October 2010

Jerry Tyler

Blue Highways | by Jerry Tyler


Texture Has Many Colors

Diversity in the Multicultural Market

When I think of all the advances in the multicultural market over the last few years, one word seems to stand out more than others: texture.

No other word better defines the needs and challenges facing this segment of our industry.

Almost every aspect of the multicultural market revolves around texture; either the desire to embrace and enhance it or the desire to convert it to a texture that is more desirable to the wearer.

Both of these driving forces have a major impact on the market as a whole. As progressive industry professionals, we need to understand these needs and desires, both as a means to stay relevant in our ever-expanding industry and as a matter of cultural awareness.

Many in the market who have long dealt with the desire to alter the natural texture of their hair have endured heat (through thermal conversion) and strong chemicals. With the current attention focusing on a more natural and holistic lifestyle, many are going back to embracing their natural texture by using organic products, and using timeless techniques to create braids, locks and twists. These methods celebrate their cultural heritage, as many of these techniques have been handed down, mother to daughter, aunt to niece and friend to friend.

This shift is evident in many products that have now gone back to nature to encourage hair and scalp care, prevent hair loss and promote hair growth. Some industry leaders have even gone back generations to their relatives’ home prescriptions that used what was available in the kitchen. Some used natural herbs and emulsions to create hair and scalp products that cleanse and condition naturally, many coming from their cultural ancestors. In generations past, the use of natural oils and tonics to dress the hair was common, and promoted shine and manageability.

Braiding is the oldest form of hairdressing. It is used as a foundation for attaching hair with an alternative texture, as well as in natural hairstyling. In its natural state, there is nothing more appealing or beautiful as braiding as an art form.

On the other side, when not applied with care and proper tension, braiding has a huge potential to create long-term hair loss and scalp damage. There is even a medical term for hair loss due to improper braiding, called “Traction Alopecia.”

Next to hair loss from medical conditions, Traction Alopecia has been recognized as the primary source of premature hair loss in the multicultural market. Faced with this challenge, many industry leaders are using modern technology, natural prescriptives and even diet and mineral supplements to re-grow lost hair. This has made Trichology, the study of the health of hair and scalp, the fastest expanding area in this market segment, with many working to create alternative solutions to the challenges of hair loss.

The other part of the multicultural market that is ever expanding is the component that focuses on hair additions and enhancement. This is where the client wants to convert their natural hair to another texture, length or even color through the addition of added-on hair.

Again, when braiding is used as a foundation for attachment, great care must be taken to alleviate stress and prevent hair loss by creating a low or no tension base for securing the hair. In addition, it is important to employ braiding strategies that allow the scalp to breathe and receive cleansers and tonics, all of which are crucial to promoting and protecting scalp health during the duration of the hair enhancement.

There is an ever-increasing demand for hair to be provided for weaves, extensions and lace front wigs, as well as for non-surgical hair replacement. This demand necessitates increased dialogue and honest communication with hair suppliers, especially since the consumer purchases much of the hair in the multicultural market and then gives it to the industry professional for attachment.

This can lead to unethical practices, with the unwary purchaser buying some hair not meeting the state standards which can result in a negative outcome for the consumer, either short term or long term. The consumer, not the professional, purchases approximately 70 – 80 percent of the hair sold in the multicultural market. Therefore, consumer education and protection should be at the forefront in order to maintain safe practice standards where hair enhancement is involved.

With the constant evolution and growth in the multicultural market, there are untold opportunities that await us as industry professionals. These opportunities will continue to provide outlets for creative expression, as well as provide solutions for this wonderful component of the industry marketplace.

Jerry Tyler’s column Blue Highways is his “Road Less Traveled” perspective on the solutions and challenges facing the beauty industry. Jerry Tyler has been a stylist since 1975 serving as the former artistic director for Vidal Sassoon Academy and currently as Director of Education for Carlton Hair salons. He is also a licensed cosmetology instructor and has served as President of the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.