When I started in the Cosmetology field two decades ago, Natural/textured hair institutions or education beyond hair school did not exist in Upstate NY. I recall there being a school briefly but it did not last. The process associated with opening a school and the lack of access to capital makes it difficult to open natural hair schools in NYS. Because there were no schools to attend locally, I researched how to obtain my natural hair license. The only way was to attend school in NYC, which wasn’t an option for me demographically at the time. Many Cosmetologists that specialize in texture, who’ve obtained licensure in NYS, don’t even know the Natural Hair License (e.g., 19 NYCRR Sec. 162.3) exists.
As of March 2022 the gap between active licensed Cosmetologists and Natural Hair Styling is alarming.
- Cosmetology – 117,468
- Natural Hair Styling – 365
As you can see the percentage of active Natural Hair Licenses is only 1% when compared to active Cosmetology Licenses. This lack of awareness has assisted in the formal and informal education stylists receive regarding natural hair. I learned , like many how to do my hair and hair types alike growing up from the women in my family, friends, salons we frequented and my natural born ability to do hair. The techniques I grew up on, I learned were not best practices. But with continuing education courses and becoming an Educator my knowledge and expertise has definitely elevated my craft.
The separation, lack or complete dismissal of texture in Cosmetology school is where the divide in education for future professionals begins. Straight hair in school has been the textbook standard. In 2022 Milady revised their textbook to reflect all hair types through the chapters. When I was in school the textured curriculum was one or two chapters in the book . They didn’t focus on the natural ways we could do natural hair without any type of manipulation from heat or chemical. This created an interesting Salon clinic floor. In school Black students were given Black clients, because:
- Students that did not have textured hair did not feel comfortable.
- It was assumed we knew what to do to their hair.
- It was a more comfortable experience for guests.
Any education outside of standard curriculum for natural/textured hair was from Black teachers if we had access, most worked very part-time. Sometimes Brand Ambassadors/Educators visited. However, their main focus was how to rid of frizz and curls by way of smoothing products or permanent straighteners.
We had to bring in our own hair products, from relaxers to shampoos, conditioners and styling because the school had a very minimal selection and budget. All while paying for a Cosmetology School Education. Most of the teachers had no idea what to do with natural/textured hair, yet they were responsible for teaching us how to do hair. My hair school journey was interesting to say the least, I pushed through to support my family, and do what I loved.
Over the past few years the landscape of beauty has shifted. We have seen an increase in cultural awareness in various sectors of the Beauty Industry. For professional stylists trends come and go, the importance of understanding (S.T.E.A.M) the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics of all hair is monumental. I consider myself a healthy hair specialist because the health of the hair is more important than the style. If the hair is not in optimal health it will not be able to support desired styles over time. When the style becomes more important than hair health by way of chemical manipulation, overuse of products, heat and added hair pieces. These practices can be detrimental and cause permanent hair loss and scalp disorders.
Be The Change.
My experiences in the beauty industry prompted me to take many steps back to reevaluate my passion and purpose surrounding Cosmetology because the industry standards didn’t sit right with me. I vowed early in my career to focus on changing the landscape surrounding legislation and education in Cosmetology. When I joined the coalition we had a common goal- to equip current and future licensed professionals to be versed in all hair types and textures. Most importantly educate natural hair consumers. Please join us as we “Save our Strands by Preserving the Legacy of Natural Hair.” Visit https://www.nhbcoalition.com/join to learn more. Be sure to follow @the_nhbc on instagram.
Love & Light