The Insite reader of the week is Gwendolyn Dotson. She just happens to be my aunt and my mother Dollie’s sister. Gwendolyn lives in Baton Rouge, La. where is a beautician. She is also responsible for all of my cool jheri curls from 6th grade until the 11th grader. Hey Gwen, thanks for dropping by The Insite. Also thanks for taking the time to check out the blog on your very busy schedule!
More about the historical Jheri Curl:
The Jheri curl (often incorrectly spelled Jerry curl and/or Jeri Curl) is a hairstyle that was common and popular in the African American and Latino communities in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s. Invented by and named for Jheri Redding, the Jheri Curl gave the wearer a glossy, loosely curled look. It was touted as a “wash and wear” style that was easier to care for than the other popular chemical treatment of the day, the relaxer.
A jheri curl was a two-part application that consisted of a softener (often called a “rearranging cream”) to loosen the hair and a solution to set the curls. The cream used chemicals that caused the naturally tight curls to loosen and hang. The loose hair was then set on perm rods and a second chemical solution was applied to the hair to permanently curl it.
Besides the fact that it eventually went out of style, the jheri curl’s decline in popularity probably occurred because of the damage it caused to the wearer’s hair.[original research?] Perming the hair was time and labor-intensive and expensive to upkeep. The harsh mix of chemicals required for the process caused the wearer’s natural hair to become extremely brittle and dry.
To maintain the look of the jheri curl, users were required to apply activator and heavy moisturizers daily, and to sleep with a plastic cap on their heads to keep the hairstyle from drying out. These products were relatively expensive (a typical bottle of activator was small, retailed anywhere from $3 to $6, and was quickly depleted). The activator in particular had the undesirable side effect of being very greasy; this would often stain clothing and anything that came into contact with it.
Washing the hair cleansed it of the styling products but also exposed the damage done to the hair by the chemical process. Also, as the hair grew out, the wearer would be forced to return to the hair salon for a touch-up, further adding to the overall expense. The hairstyle went out of fashion by the early 1990s and was replaced in part with the high top fade haircut.