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Recreating Jheri Curls- Here’s What You’ll Want To Know!

The Jheri Curl, a popular hairstyle that dominated the African-American hair scene in the 1980s, has recently made quite the comeback! 

Along with trending 80’s styles like bangs and the iconic mullet, Jheri curls known for their ‘mullet like’ shape and glossy, loose curls have seen quite the evolution. 

For those who don't quite know what a Jheri curl is- heres a little introductory courtesy of the film Coming To America. 


The Origins of the Jheri Curl

The Jheri curl craze began in the 1970s with Jheri Redding, an Irish-American hair care pioneer. His foray into the beauty industry during The Great Depression led to innovations that would forever change hairstyling. Redding's contributions include the development of the first protein treatments and the foundational techniques behind the Jheri curl.

While Redding invented the process, it was American entrepreneur Comer Cottrell who redefined it for the Black community. With an initial investment of just $600, Cottrell launched Pro-Line Corporation, which would later introduce the Curly Kit to the mass market. 


'This product kit democratised the Jheri curl, making a style previously exclusive to celebrities and those with fortune, accessible to everyone'. 


Made famous by celebrities like Michael Jackson, (seen on the cover of his 1982 "Thriller" album), the Jheri curl has become synonymous with a pivotal era in pop culture, especially within the Black community. 

The Jheri curl, however, could be a very expensive and dangerous style to keep long term. Unfortunately, the curl activator used in the 80’s is what caused Michael Jackson to catch on fire during the filming of a Pepsi Commercial. A result of some of the highly flammable product leaking from his head near to some of the fireworks on set while he was dancing. YIKES! The accident left him with second and third degree burns. 

Thankfully, due to the development of safer products, the Jheri curl can be recreated in a way that avoids loading one's hair with highly flammable products. 


Jheri Curl Vs. The Gina Curl 

The Jheri Curl: The O.G, was reinvented in early 2012 by hairstylist Gina Rivera 

Adopting a new name: The Gina Curl, this style has become a popular alternative to the Jheri curl. Despite this name change, the essence of the Jheri hairstyle remains the same.

Whats the difference? Not a lot really, however while the Jheri curl was known for its use of chemicals to achieve its signature wavy wet look, the Gina curl focuses on a less damaging approach, offering a modern twist that prioritises overall hair health. 


“The Gina curl is specifically formulated for tightly coiled and curly hair and is easily customised for varying curl patterns and mixed porosity levels using a technique that gives attention to every strand so that hair looks equally fabulous all over. It's the healthier alternative when you want to soften and stretch your curls”. 


This dual identity, referred to both as the Jheri curl and the Gina curl, illustrates its legacy and adaptability, marking its place as a timeless symbol of beauty and self-expression particularly within the African-American community.

The Jheri curl and the Gina curl, while similar in their pursuit of enhancing natural curls, differ significantly in their approach and results. 

The Jheri curl uses chemicals to create loose, shiny curls that maintain a "wet" look, often requiring frequent application of specific moisturisers to maintain the style. 

In contrast, the Gina curl, a more modern adaptation, focuses on improving the health and manageability of the hair while still softening and loosening tight curls. This technique uses more refined, less damaging chemical processes and aims to reduce frizz and dryness. 

Is it a woman's style, or just for the fella's? The Jheri curl became a popular mens style in the early 80's, however over the years, and as this style comes back on trend woman are definitely embracing the look. and why not? Its not exclusive!

Crafting Jheri (or Gina) Curls Today

As we witness the comeback of Jheri curls, the conversation shifts towards creating and maintaining this iconic look with modern techniques and more natural products!

The classic approach involves chemically softening the hair, followed by setting with perm rods, applying a solution, and finishing with a neutraliser. This method, while effective, requires precision and care to avoid damage.

Isn't that just a perm? The short answer is yes. Technically, a Jheri Curl is considered a type of perm. It is categorised under "soft curl perms," which are designed to transform tight curls or kinky textures into larger, softer curls. This specific treatment modifies the natural structure of the hair to achieve a looser, more manageable curl pattern. Read more about permanent texture and curls here. 

Three things that separate the Jheri (or Gina) curl from a 'typical' perm

    1. Purpose and Curl Pattern: The Jheri and Gina curls specifically aim to transform tight, kinky curls into softer, more manageable curls with a moisturised, glossy appearance. In contrast, a typical perm primarily aims to either create curls in straight hair or to straighten and relax naturally curly hair, often resulting in tighter or differently styled curls than those characteristic of the Jheri or Gina curls.
    2. Chemical Composition and Application: The chemicals used in Jheri and Gina curls are formulated to provide a more nourishing treatment to the hair, maintaining hydration and minimising damage. The Gina curl, in particular, emphasises hair health, using updated, less damaging chemicals compared to traditional perms, which can be harsher and more drying to the hair.
    3. Maintenance and Styling Products: Maintenance of Jheri and Gina curls involves specific products like curl activators and moisturisers that maintain the "wet" look and feel of the curls. These products help keep the curls soft and hydrated. Typical perms do not usually require such specific aftercare and are often maintained with standard hair care products for curly hair.

Can Jheri curls be re-created without the use of harsh chemicals?? 

YES! That's the good news. With the right styling techniques and quality products the Jheri curl can be easily created - if not reinvented in a way that's not harmful to your hair. 

How to style Jheri Curls (the Lohy way)

  1. Start with soaking wet hair and apply Cruise Control Curl Cream to create slip and tame frizz. Using a generous amount will help to maintain hydration and help achieve the ‘look’. 
  2. Rake Either Oomph or Pow Gel through your curls, depending on the hold you prefer. Add more water if necessary. You can also use a flexi brush to evenly distribute the products. 
  3. After you're satisfied with the product distribution, use the "squish-to-condish" method to scrunch the product into your hair. 
  4. Gently rake your fingers through your curls again to elongate some of the curls. 
  5. To dry, you can let your hair air dry or use a diffuser on a low heat setting. For best results, especially if you're aiming for that 'wet look', avoid scrunching out the crunch completely during this final stage.

Achieving the iconic ‘wet look’

Opting to avoid harsh chemicals, many are turning to alternative methods to achieve the Jheri curl look. Innovators and influencers have introduced techniques that replicate the style using products that ensure curl definition and hydration without compromising hair health. The goal remains to capture the iconic wet look of the Jheri curl while embracing natural hair care practices.

Achieving the iconic "wet look" of a Jheri curl as the hair dries involves a few key steps to maintain the desired moisture and curl definition. 

  1. After the chemical process of creating the Jheri curl, it is crucial to regularly apply moisturising and activating products. A curl activator, like Cruise Control replenishes moisture and helps maintain the curl’s softness and shine.
  2. Additionally, when washing your hair, using a hydrating moisture mask can help to lock in moisture and prevent the hair from drying out. 
  3. To finish styling, applying Hush Nourishing Oil to your curls adds a healthy sheen that mimics the wet look even when the hair is dry.

The Jheri curl's comeback is more than a mere fashion trend; it's a celebration of cultural heritage and innovation in hair care. 

Whether for an 80s-themed event or simply to enjoy a timeless hairstyle, with the advancements in hair care, achieving and maintaining this iconic look has never been more accessible. 

As we don our acid wash jeans and enjoy the classics from Prince, the Jheri curl stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of creativity and self-expression in hairstyling.


Love & Hydration xx 

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