Skip to main content

What Cosmetology School Did NOT Teach Me About My Black Hair

Avatar • Apr 4, 2014

by Tyra of Indigenous Curls

cosmetology school

For 2 years I studied the theory of hair to prepare for the certification test to become a licensed New York State Cosmetologist. My class spent over 1000 hours washing, cutting, coloring, setting, perming, finger waving, pin curling, and blowing out white manikins. Living in suburbia, most of my classmates were white with silky, straight hair.  My instructors, who were white as well, had curlier hair (3a).  As one of only two black students 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.

Shortly after learning which ingredients best soften hair and how they work, it was time to put that theory into practice. We paired up and were told to take turns washing and 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 at the time.)

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,” I said. My mind was running with all the things I wanted to tell her before the water hit my scalp. I told her,“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 as well as information obtained from my part time job at an all-natural black hair care salon.

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?”, she asked.  By then, this conversation had the entire class’s attention.

“Just conditioner” I shrugged.  “Today, we just learned about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, its properties and effects on the hair, but I already know S.L.S well. It dries my hair, leaving my scalp itchy. However, 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?”

The instructor’s signature cold stone face thawed as she exclaimed, “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. “Whoa,” 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.

 

What do you think is the best approach to incorporate black hair care into the curriculum of many cosmetology schools?

 

Tyra is a trained cosmetologist, curly hair enthusiast, recruiter, and writer. She big chopped over 3 years ago, & documents her hair journey, while giving 4c hair care tips on her blog Indigenous Curls.  You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ckcurls

Avatar

About Editorial

BGLH now sells raw and whipped shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter. Purchase here: bglh-marketplace.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
24 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Karen
Karen
6 years ago

I wish this article was longer. Did the uthor already graduate cosmetology school? Does she work in a natural hair salon?

Naturalbeauty
Naturalbeauty
6 years ago

Good for you! Great article.

Kate
6 years ago

Hey Tyra,

Thank you for this article. Some interesting hair facts.

Jo
Jo
6 years ago

To answer the question at the end of the article, I suppose the best approach is to write kind yet explanatory letters to the head of the cosmetology school. 🙂

If I were in that class, i’d likely ditch my clueless partner and I’d be already out the window with a taxi. I would have been terrified!

mary
mary
6 years ago

This was getting so good and then ended. Wish she would have continued on. I’d like to know what happened to her hair.

Robin
Robin
6 years ago

The short length of this article doesn’t bother me, because (to me) the story’s not about what happened to the author’s hair. It’s not even so much about what cosmetology school didn’t teach the author. To me, it’s about what the author taught her fellow cosmetology students — and perhaps her teacher, too. And how the author applied what she DID learn (theory behind hair care in general) to her specific kind of hair. Those things are more interesting to me than whether or not the author’s hair survived the conditioner vs. shampoo wash. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago

This article was top-heavy, didn’t connect to the title and didn’t really have anything to do with the question asked at the end, a really great question, btw. “What do you think is the best approach to incorporate black hair care into the curriculum of many cosmetology schools?” We need to be the teachers. How many Black hair stylists are there? Seems like gillions, most have licenses, why aren’t they teaching or volunteering their time? Why aren’t they speaking to schools and requesting time with students? As instructors, as consultants, assistants — whatever! We represent a large slice of the… Read more »

Karen
Karen
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

Agreed about the article.

There are some cosmetology schools owned by black women, but they don’t teach how to style natural hair and that’s a problem.

LBell
LBell
6 years ago
Reply to  Elle

I couldn’t agree more. If I remember correctly, Pamela Ferrell of Cornrows and Co. was instrumental in getting the cosmetology boards of her state (it might have been DC and yes, I know it isn’t a state 🙂 ) to at least consider the notion that Afro-textured hair wasn’t just some aberration. This was at least 20 years ago. I think there’s at least one state (NY, maybe?) that has separate requirements for braiders, but as far as I know in most states, if not all, you still have to go through all the “basics” as listed by the writer in… Read more »

trackback

[…] What Cosmetology Did NOT Teach Me About My Black Hair […]

Tyra
6 years ago

To hear more of my antics, & follow my hair journey, feel free to visit my blog, Indigenous Curls. My curls survived the shampoo experiment, and I graduated Cosmetology school. Sadly, the curriculum at many cosmetology schools has not expanded to include techniques beyond what is needed to pass the state exams. Because it only takes 1 hairdresser to devastate your curls, I always suggest going to a recommended, and experienced hairdresser for your crowning glory.

Britt
Britt
6 years ago

Cosmetology school doesn’t need to teach in depth about ethnic hair, simply because hair is hair andwith the same concept. Its just finding products for each individual head. School teaches relaxing, braiding, weaving, and natural styling only in passing. I learned how to do black school be driving an hour from my home to a black community to attend school. They don’t even really teach about white hair. It just so happens the doll used most has straight hair. The schooling only teaches enough to get you to pass the board. Just like any school, its the experience that really… Read more »

the gypsy life
the gypsy life
6 years ago
Reply to  Britt

I agree. I don’t think there should be a special curriculum for us. You get the basics of styling- weaving, relaxers, perms, braiding etc- and then, depending on what your clientele will be, you get the experience you need for what your target demographic will be. I also don’t think that our hair is some kind of special science. Black girls, even natural ones, CAN wash their hair with shampoos, it’s just about finding the right ones that won’t strip your hair of it’s nature moisture and nutients. You just have to cater to every individuals hair.

Pucelle
Pucelle
6 years ago

When I lived in DC I used to go to the Aveda Cosmetology school to get my hair done. When I first started going there, there were not many blacks and none of the people there had experience with natural hair. I only let it be cut one time and that was after I had gotten it colored and it was time to cut off all the color. The student was really surprised at how much my hair curled up afterwards. Otherwise, the students didn’t know how to style natural hair and I usually just left with a non picked… Read more »

Pseudonym
Pseudonym
6 years ago

Co-washing was created/popularized by a white woman with curly hair (see “Curly Girl Method,”) so the girl being confused about her not wanting shampoo has nothing to do with lack of knowledge about black hair. My hair LOOOOOOOOOOVES/NEEEEEEEEDS a good shampoo- if I co-wash too much my hair progressively loses it’s curl pattern with each co-wash (b/c the product build-up weighs it down) until it ends up looking like a frizzy half-straight-half-what-used-to-be-curls raggedy mess. Everyone has what works for them.

gina
gina
5 years ago
Reply to  Pseudonym

co-washing was not created by whites. The whole embracing of curly hair was started by the natural hair movement, which they bandwagon-ed.

Alleyes
Alleyes
4 years ago
Reply to  gina

they are always tryin to take credit for something that was already in existence. smdh

Connie Goree
Connie Goree
6 years ago

I am in instructor working on 1000hrs. have less than 200 hours to go. I’m looking for someone to tell me what the instructors text is like

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain

To answer the question, there should be cosmetology schools that are Black owned. I mean how many Black salons are there? Majority only cater to Black hair and so they can easily set up their own school. it’s that easy.
http://www.themanecaptain.blogspot.ca

Phoxxie
Phoxxie
6 years ago

Black women spend literally billions of dollars on their hair every year. If these school incorporated black hair care into their lessons that would mean wayyyyy more money for their businesses.

shonda
shonda
6 years ago

I go to a natural hair school and we teach that you clean everyone’s hair and scalp with shampoo!

Rolanda
Rolanda
6 years ago

Wow why I am NOT surprised. Good job though giving the class a lesson about natural hair and product

Safari
Safari
5 years ago

This article really inspired me…and all the comments too THANKs!!!!!!!!!!!!

24
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Shopping Cart