The reality is that not all naturals are styling savvy. Like their stickstraight counterparts, many curly clients struggle with their hair and are dependent on professional skills to deliver their desired look. Despite horror stories bloggers may associate with texture and salons, more naturals are returning to the salon chair to find ready-and-willing stylists prepared to cut, color and style their curl type. With an ever-growing category of multi-texture products and service opportunities, salons and stylists are well-equipped with the tools needed to help clients through their texture journeys.
In the past decade there has been a prominent natural-hair revolution driven more by online message boards, blogs and YouTube than by the salon community. Although texture education has always been an integral part of beauty school curriculum, the resource materials— textbooks, mannequins, products— only minimally addressed textured hair, according to Judy Rambert, vice president, global education for Pivot Point Academy. Therefore, historically speaking, the emphasis on texture was primarily limited to smoothing and increasing manageability.
“In the beginning there was a lack of knowledge, but not anymore,” says Erica Jemison, senior global artist for Macadamia Natural Oil. “We are now moving into a time of awareness that celebrates different textures of hair.”
Today, we find curly girls of all nationalities sporting natural curls in leaps and bounds with more brands developing products for all types of waves and curls. According to a 2013 study by Mintel, a global market research company, relaxers account for just 21 percent of multi-texture hair care sales and have declined 26 percent within the past six years, in contrast with sales of multi-texture products, which continue to grow exponentially due to the increase of specialized shampoo, conditioner and styling products.
“Choosing the correct products for textured hair is very important,” says Franco Della Grazia, Matrix global artist and texture ambassador. “The hair is not forgiving if you choose the wrong product.” Clients with textured hair are a lucrative market. Many are willing to spend what is necessary to find that perfect cocktail of products that make their tresses look their absolute best.
Macadamia Natural Oil has embraced natural texture by offering an entire range of products that support this category, as have many other brands, including TIGI, Mizani and Sebastian.
“Educated beauty- and healthconscious consumers are demanding products that perform,” says Nick Stenson, artistic director for JCPenney Salons and Matrix. “Today’s savvy consumer is looking for the very best formulation for his or her hair type. The beauty industry is working to make that available and affordable. Those with dry hair or color-processed hair are best advised to use products specially formulated for their hair types.” The challenge for hair pros is to make sure this conversation happens front and center. Currently, according to a recent study conducted by Texture Media, curlies lag behind straight-hair clients—47 percent compared to 54 percent—in stating that a stylist’s recommendation is very or moderately important in choosing a product.
With 93 percent of stylists who are interested in taking texture targeted education indicating that they are somewhat or very likely to follow through on that goal, we may soon see clients placing higher value on the stylist’s expertise in suggesting a take-home regimen.
With clients so invested in product choice, the brand itself has become an important partner to any successful texture business. “Choose carefully, try the products yourself and test them out on your clients before making a recommendation,” says Della Grazia. “Take classes and align yourself with a brand that offers education on cutting and styling curly hair.” A direct result of increasing product sales is the pressure from brands to create more texture education which, in turn, helps to craft the curriculum taught in beauty schools, explains Pivot Point Academy Program Development Associate Markel Richards. Pioneers in the movement to create comprehensive texture-targeted learning include Ouidad, DevaCurl and Mizani. While Ouidad and DevaCurl highlight cutting, styling techniques and product knowledge in their programs, Mizani’s curriculum focuses on a unique curl-naming system called the “Natural Curl Key.” This reference guide allows stylists to identify a client’s hair type (from minimal wave to zigzag coiled) and determine its key characteristics and special needs, as well as the most beneficial care and product suggestions.
“It’s all about building the confidence,” says Rambert, who refers to classes as “the rehearsal” that allows students to develop their knowledge and familiarize themselves with different texture patterns in a lowstress environment. Pivot Point’s approach to education comprises four cornerstones:
1 See as a designer to identify similarities and differences.
2 Think as a designer to analyze and visualize an outcome.
3 Create as a designer to fashion predictable results.
4 Adapt as a designer to continually build on knowledge and experience in order to customize for each client.
This type of critical thinking helps stylists particularly when it comes to designing for clients with naturally curly hair.
The acceptance of texture as a whole is increasing stylists’ comfort level, “but what is new,” says Richards, “is the experimentation of texture, which many salon professionals were fearful of in the past.”
Jemison agrees. Currently 50 percent of her clients wear their natural hair texture, and she sees that percentage only increasing. “When you respect the hair you were born with, it leaves the hair in a much better condition, which allows more freedom to do what you want with it,” she says. “Learn it, love it and respect it. Then your business will naturally grow.”