Give Yourself a "Merm."

I am STILL thinking about LOST‘s Evangeline Lilly (Kate)’s curls in the episode Something Nice Back Home last season. It was nearly impossible to find a good pic of them, but the one at left is the best I could do. How can you achieve curls like Kate’s? Read on! (Though unfortunately, I have no advice for the achieving of the Dr. Jack Shephard she did especially well in this episode. Was he not especially spicy in that one? Sigh. Less than a month till Season 5 starts!) If your hair has any tendency to curl at all, you simply need to give yourself a “merm.”

What’s a merm? Well, get comfy, because a merm (natch) is a play on the word “perm,” and you know I’m incredibly long-winded when it comes to hair. Just ask my gal Julia, whom I’ve recently welcomed to my hair-obsessed world (hi, doll!). Fun fact: in middle school, when people asked if I’d gotten a perm once I’d FINALLY learned to apply product and not BRUSH my curls, I lied and told them I did. Because in middle school in the early ’90s… it was cooler to have a PERM than it was to have naturally curly hair. Oh, the ’90s.

Anywho, I don’t know if it’s because my cellular make-up changes every seven years (you know about that right? That every seven years, your cells turn over entirely, making you, cellularly-speaking, a different person), but my hair does NOT curl the way it used to. Observe my curls circa 2001:

I’m in the middle, obv, with my friends Mitch and Marina in New York. This pic was taken in August 2001, right after I’d come home from studying abroad in Paris and thought I was just IT. But apparently, not too IT to drink PBR at Welcome to the Johnsons, thankfully. But behold my curls. They’re phenom. And ALL I did was put in some gel and air-dry. Not even fancy French gel at that. If I tried that shit in 2008, I’d be left with a wavy-curly-nearly-straight-in-some-areas hybrid hair hell.

I’ve spent years bemoaning my curious curl condition. Was it years of flat irons and round brush blow-drying? Is it the aforementioned cellular situation? Is it New York water (my hair curled much better when I lived in Philadelphia and Boston)? I finally arrived at this conclusion: Who cares? Mama just needs to fix her wash-and-go hair situation, fast.

The cure is this: You must TWIRL your hair into individual coils and it will dry EXACTLY the way you set it. You simply must refrain from touching it. And, like all things hair-related, there’s a method to the madness. Check it:

1. Blot hair with a regular towel. Forget your Aquis super-absorbant one for the nonce. It’s fantastic for straight hair, but curly hair is a different beast indeed. It NEEDS a bit more moisture to form and hold a good curl.

2. Do NOT use a brush or comb to detangle hair post-shower. Use your fingers to rake through snarls.
3. Put more curl cream (or gel, if you’re a gel gal) than you think you need in your hair. Start at the hairline, then add some cream to the bottom of hair at the nape, then add a third dollup to the length of hair/ends. Lately, I’m LOVING mixing Cutler Curling Creme ($17 – pictured, left) with NO FRIZZ Wave Shaping Curl Defining Styling Cream ($24 – pictured, below) to be sold in February 2009 at

4. Start at the nape up and twirl 2-inch sections of hair individually by twisting it with your fingers into coils. Clip up the top part of your hair and remove from the clip to twirl it in 8 sections. When you get to the top, part your hair and twirl your hairline strands in slightly smaller pieces.

5. Once it’s all twirled (for my fine-to-medium hair, it takes about 5-7 minutes), scrunch sections of the hair all the way up to the root gently ONCE. You’ll look like a mermaid with long, flowing, Boticelli-esque coils. Hence the “merm” name. Then leave it alone until it air-dries at least 50%, after which you can scrunch a bit more if it needs some volume.
Let me know what you think post-merm!
Image credits:,

4 Comments Give Yourself a "Merm."

  1. Christina

    My hair used to curl beautifully…and then I chopped it off into a Posh/Rihannaesque stacked/razored bob, and that was the end of my curls.
    Unfortuch, I’ve still got the waves, so I loveee the Remington AirWave, with some mousse, leave-in conditioner/heat protectant, and I’m out the door in 10 minutes tops.

    Though I have a sneaking suspicion my mousse is drying out my hair like NONE OTHER. I’ve always tended to use mousse simply because…it’s fun. And when I use cream, it seems like I use so much more of it than necessary. Any suggestions for a styling product that won’t dry my hair and I won’t use up in like…2 weeks?!

  2. Henna

    Amber, this was a great tutorial! Alas, I’ve tried this sooo many times and the only problem is that I suck at leaving my hair alone and it always gets frizzy. You’ve inspired me to try again using your products though.

  3. Laura Brinker

    You are awesome. I had actually been trying the merm prior to reading this (however not as systematic as this approach), and some days it looks good and some days it looks ridic. Now I have the goods.


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