CURL TALK: It’s Time For Salons to Embrace the Textured Hair Community

kate-oechsle-truesdale_0At TexturedHairFair16, held on Monday, March 14 at America’s Beauty Show, MODERN sat down with Mizani Director of Education Kate Oechsle-Truesdale to talk texture. We discussed new trends in the curly community and what salon professionals need to do to get on top of this category.

MS: Why has there been a shift in the salon from straightening to texture management?

KOT: First, the cultural landscape. More and more people have curly hair. Someone gave a statistic earlier that 60% of people have curly hair, which is a huge percentage. Fashion is allowing texture and curl to be totally okay. Celebrities are wearing their hair curly, natural and textured and we follow celebrity trends. I also think that hip hop culture has a lot to do with it, too, because they have created excitement around extensions and things like that. And generally people are just becoming more and more comfortable in their own skin because of social media. Before social media, you didn’t know what others were doing. I was just watching this TV show about Generation X and they were talking about MTV. When MTV came out, all of the sudden the entire middle of the country was able to see what LA and New York were doing and that’s how the trends started to move toward the middle. Now it’s almost like MTV amped up with social media. Now you see trends before you even know they’re a trend by scrolling through Instagram. Now people are wanting texture rather than trying to stay away from it.

MS: It is a tight community, but not necessarily a geographic one. Social media really has opened the door for discovery.

​KOT: Within social media, you also have the other side of it and that is the natural community which is usually of a specific ethnic geographic that is also going against this relaxer movement. So you have two different things—you have “texture,” which we’re seeing everywhere in different shapes and forms and ways; and then you have “natural,” which is made up of pioneers, really, that are saying ‘I don’t need to straighten my hair to be a certain way.’ So you have two different movements happening. One is very emotional and very bred in what they grew up with and the other is founded on social media and celebrity and fashion trends. Add those two together and you’re getting people with straight hair who want curly hair—and actually the one thing I’m waiting for is to see what they do with perms. There’s no way that we are not on the trajectory of perms coming back in some way, shape or form. People want curly, textured hair. Perms need a better technology I think, in order to come back, but I really don’t think that it’s too far off that we start seeing it come back.

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So you have two different things—you have “texture,” which we’re seeing everywhere in different shapes and forms and ways; and then you have “natural,” which is made up of pioneers, really, that are saying ‘I don’t need to straighten my hair to be a certain way.’

MS: Are salons on top of these texture movements?

​KOT: No. I think that the YouTube community, the blogger community, the dot com community, they definitely pioneered this. I think that the professional community is behind it. They need to get up in front of it. You are seeing a good amount of texture brands understanding the need for the education in the salon—but not enough. With this event today, the whole concept was, ‘listen salon owner, this is a huge market that you are not even looking at.’ These clients are taking care of themselves. Professionals offer cutting, coloring, balayage, styling—they get to a point where they think, ‘how much more can I offer?’ THIS is huge.

Education is going to be the key to this, without a doubt. And if a professional or professional brands want to help the professional salon industry grow, they have to really, really offer strong texture education. This can’t just be ‘this is how you put curl in the hair.’ It has to be ‘how do you service this client, how do you talk to her, how do you have her trust you? How do you take her from curly to straight back to wavy to coily to curly again? You have to be able to do a full 360 degree taking care of the texture client if you’re going to truly build yourself as a texture specialist.

Professionals offer cutting, coloring, balayage, styling—they get to a point where they think, ‘how much more can I offer?’ THIS is huge.

MS: What does a stylist need to do to make a textured client feel welcomed and well cared for in the salon? You just said that it starts with education so that the curly client can trust the stylist’s ability. But what else should a curl specialist do for their client?

​KOT: It’s patience. You’re dealing with a client who knows a lot more than most clients who come in. So very rarely do you have a client who is coming in for balayage highlights tell you how to do the balayage highlights. They may tell you ‘I want it to look like this,’ or they may tell you ‘I want it to be a little chunkier in the front,’ those are the things they tell you. Curly clients are so educated already, they come in and they know what curl type they are, they know what products work in their hair, they will tell you ‘my hair splits up here, I have a curl type down here and a different one up here,’ and then on top of it they are also taking information that they’ve learned on YouTube and information that they’ve learned through bloggers about natural ingredients. And what happens is they don’t understand the science behind why certain things do what they do. So this client will come in and say ‘I use nothing but coconut oil and baking soda.’ The first reaction of a stylist is usually to be like, ‘why do you do that?’ or ‘who told you to do that?’ because a stylist knows why that’s not a good combination. So the stylist has to learn how to be patient and how to meet them where they live. ‘Ok, great, can you tell me why you do that?’ instead of making them feel dumb or making them feel like you know more than them. Because the second that happens it the second that you’ve lost that client. It’s really about the consultation and it’s also about understanding why things do what they do and why curly clients do what they do.

So if you go onto a blog site and you find that a particular blogger is saying that coconut oil is the miracle and that’s all curly girls need, you need to find out why. You need to be able to intelligently say this is why it does or does not work. Another thing you hear is ‘I don’t wash, I only co-wash.’ As a stylist, I know that if you’re not cleansing your scalp, you’re allowing dirt and oils to build up and you’re going to create scalp issues and even possible hair loss. All they know is ‘I don’t want to shampoo my hair because it dries my ends out, so I’m just going to wash with conditioner.’ So when you know that they are already coming in with that, you can say, ‘ok, great, that totally makes sense. This is why we have cleansing conditioners on the market. This is a cleansing conditioner and it is a great balance between this and this.’

You have to know your stuff with these clients, or you will lose them.

MS: What trends, products or in-salon services are you seeing in this category?

​KOT: We are seeing a lot of blowouts, but blowouts that are full of body and movement. We are not seeing people come in asking for bone-straight looks. They’re asking for straight hair with movement and with body. If they’re natural and they have textured hair, they don’t want to look like they don’t. They want to look like they have straighter hair but they don’t mind a little puffiness at the root, they don’t mind a little of that imperfect texture.

Imperfect texture is big. They’re looking for you to help give them looks that aren’t perfect. They want that airiness in the ends. They want that frothiness. They don’t want Shirley Temple curls or the baloney curls they wore when they were little. They want to feel like it’s their natural, lived-in texture.

The last thing that they’re looking for in the salon is for the stylist to give them something that they can’t do on their own. So if somebody can get out of the shower and finger twist their hair and let it air dry, then maybe that’s not what they want from you. If they can two-strand twist their hair and create a bantu knot set on themselves, maybe that’s not what they want to come to you for. They want you to take it another step. And the best way that I can explain that is comparing it to haircolor. So maybe in a day of six appointments you have five single process clients. One of those clients is going to come in and say ‘do something totally different, something fun and edgy,’ and you as a stylist have to be prepared for that. You to be prepared to do that something different and edgy for a textured client, too.

MS: What’s new at Mizani?

KOT: Mizani is going through such an amazing shift. It’s a shift that we’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s the shift to understanding texture and this concept around the idea of ‘freedom to style,’ to be free to be whoever you want. If you are a woman or a man who wants to relax your hair, we have an amazing relaxer for you that’s going to maintain the health and condition of your hair and scalp. If you’re a woman who wants to get a blowout every week then we’ve got our Thermasmooth line that’s going to offer heat protection and anti-humidity protection so that your blowout lasts longer. If you’re a client who wants to wear your hair natural, we’ve got True Textures. And then we’ve got 25 Miracle Milk which is our multi-benefit product that literally is for everyone—for all textures, it’s great as a cutting lotion, cuts detangling time in half, it’s got heat protectant. So from a product standpoint we are really supporting that ‘freedom to style’ concept, but we’re also really supporting the ‘all textures’ concept because every single one of those products can be used on all textures of hair.

The other thing that is new at Mizani is our overall look. Who we are as a brand is really shifting, from our visuals being more diverse to the way we look at texture. As professionals, we look at texture in a very artistic way. We look at it from a standpoint of ‘how do we as artists take something that might be curly and create an artistic impression of this.’ At our new Mizani booth, which is appearing at all the trade shows, we have the Texture Experience, with a texture wall that has all eight curl types that we are known for, all done in a very artistic, avant-garde way. And then we also have our education area where we are teaching our professional services in the salon. There’s also our Texture Bar where we have hands-on education happening to share with people how to use different products. And then we have our retail area where you really don’t want anyone to feel like there’s a barrier between you and me. When you walk into the Mizani booth, we want to welcome you and take you through a journey and show you all the different ways that Mizani can help you with texture.

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And the last thing that is really new and great at Mizani is our global artistic director. Cesar Ramirez has just joined the team within the last year and he’s already making huge strides to really educate people on the importance of understanding texture, but really to take away the face of texture and to talk about it from a fabric or a hair standpoint. The way we see it is that hair really is a fabric and you wouldn’t sew a piece of silk the way you would a piece of canvas. How do we really have people understand that? Cesar has been a great help in that because all of his celebrity clients, which is who people are watching, have textures ranging from silk to canvas. He has elevated not only the way in which Mizani looks to our consumers and our stylists, but he’s really elevated the artistic team. At our Artist Summit in January he really spent some time with the team elevating the way in which they service their clients, the way in which we teach professional services behind the chair.

MS: What would you recommend to professionals that want to learn more and immerse themselves in the texture community?

​KOT: Social media. If you are a textured customer, client, professional or just someone that’s interested, social media is the place to start. It ranges from professional to consumer across the board. I think that YouTube is a great place to learn, though you cannot believe everything you read or hear. It’s about taking those gold nuggets out of each brand or each blogger to learn what really makes sense for you. Just by going on social media you get a really great landscape of what this looks like. From inspiration on Instagram to going on YouTube for some how-to videos, to going on Facebook to see the conversations, to going on Periscope and seeing people stand up in front of a room and talk about their hair. So I think social media is the key.

Social media. If you are a textured customer, client, professional or just someone that’s interested, social media is the place to start.

MS: In other areas of the beauty world there is a sharp distinction between consumer and professional spheres. Is this the case within the texture category?

​KOT: No, it’s blurred in the textured hair world. That is part of what makes this market hard for the professional. People didn’t stop going to the professional only because they didn’t trust the professional. Consumer brands got in front of texture before professional brands did. So what you found was consumer brands coming out with these amazing products that were for a multi-textured, multicultural community and they were the first to do it so people gravitated towards it. You find a lot of professional brands carrying consumer brands because they feel like they are the only ones that speak to a multicultural community. There is a very blurred line in the texture community between consumer and professional and at Mizani the way that we walk that line is by offering our retail products to consumers as easily as we can, whether it’s through a dot com or Ulta, or JCPenny, we make sure that our retail products are available. We know that not every professional retails the way that they should so we want to make sure that the consumers can have access to our products. But what we are also clear about is that professionals deserve the opportunity to offer services that consumers cannot get, like backbar products and treatments. So these services that we are offering for an upcharge in the salon, they are not available. You can’t just go and buy a treatment and do it on your hair, like a relaxer or any of our technical products that really you have to be a professional to use, they are restricted behind professional distributors as well as salons. So we are trying to walk on both sides of the line and be respectful to the professional, but also understand that if we don’t get our products to the consumers, we might fall behind.

MS: This goes back to your advice to look to social media. Professionals that do this can show their clients that they are knowledgeable of all sides of this category and really understand the community.

​KOT: Absolutely! The panel we did today was a great way to open up that conversation. We need to do more of these, I think that’s what the professional community needs. It was a great mixture of people, including salon owners. Salon owners have got to get it. It’s important. It’s untapped resources, untapped money.