April 2012

Jerry Tyler

Blue Highways | by Jerry Tyler


Multicultural Clients Return to their Roots and Go Back to Natural

Leela James
Leela James album cover "My Soul" celebrates her naturally curly roots.
Photo Credit- Devin Dehaven

As I drive the blue highways of our industry, I hear the soundtrack of the road less traveled. Being a child of the 60s, I have a fondness of rhythm and blues, from Motown to Chess Records. I remember that as an inspiring time, a time of change. People were embracing their roots, getting back to basics.

In the black communities people were looking for their origins. Both men and women went "natural" with their hair to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their heritage.

Years later many returned to converting their hair texture with the advances in our industry through thermal or chemical means either for convenience or fashion.

Fast forward to today and there is a new ground swell in the multicultural community to return to their roots and go back to natural after what are now shown to be negative side effects to the hair and scalp from artificial texture conversion.

This is being advanced as the soundtrack has changed with the advent of "Neo Soul." Artists such as Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Leela James and Anthony Hamilton, are celebrating the modern ethnic woman and man. These artists are representing their music with their images of Natural Hair, celebrating their infinite personal power and natural beauty.

How this is affecting the ethnic market in our industry is evident in many ways, much like the earlier movement in the 70s. Today's awareness of what we put on our bodies and hair makes a difference to many in how they choose their beauty products.

Organic and natural alternatives are driving this portion of the market towards those who want to make healthy choices for their hair and body products. Many are growing out their chemically relaxed hair and adopting natural forms of hair styles that showcase their natural textures while using today's advancements in hair care products to make the hair manageable.

They are also using natural indigenous forms of hair styling to create a beautiful image using twists braids, locks and dreads. Natural hair salons are growing in number to meet this demand.

Awareness of hair and how it grows is also driving new protocols in areas of natural hair care. The next major cause of hair loss after medical reasons in this community is due to improper braiding of the hair. It even has a medical term, "Traction Alopecia."

Some states that once allowed braiding to go unregulated now realize that proper education in safe braiding and how hair grows has led to the certification of braiding thus balancing a respect for cultural practices and yet assuring the consumer is protected with best protocols for health and safety. Attention to the practice of Trichology has many salons offering services and products to their guests to promote hair growth and trying to reverse the negative effects of hair loss due to past protocols.

Attention is also being given to the supply of hair used in hair braiding. While many add in hair to enhance their braids, the awareness that synthetic hair combined with our own can lead to hair loss. Also, since the majority of hair purchased in the ethnic communities is a retail sale item, some of the hair sold as 100 percent human hair is actually blended with synthetic or even animal hair unbeknownst to the purchaser.

This is a consumer protection issue. In these retail shops all sales are final even after producing negative side effects to the consumer. Sadly, most state boards have no authority in this regard as the hair is a retail item purchased outside the licensed establishments by the consumer. Also some purchased hair is processed with petrol chemicals or industrial processes that can produce allergic reactions to the scalp.

With this new awareness of natural alternatives to promote natural hair in the multi-textured market we can, as an industry, celebrate our diversity through the expression of our inner and outward natural beauty.

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 Industry Relations 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.