This is Texture Talk, a weekly column that deep dives into the dynamic world of curly hair. This week, magnificence director reveals the maddening lack of salon professionals skilled to work with textured hair and her hope that change is coming.
I can keep in mind the horrible — and illuminating — expertise so vividly. I used to be in my teenagers residing in my hometown in central Alberta, and my mother had booked me into an area hair salon for a trim. Back then, I used to be hooked on chemical relaxers — one thing I continued to religiously apply to my fragile strands nicely into my 20s till I embraced my pure afro-textured hair — to assist make my tight coils extra manageable for me to type. Weekly poker-straight blowouts have been my factor for years.
Having grown up in a largely white neighborhood, I used to be accustomed to there not being a Black hair salon wherever in sight, except we travelled to an even bigger metropolis, and subsequently having to mainly take my total hair routine (sure, even my beloved relaxer) into my very own palms — minus the slicing.
Upon coming into the salon, I used to be greeted by a hairstylist who seemed downright overwhelmed and like she had completely no thought what to do or the place to even start with my coily locks. (It had been a minute since my final relaxer utility so I had fairly a bit of latest progress.) Her first tactic: coming in laborious with thinning shears to take away a few of my pure quantity. I’ve since blocked out the “after” picture, however I do recall feeling uncomfortable in my very own pores and skin whereas sitting in her chair and questioning why it was so laborious for her — a skilled hairdresser — to do one thing as routine as a trim. It wasn’t like I used to be asking for a very new coiffure.
This is only one of many situations all through my hair journey and profession in magnificence that made me understand there’s a dramatic lack of understanding surrounding curly hair inside the trade at a elementary stage — an training hole that disproportionately impacts Black hair. And what’s worse are the unfavorable repercussions that ensue: textured-hair shoppers coping with the effort of a botched minimize or being rejected from many salons solely because of insufficient coaching; the stereotype that Black hair is unmanageable; and, most likely worst of all, the notion that pure Black hair isn’t even part of true magnificence.
My most up-to-date memorable hair encounter was earlier this 12 months. While overlaying backstage magnificence throughout New York Fashion Week Fall 2020 pre-pandemic, I made a decision to go for a wash ’n’ go curly coiffure at a swanky SoHo salon somebody had placed on my radar. One factor I all the time must ask when attempting out a brand new spot is that if they’ve a hairstylist on deck who’s outfitted to work with afro-textured hair. I used to be assured “yes” when reserving, however throughout my one-on-one session with my designated stylist, I obtained an instantaneous intestine feeling that he truly hadn’t been uncovered to coily hair a lot in any respect. With that appointment being my solely alternative throughout the journey for a real NYC salon expertise, I made a decision to chew my lip and let him proceed.
I sat down on the sink, and shortly there have been two units of palms engaged on my mane; I noticed that my stylist was being helped by considered one of his feminine colleagues — a Black hairstylist. Step by step, she was strolling him by curly-hair fundamentals: washing, conditioning, detangling and later finger-coiling for ample definition. The entire situation validated one other realization I’ve lengthy held: that the salon trade largely appears to be like to their hairstylists of color to service textured-hair shoppers and that they typically must work twice as laborious at perfecting all hair sorts. There isn’t the identical stage of expectation for all skilled hairdressers. I do know that my experiences are removed from unusual, and, to be trustworthy, to this present day I’m all the time shocked once I meet a non-Black hairstylist who’s completely educated about afro hair — like Kevin Mancuso, world inventive director at Nexxus.
I’ll always remember once I first met Mancuso a couple of years in the past at Nexxus’s Tribeca salon throughout a piece journey to New York. The pleasure within the veteran hairstylist’s face and voice as he was about to get his palms on my hair was contagious. And as I sat in his chair watching him effortlessly type my coils, from washing to diffusing, I got here to study that Mancuso’s profession path as a non-Black hairstylist was a street far much less travelled.
The Brooklynite graduated from magnificence faculty within the late ’70s and, in contrast to a lot of his fellow classmates who have been gunning for über-high-end Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue salons post-graduation, landed in an institution with a predominantly Black clientele. There he would meet his two longtime mentors, a Jamaican and an African-American stylist, who helped him grasp chemical relaxers and easy methods to wash, deal with, blow-dry and minimize afro-textured hair in addition to good the long-lasting Jheri curl — a wildly common shag of chemically altered curls among the many Black neighborhood throughout the ’80s. “It wasn’t until six years into my career that I decided I needed to learn geometric haircutting,” he shares. “That’s when I went to Sassoon Salon, which was my first time ever working in a predominantly white salon.”
As Mancuso’s repute grew in an trade that lacked Black hair professionals as key gamers within the editorial world, he quickly grew to become identified amongst hair manufacturers as one of many few go-to hairstylists in New York who may service Black fashions and celebrities, gaining well-known names like Naomi Campbell, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan as shoppers within the course of.
With hairstylists not required to have a fundamental stage of Black hair data, the ensuing segregation of hair sorts in salons was unshakable, says Mancuso. “Back then, it was very, very separate,” he recollects. “You either did Black hair or you did straight hair. Most Caucasian stylists thought of Black hair as a completely foreign material; people were really afraid of it. As a Caucasian male in the business, I was an exception to the rule.” Sadly, that racial segregation continues to be all too frequent in salons all over the world in the present day.
Textured-hair professional and celeb stylist Stacey Ciceron is enthusiastic about addressing skilled hairstylists’ trepidation surrounding coily hair — one of many greatest driving forces behind Black hair being deserted by the mainstream. “There’s a lot of stigma around working with highly textured hair,” she says. “Stylists are afraid that they can’t get the result they’re looking for. They’re afraid that it may take too much time. They’re afraid they may just disappoint clients.”
It’s these points that led Ciceron to carve out a novel house within the hair trade by growing on-line and in-person textured-hair programs for skilled hairstylists — an initiative that has since earned the New York-based professional the title of name ambassador and coach for big-name hair-care manufacturers reminiscent of Oribe.
Ciceron’s programs concentrate on constructing a powerful basic-level basis for working with curly hair: realizing the completely different hair sorts, detangling, moist styling, slicing. “My biggest goal is to do whatever it takes to build up stylists’ confidence so that they can start taking clients with highly textured hair,” she says. And amid the latest racial unrest, demand for her on-line courses amongst non-Black hairstylists has boomed. “It’s been overwhelming,” says Ciceron. “The Black Lives Matter movement has opened a lot of eyes.”
Montreal-based stylist and salon proprietor Nancy Falaise says it finest: “Ignorance is racism.” The Canadian professional has additionally taken issues into her personal palms surrounding the deep-rooted erasure of Black and textured hair in magnificence training: She affords workshops for hairdressers based mostly out of her eponymous salon, which focuses on curls.
Through her native workshops and educating internationally, Falaise is on a mission to problem and proper the infuriating problem of ill-trained hairdressers — a lot in order that she is petitioning to mandate curly-hair training in Quebec magnificence faculties. “I saw that there was a woman in Toronto who started a petition, and I was like, ‘This is a sign that I have to do the same thing for Quebec,’” she says.
With trade consultants working laborious to push the hairstyling trade ahead whereas additionally demanding for a whole overhaul on the faculty stage, it’s starting to really feel just like the trickle impact is slowly however certainly taking form. Case in level: Vancouver-based magnificence faculty Blanche Macdonald Centre lately expanded its hair curriculum by introducing a textured-hair module. “It’s mandatory,” says Crystal Morgan, a textured-hair and extensions and wigs teacher on the faculty. “We really go into depth: the proper ways to cut, the right products to recommend to clients, natural hairstyling. We even get into dreadlocks.”
Oh, how I await the day once I can lastly cease asking salons in the event that they’re expert at managing my hair texture. Here’s hoping that day comes quickly.