The naturally curly hair movement is growing with unbelievable speed, making stylists all over the country hungry for textured-hair education. To fully understand the psychological issues facing this ever-expanding, curly-haired clientele, we talked to one of the industry’s most experienced texture experts, Tippi Shorter, (@tippishorter) an Aveda Guest Artist who’s styled the hair of celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
Her Curl Journey
Like many curly-haired women, Shorter started off fighting her texture. She regularly heard things like: You should straighten your hair. Your hair is so big, why don’t you brush it? Can I touch your hair? Why does it shrink like that? “After a while, I had no idea what my natural texture was because I’d been wearing a relaxer since I was nine years old. My mother had a relaxer, and we had standing biweekly salon appointments,” says Shorter. But deep down, she always loved her curls. For fun, she would set her straightened hair on tight rollers to reclaim a little bounce. Then, when she moved to New York City, Shorter boldly let a friend color her relaxed hair. “All of my hair fell out due to the color and I shaved my head. Then it grew back without chemicals. That’s when I finally saw what type of curls I naturally had,” says Shorter. After embracing her texture, Shorter had to experiment with different products to figure out what worked for her. “But once I got the products and technique down, I never put a relaxer back in my hair. I could be curly one day and straighten it the next. Going natural gave me tons of flexibility.”
Why So Shy?
As an educator, and a curly-haired woman herself, Shorter has a very advantageous vantage point for understanding why curly-haired clients can be reluctant to see a stylist. “Curly hair is very specific to each individual—the precise texture, the amount of shrinkage, the porosity. A person who styles straight hair knows how to get all hair straight, but they may not know how to work with every curl type. I’ve heard some horror stories from clients about stylists not cutting or styling their hair properly,” says Shorter. She explains that a bad haircut or an unfortunate color service affects a curly-haired client on a much more dramatic level—as she herself experienced when her hair fell out. “Textured hair is very architectural, you see each line and curve. It takes longer for visible length to grow back because of shrinkage. And, by nature, curly hair is more fragile.”
To increase your curly-haired clientele, Shorter says that confidence is key. During your consultation, think about the way you approach them. “If you are constantly asking the client what they normally do—instead of letting them know what you’re going to do—this could lead them to think you’re not skilled at curls,” says Shorter. “Of course, having curly hair doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t the deciding factor. Exude confidence while working and educating the client, and you’ll put them at ease.” Shorter also warns stylists about a frustration they might face when trying to improve their curly-hair techniques: “Women with natural curls tend to visit salons less when they’re trying to grow out their curls. This can make it difficult to keep up with your textured-hair skills.” But, with continuing texture education, you’ll learn what services you can offer to keep curly-haired clients coming back, which products they’ll need and which techniques to use to keep them happy.