina VazPhoto: Catarina Vaz/Courtesy of Curly Essence.
This week, we caught up with Francesca Sousa, a 30-year-old beauty with an enviable mane. Seriously: Her friends have nicknamed her Palmeirinha, which means "palm tree" in english, because of the way her hair cascades.
Talk a bit about the history of your curly hair, including things you vow never to commit again.
"As soon as I came into the world, I had huge, spiky black hair (even my parents couldn't guess what was coming). I always wore it short until my pre-teens; I can say that my hair was the least sexy thing about me!
My mom always brushed my hair (goodbye curls, hello super-volume and frizz!) and tamed it with a headband or cotton wool to prevent it from falling into my eyes. I was far from approaching the beauty ideal of my peers: AKA blonde, straight-haired princesses. It was hard, but at the same time made me appreciate my other features, including the interior ones.
I say without a problem that my hair has shaped my personality. When I entered adolescence, I had many episodes including everything from shaving my hair, to making braids like Snoop Dogg, dying it blue, red, and even green — but always with short hair. I adopted my current style at university; when I became an adult, I let my hair loose."
Tell us a bit about your hair's color maintenance.
"My hair is naturally brown. Currently, my lovely and patient mother dyes it for me at home. We started doing it because we wanted to save money, and I actually prefer it! I hate spending hours at the hairdresser doing anything. At home, I can be occupied simultaneously with something productive."
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What are some of the ways you keep your hair healthy?
"I always use a hydrating mask in the bath. As with most curly hair, the conditioner isn’t enough because my hair is extremely dry. On the day I don't wash it, I use a moisturizer spray to eliminate the cushion-like quality. I try to use a serum, but sometimes I get lazy."
How often do you straighten your hair, if ever?
"I think I have straightened it three times in my life!"
Is there any aspect of your hair that needs special attention? "No, it’s always okay. Except when it rains — then it stays in cloud mode without curls, annoyingly. But, I think only I notice it."
Is it easy for you to find the right product? Or do you jump from item to item?
"I know what kind of products to use. I get furious when brands change products I considered perfect, like TIGI’s Dumb Blonde mask."
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What products do can you not live without?
"I only comb in the shower, as you can imagine, and the best detangling mask is made by Pantene. I always recommended TIGI’s Dumb Blonde line, because it gave me a unique glow. However, when they changed the packaging, I think they changed formula."
Are there any rules for people who admire your hair?

"Well, I really wish there were. It's super-annoying when anyone tries to touch it without my permission. But, it’s also a good conversation opener."
How do you see the world covering our curly Portuguese hair? Do you think it’s put aside as a niche, with brands putting all curly hair in one category? Are we self-marginalizing?
"I have seen a very rapid evolution in this fiend in terms of products available in the market, and in people’s attitudes. 10 years ago, it was unbearable."
Do you envy anyone else’s hair? Can I say that I don’t?
"I don’t envy! I envy my own hair on a good day!"