NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —All hair is composed of over 90 percent keratin. Keratin is a fibrous protein that also forms our hails and even rhinoceros horns. All of us regardless of our ethnicity spend quite a deal of time in styling our hair. However, just as with skin color variety, the human species has a wide diversity in hair types.
Edwin Neill is the Chairman of the Louisiana Cosmetology Board and says, “there’s a long tradition of two types of salons for different hair types. If you look at the number of people in the United States now who have textured hair, which is defined as curly, coiled, or wavy hair; it’s 60 percent. Salons today need to be able to do any client.”
For decades, barbershops across America seem to be one of the final frontiers of segregated spaces. Our barbershops have evolved to serve more than just hair. Salons and barbershops are places where community outreach is served, politics are discussed, sports is watched, gossip takes place and more than anything; it’s where we feel safe to be our genuine selves.
As far as hair, many salons and barbershops cater to specific groups of people and it only takes a walk in a shop to see which type of people patronize the shop the most. Salons, in general, are divided ethnically today, not because of 1960’s segregation but mostly because of a lack of knowledge in how to care for all hair types.
While straight hair has always been the main focus in schools for beauticians; textured hair is often undertaught. On June 6th, The Louisiana Cosmetology Board will require all students to pass a test with a section dedicated to textured hair. The drive is to equip a future where all salons and barbershops have the knowledge to serve all clients, regardless of race, ethnicity, and hair type.
The decision is the first of its kind for any state in America and it’s part of an overall push for afro-hair tolerance at both the federal and state level.
“It’s really amazing for Louisiana to be first in something so positive. What happened at the Board of Cosmetology is really a reflection of what happened in the legislature, where the Crown Act passed unanimously through the Senate. It didn’t make it out of the House, but I believe the awareness of the importance of making sure we are inclusive of all hair types and all hairstyles, has really come to the forefront,” says Neill.
The requirement allows Louisiana to make history in the country. Students across the state will now be exposed to working with mannequin heads with afro-hair, in order to receive a license. The section is basic knowledge about how to cut textured hair, but Edwin Neill says the Board of Cosmetology is looking at including other components in the near future.
Tracie Barbre is a professional beautician at TraElle Hair Salon in New Orleans and says, “I would love to see students being taught how to deal with textured hair in numerous ways. I want them to be able to cut textured hair by giving it shape and volume and also being able to color it.”
Taquann Thomas (@Q_thebarber) is a barber and natural hair professional at HeadQuarters Barber Beauty & Natural Hair Salon and says “seeing that we are going to a boom of people wearing their natural hair now, I would like to see that mandated more in books and if you look at a typical barber manual, it’s suited more for straight hair.”
The decision will not affect professionals who already have a license. Instead, the decision will affect the future in an attempt to encourage equality at the follicle level and promote inclusive education.
However, learning about different types of hair is not just for the benefit of being socially acceptable. Learning about hair diversity is also about client safety.
“Curly hair does shrink up and get tangled. If you don’t know how to comb it out, you can definitely cause more damage than good. It’s remarkable! A lot of Caucasian people and other ethnicities, do not understand the texture and curl pattern. I’m really happy about this decision,” says Babre.
“If you are cutting a person with real wavy hair and you use one guard and close it and go against the grain, you can cut a gash in their head. This decision is game-changing. It’s all about the skill! It makes business more competitive. It also makes everybody grow and become better at their craft,” says Thomas.
The crown we wear is organic and what covers our mind. It’s a conduit for our own expression and creativity. To care for all hair is to acknowledge that everyone has a right to look and feel their best.
Make sure you tune in every week as we celebrate and honor black history on WGNO.