As a little girl growing up in New York City, I was incredibly, painfully self-conscious. In elementary school, I would frequently hide behind my father's legs or be sure to sit in the very back of the classroom as to not draw any attention to myself, a trademark move of my social anxiety. I could not understand why I just could not break out of my shell — I would always look at the other students, with their impenetrable self-confidence, perfect haircuts, and MySpace-worthy outfits (it was the early 2000s, after all), and think, "Why can't that be me?" To make my awkward early years even more difficult, my parents divorced when I was 13, a life event that probably did nothing for my social anxiety except make it worse.
Being the oldest of four children and eventually raised by my maternal grandmother, frequent visits to the salon for haircuts and dye jobs were out of the question — there was just no money for that. Because of these constraints, I learned to create my own version of a good hair day, every day, without having to spend tons of money I did not have.
By developing my very own good hair days, I created an outlet for my own self-expression, which in turn cultivated confidence.
I would experiment with everything from boxed hair dye, glitter scrunchies, headbands, and clips, to learning to cut my bangs by myself at home (I don't recommend you try this unless you really know what you are doing — putting scissors to hair is so nerve-wracking!). I would be inspired by hairstyles from old movies and fashion shoots and would make weekly runs to the local drugstore to pick up hair gels, hairsprays, and more. Over time my confidence boosted and my social anxiety was shed — people would ask me where I bought my hair accessories and how I achieved bangs that good. Little did I know that by developing my very own good hair days I would create an outlet for my own self-expression, which in turn cultivated confidence.
From these experiences, I have learned, most importantly, that the secret core of a good hair day should start with self-confidence and self-acceptance: you must learn to love and embrace the many different details that make you who you are. It is imperative to use this as your foundation and build onto it.
Nowadays, with both styling and caring for my hair, I have ditched the boxed dyes and glitter accessories and instead try to keep it as natural and simple as possible — life is already so fast-paced and busy as it is. This means that I have learned to make small adjustments in my shower and bath routine to help support this.
For example, I will usually use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. A couple of years ago, after my hair went through an anxiety-inducing shedding phase, I learned that sulfates, such as the ones found in some shampoos, can strip hair of its natural oils. As of lately, I have been using a few sprays of detangling solution after towel drying and before combing it out and have also added a weekly hair and scalp conditioning mask to my routine to prevent split ends and breakage. I also try to keep heat usage to a minimum by letting my hair air-dry if the season permits, using heat tools only if absolutely necessary and, when I do, making sure to to always use a thermal care spray beforehand.
Another trick I have learned is to style my hair according to the weather. If it is raining or snowing, I'll normally wear a slicked back ponytail or top knot. If it is breezy or windy, usually a low braid does the trick. Learning to be flexible has saved me a lot of time and stress in trying to achieve a look that just may not be feasible on certain days.
However, what has become my most important rule to stick to for a great hair day is that I treat my hair as an extension of my personality. This means that I style my hair based on my moods, how I want it to interact with the rest of my outfit, and what makes me feel most comfortable. If a trending hairstyle comes out that looks awesome on other people but when tried just doesn't make me feel like my best self, I won't force it. I'd rather feel comfortable in my own skin than pretend to be someone I am not.
Of course, there are some days when my hair just doesn't do what I would like for it to do — I have a stubborn cowlick, so this happens quite often — but after learning the secret that it's all about perspective, outlook, and self-confidence, I am able to make every day a good hair day.