Goodbye blowdryers, flatirons, damaging chemical relaxers, expensive Brazilian blowouts and Keratin treatments. Counteracting the rhetoric of pelo lacio, the massive internet community that is Rulos Arg promotes curly hair acceptance in Argentina – and beyond.
Started in 2017, Rulos Arg is an Argentine Facebook group that aims to “promote the care of our hair as it is, and to share advice and experiences.” The group has blown up in the last two years—with several posts each hour, there’s high engagement from the 122,196 members (and counting). While joining as a member requires admin approval, there’s no need to have curly hair; the only limitation is that publications about products that either promote hair straightening or that cannot be purchased in Argentina aren’t allowed.
#RulosArg is proof of how Argentines strive to both broaden beauty standards and embrace self-acceptance. Hair is just one of many beauty standards in Argentina: discontentment with physical appearance permeates many facets of Argentine life. For instance, Buenos Aires has the highest rate of eating disorders in the world. One in thirty women get plastic surgery. Latina women spend three times more than non-Latinas on beauty and cosmetic products. As for hair? “There is a fashion and old hegemonic standard about having straight and long hair,” said Manuela Baral, a member of Rulos Arg.
But groups like #RulosArg want to resist. “At the beginning we wanted the group to promote self-acceptance of curls, which for a long time were, and perhaps still, are seen as synonymous with carelessness, to the point that in some cases, almost forced some women to [straighten their hair] for some jobs, or to [straighten their hair] or to feel accepted and ‘pretty,’” said Vero Aguirre, one of the group’s founders.
Because hair straightening has long been expected as the default practice, many industries have formed around meeting the standard. The “Brazilian blowout” smoothing treatment is offered at most salons, while at-home Keratin treatments can be purchased more cheaply. As for appliances? There’s hairdryers, flat irons, and even hair-straightening brushes. “We joke that the second most-profitable industry, after oil, is hair straightening. Because everyone here wants to have straight hair,” once said Mariana Rondon, who directed Pelo Malo, a Venezuelan movie which examines hair and identity politics in Latin America. But products for curly hair? Alas, there are few to be found.
Ann Noguer, an expat from the United States who has lived in Argentina for over 10 years, recalls years of “stocking up” on curly-hair products during her yearly visits home. From popular chain Farmacity to higher-end beauty stores, sulfate-free shampoos, deep conditioners, and mousses were nowhere to be found. Even looking at this 2017 piece from La Nación full of “hair hacks,” and the latest “hair trends,” none of the products mentioned are aimed for the curly-haired.
“The group was created mainly because it was difficult to get specific products for the care and health of curly hair,” Vero explained. With curly hair knowledge comes curly hair power and pride. Curly hair requires lots of maintenance, so once people feel equipped to manage their own hair, they are a lot more likely to embrace it versus straightening it.
Rulos Arg helps people take charge of the hair on their head. People ask one other for advice, post before and after hair transformations, offer product reviews, and give words of curly-haired affirmation (qué hermoso!). The group also offers an impressive “master document” that explains some basic tenets of curly hair. First, it defines “ingredients to know”: sulphates, silicones and oil-derivatives. Next, it describes different washing methods, and relays other generic recommendations on product application and hair maintenance. Members are often referred to this master document, because it answers many of the frequently asked questions.
With groups like Rulos Arg in the spotlight, Manuela has observed a recent shift in the rhetoric surrounding hair: “The biggest change in mentality is that we are now conscious about the difference in types of hair.” Manuela herself was able to develop a “new relationship with her hair” when she learned new key information: for example, not necessarily using a hair tie, or not washing it everyday as not to dry it out. She also sought out a hairdresser who specialized in cutting curly hair. Apart from the Rulos Arg Facebook group, Manuela has found many Instagram influencers helpful, using #rulosarg (her personal favorite: Pura Melena.) Now, she proudly can say that she “loves her curly hair” and would never change it.
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Manuela’s younger brother Alvi has also found the group helpful. Unlike Manuela, who requested to join the group, Alvi was added a month ago by a friend, who thought he would benefit from the tips and recommendations. Alvi began growing out his hair but before then, he never even realized that he had curly hair. For Alvi, it’s hard to pinpoint what precipitated the societal change, but he attributes the cultural shift partly to the feminist movement: “The feminist movement has made a lot of changes in what we think about ourselves, our bodies, and our aesthetics.”
For instance, outside of the hair on their heads, many Argentine women are defying standards surrounding body hair removal, opting not to shave, wax, or laser. “You also see more hair dyed with [funky] color, women with short hair, and boys with longer hair. A few years ago, that wasn’t very common,” noted Alvi. Since joining Rulos Arg, Alvi has started using the “co-wash” method for cleaning his hair – using a conditioner without sulfates, and not using shampoo.
And as for his thoughts about his newfound curly hair? He loves it. “It’s pretty amazing,” he smiles. We’re all about that self-love talk, and you’ll find plenty more of it all across the Rulos Arg group. “I love my curls and above all, I accept them every day a little bit more!” wrote one member.
But self-love doesn’t always come easy. “Some days…. you want to leave and abandon everything, return to an old shampoo…. or even make your hair straight again!” wrote one member. So you’ll find plenty of words of affirmation all across the group, encouraging people to keep going and loving the hair on their head.
“Thank you for this space. Thank you for the love,” posted one member just the other day. “This group is EVERYTHING!”