Saturday, June 29, 2013

What cosmetology did NOT teach me about My Hair

What cosmetology DIDN'T teach me about My Black Hair

As a licensed New York State Cosmetologist I have studied for 2 years the Theory of hair, to prepare for the NYS certification test. 

 My class spent over 1000 hours, washing, cutting, coloring, setting, perming, finger waving, pin curling, and blowing out Caucasian manikins.  Living in suburbia, most of my classmates were Caucasian, with silky, straight hair.  My instructors, Caucasian as well, had more curly hair (3a).  As one of only 2 African Americans in the class, I was hesitant to let anyone near my hair. I distinctly remember the first few classes, touched on the theory behind cleansing  and conditioning hair.

1st Lesson: 

Shortly after learning what ingredients  best soften hair, & how they work, it was time to put that theory into practice. We paired up, and was told to take turns washing conditioning each other’s hair. My heart was practically beating out of my chest at the thought of a complete, inexperienced person, diving their hands (and possibly shampoo) into my newly transitioning hair ( I had about 3 inches of new growth, and 5 inches of relaxed hair, my new growth was pressed.) 

As she prepared me for the wash, I knew I had to prepare her as well. “My hair is not quite like yours, you know”.  My mind was running with all the things I wanted to tell her before the water hit my scalp. “Its really really curly, I’m just warning you. Oh and I don’t use shampoo”. The classroom seemed to fall silent.  “You don’t use shampoo?” my classmate asked, as she waved for the instructor. I frantically searched the room for the one girl who understood my kinky roots, but her head (Freshly relaxed) was already in a sink, being shampooed to death. So there I sat, ready to cleanse, not willing to shampoo.  I was armed with the theory lesson we had just learned.

My Part time job at an all-natural Black hair care salon was opening my eyes to new things. “Are you allergic?” the instructor asked.  “Not really” I responded ,“ shampoo isn't really good for my sensitive strands. The detergents in the shampoo strip my hair of its natural moisture.  The conditioners we have here are not sufficient enough to replace the stripped oils.” I couldn't tell if she was impressed, or annoyed, as her stone face always had the class guessing if their work was 'good enough'.  “What do you use at home?”  By then, this conversation had the entire class’s attention. 

“Just conditioner” I shrugged.   “ Today, we just learned about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate,  its properties, & effects on the hair,  but I already know S.L.S well. It dry’s my hair, leaving my scalp itchy…. But there are ingredients, found in shampoos, that my hair loves, like any  acidic ingredient,  Panthenol, fatty alcohols, and nut oils…..  You know what product  has acidic ingredients,  Panthenol, fatty alcohols, and nut oils?” 

That signature stone face thawed “Conditioner! Its good to see you ladies paying attention! ” She smiled and handed my washing partner a bottle of Paul Mitchell conditioner. 

To further prove my point, I allowed my partner to shampoo only one side of my head. “Woah..” was all she could say in response to the results. Cosmetology DIDN'T teach me anything about Black  or ethnic Hair, it taught me the theory behind hair period.  It’s up to the individual to apply those lessons to their client, or themselves no matter the type of hair they have. 

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