Not Everyone Loves Your Curls: How Hair Stylists Are Managing the Natural Movement

by Kenya Carlton

With websites, magazines, and entire lines of products dedicated to African-American women with natural hair, is it a wonder that so many people have joined the movement? In a matter of five years, perm sales declined a whopping $54 million dollars in an otherwise booming industry. In 2009, Chris Rock shed light on how the hair care industry makes billions of dollars off of African-American women with his documentary, Good Hair. Rock takes credit for the new development of “curlies," but what have companies who relied on profits from relaxers done to make up for their loss? Major hair care lines have turned their attention away from texturizers and toward products exclusively marketed for natural hair. Whereas hair care and beauty companies have found a way to adjust, hair stylists have taken a financial hit.

“Stylists aren’t trained in beauty school to work with natural hair. There may be a small section of their studies focused on African-American hair, but the instructors go through it really fast,” said hairstylist Monica Taylor. “People choosing natural hair over relaxed hair didn’t affect me much, but if you can’t do natural hair, you took a hit.”

Hair stylists are offered continuing education, but most don’t take the classes necessary to keep up with current trends, which have forced some to lean toward deceitful practices. Strawberri Curls ran an article about stylists sneaking relaxer into clients' deep conditioning treatments. Many of the commenters voiced their outrage over this practice, while others shared their own horror stories of being tricked into an unwanted chemical treatment.

Do we, as naturals, have more to worry about than keeping our curls moisturized? Why would anyone dare do such a thing to a client who has taken the time to grow out her texturized tresses?

“In my opinion, many stylists don’t take the time to do natural hair because time is money and natural hair requires more time and more work. It takes way more torque & heat to blow dry and straighten natural hair than it does to straighten relaxed hair,” said Erica Holder, Director of Operations for Erskine Reeves Barber Academy.

With so much working against stylists with the natural revolution, is it even worth partaking in the lengthy and time-consuming endeavor? According to Holder, there’s plenty of options. “The pros of natural hair are that you have many more styling options: wash-n-go, twist-outs, bantu knots, braids, afros, straight, etc. The cons are that you have to make sure you prepare your hair at night, whether this means braiding it, twisting it, wrapping it, or simply wearing a scarf or a bonnet.”

What should a curly girl do when a whole industry doesn’t support their personal journey? Many websites dedicated to maintaining natural hair suggest “do it yourself” remedies as an alternative to the salon visit. However, when time and inexperience collide, the natural girl is left with few choices at her disposal.

Education of every new endeavor is key. “Naturals still need to come into the salon,” said Monica Taylor, a stylist for over 26 years. “For trims, maintenance, and to see overall how the hair is doing.”

She also gave tips on choosing the best hair stylist for your natural hair: “Any licensed professional should be able to answer all your questions. Ask for pictures of their previous looks, and if they don’t have any natural pictures, reconsider using them.”

Hair for black women is a serious and sensitive topic. With so many options available, the number one rule seems to be: Follow their instincts, and do whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable.

Photo: Shutterstock

Kenya Carlton is a regular contributor to For Harriet.

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