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This week, Chasing Hillary, by New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, hit shelves. As expected, it’s already provoking ill feeling from the Clinton family, since the book paints Hillary Clinton as a cautious politician who denied access to reporters and failed to connect with the American people.
Chelsea Clinton is taking particular offense, claiming the book did not undergo a proper fact-checking process. On Twitter, for example, she called out Chozick for her claim that Chelsea got a keratin treatment.
Hi @amychozick! Hearing there are more tidbits about me in your book which were easily fact checked and you fact checked...none of them. Here’s an easy one: I’ve never gotten hair keratin treatment. The others would have been equally easy!— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 24, 2018
In her book, Chozick weaves a personal narrative with Hillary Clinton’s career path. In a section where she discusses Chelsea’s hair, she writes:
I no longer saw myself in Chelsea. She had grown into her celebrity, with flowing, straight hair and a permanent strawberry glow. Chelsea told Elle magazine that in her early twenties, her curls just naturally subsided, an affront to frizzy-haired women everywhere. I also happen to know her New York hairdresser — and a keratin job when I saw it.
Chozik is referring to Clinton’s 2015 Elle cover story, in which she told the magazine, “I don’t actually have curly hair anymore. My curls, in my early twenties, just fell into waves. I don’t know if they got tired of me, but the curls slowly subsided, and so now it’s naturally a little bit wavy but ... I miss my curls.”
While Chozick doesn’t claim sources told her Chelsea treated her hair with keratin, she is connecting the dots for readers. “Hair truthers,” as some are calling supporters, have been quick to argue that Chozick is inaccurate in the book. This brings up a rather obvious question: Can a woman who used to have extremely curly hair actually grow out of it?
The answer is yes, according to trichologist Penny James. (Trichology is a type of dermatology that focuses on the science of the scalp and hair.) James is certified with the International Association of Trichology and has her own salon, where she’s worked with celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, and Sting.
James specializes in all things hair texture and loss, and tells Racked it is entirely possible that Chelsea’s curls turned straight over time. She says plenty of women see hair changes like this throughout their lives, and that it isn’t correct to assume someone’s treated their hair just because their curls are gone.
James says human hair grows through several cycles: “a growth cycle, anagen (growing stage), catagen (resting stage), telogen (falling out stage).”
“Our hair grows at the junction where the epidermis meets the dermis,” she explains. “When the hair is in the telogen stage, the new hair is starting to form and will push the old hair out. Due to damage in the follicle, the hair can change texture.”
James points to hormonal changes as one way Chelsea’s curls could have straightened.
“Changes that happen to your hair have to do with hormones, and many women find that their hair completely changes after major hormonal shifts,” she says. “The three major times this happens is during puberty, after women have a baby, and during menopause. I’ve seen so many women whose hair used to be straight and they all of a sudden have curls. I’ve also seen the [opposite], where very curly hair will turn straight.” She adds that medication and chemotherapy could change the “diameter” of someone’s hair.
Chelsea had her first child in 2014, when she was 34, but there are plenty of other explanations as to how her hair turned straight (like the result of many a blow out), and a keratin treatment is not necessarily the obvious answer. For Chozick, who says her book is a memoir, the matter could just be settled by the fact that she believed Chelsea’s hair looked like it had been keratin-treated without confirming it with any sources. We do, after all, make judgments about other people’s hair all the time.