Textured hair has historically been politicized, discriminated against, and overall neglected by beauty professionals who lack the skill set and experience to provide services for this popular hair type. According to a 2018 Texture Trends Report from NaturallyCurly, nearly 65% of the US population have textured hair, which is defined as being wavy, curly, or coily. However, many salon clients with textured hair report not having equitable access to professionally trained, licensed stylists who can provide services for their hair type.
The problem is twofold: stylists continue to lack the skills and confidence to serve these many customers, and salon clients continue to struggle to find skilled textured hairstylists in their area. To address this long overdue gap in hairstyling services, Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes is leading the charge in desegregating the salon by making textured haircare education mandatory in its cosmetology schools. Recently, Aveda Arts & Sciences held a panel to discuss the future of textured hair education in America.
“We've all heard stories about customers being turned away from the salon with the explanation of ‘We don't know how to do your kind of hair,’” said Edwin Neill, Chief Executive Officer of the Neill Corporation and President of Aveda Arts & Sciences. “It's not comfortable for anyone and that's why Aveda Arts & Sciences [has] really been focusing on textured hair education. [We’ve gone] from having a section on texture to incorporating it throughout the whole curriculum.”
Neill is also the chair of the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology, which made history in November 2021 as the first state to include textured hair questions on its state cosmetology licensing test. This means that all cosmetology schools in the state must include textured hair in their curriculum, whereas previously techniques were taught and tested only on straight hair.
“The future of textured hair education lies within the cosmetology schools taking the time, effort, and providing the tools needed to [give] their students a comprehensive education, and I think this is starting to make a real cultural shift,” said Neill of the recent progress. “We know that 65% of women have textured hair, so I think we're going to see an industry that's more prepared to serve all of them.”
Every state has its own cosmetology licensing board and develops its own testing and practical examinations that students must pass to be granted a cosmetology license. Before this new resolution, there was never a section about textured hair in Louisiana’s cosmetology boards, which were developed and widely implemented in the 1950s.
After spearheading this effort in Louisiana, Neill and Aveda Arts & Sciences are on a mission to champion this change in other states. This new requirement led to the forming of a group called the Texture Education Collective (TEC), which is an alliance of professional hair industry leaders who all share the same goal of encouraging cosmetology state board licensing requirements and curriculums nationwide to be inclusive of all hair types and textures. Founding partners include Neill, Aveda, DevaCurl, L’Oréal USA, and the Professional Beauty Association.
Currently, the TEC is working with nine states seeking to add textured hair testing to licensing exams and implement texture education in all cosmetology schools.
While the technique for cutting wavy, coily, and curly hair is completely different from cutting straight hair, Aveda Arts & Sciences made a conscious effort not to “otherize” textured hair education in its curriculum.
“When the conversation of [textured hair education] came up, for me, it was more about changing the mindset [and] not making texture a separate entity,” said Traci Sakosits, Vice President of Education and Co-Creative Director at Aveda Arts & Sciences. “It's woven throughout the entire curriculum, and that was the approach we wanted to take. [We didn’t want to] create a separate lesson plan for it, but we wanted it to go through the fundamentals of everything that we teach.”
Cosmetology students at Aveda Arts & Sciences learn techniques on both curly and straight-haired mannequins and practice on all hair types throughout their required 1,500 hours of training.
“Our goal is to give every student the foundational knowledge of each hair type, texture, and density and how they respond differently to cutting, coloring, and styling,” said Sakosits.
As with any systemic change, reform is influenced and driven from the top down. Tukia Allen, Educator Coach of Aveda Arts in Atlanta, noted the importance of making sure that the educators at Aveda Arts have advanced technical training in textured hair. Every lesson incorporates textured hair and straight hair to help guarantee that every student leaves comfortable and confident in working with any hair type—regardless of the texture.
“Our students start with their texture curriculum [from] the first phase, so everything runs side by side,” said Allen. “My dedication to my team is making sure it starts with the educators so that can trickle down to every student that sits in their class.”
Aveda Arts did not add any extra hours to its curriculum to make room for more inclusive hair education, and instead, got rid of what Sakosits called “superfluous” teachings and techniques, which she argues aren’t necessary for new hairstylists to know right off the bat.
“There was a lot of content in there that was for the advanced hairdresser [who is] already licensed,” said Sakosits of the curriculum changes. “Teaching the fundamentals and principles of hairdressing is the key to success for a beginner learner. The principles of cutting, color, dressing hair, [and] styling hair naturally will lay a strong foundation for them to build upon with advanced techniques [in the future].”
This new curriculum is beneficial not only for the students but also the salon clients who might not know the best way to care for their textured hair.
“One of the things we feel proud of, and I encourage is that education transfers to our guests, so they're equally as grateful for the things that they learn while they're in the chair,” said Sakosits. “And the goal is really to give them some gems to take with [them] to make their hair look great when they're not with us.”
“It's such a short period of time; we were trying to squeeze so much in, right? We have to give them the confidence to leave and continue building on it,” said LaKahyia Moll, Educator Coach of Aveda Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Moll argued that the advancement of textured hair education gives its students a leg up when it comes to deciding where they want to work upon graduation.
“With a strong foundation in the core aspects of hair—like cutting, styling, dressing, and coloring—students have the freedom and ability to work on a diverse clientele,” said Moll. “And with that, customers also get the freedom to be able to walk into any salon knowing that their stylist will be able to properly do their hair.”
“That is one of the things that sets Aveda Arts apart. The expectations are higher, the standards are higher, and we expect our learners to leave us and be confident,” said Moll.
All of the panelists recognize that the 1,500 hours required to become a licensed cosmetologist isn’t enough to make a highly skilled hairstylist who is ready to work on red carpets and movies. Rather, the Aveda Arts team sees its curriculum as an excellent starting point to build upon throughout one’s career.
“Part of what we're doing at Aveda and with the TEC is advanced post-graduation education to build on those fundamentals that the educators talked about,” said Neill. “To achieve the highest level of expertise, it takes years to continue to hone and develop your skills.”
Known as “the Julliard of cosmetology schools,” Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes has 18 campuses across 10 states. Aveda Arts rewrote its own curriculum over six years ago, but they recognize that real change requires unity and coordination across all cosmetology schools, and it starts with the complete education of the future stylists of America. Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes looks forward to championing inclusive education standards in other schools and states through the TEC, as well as with legislators and politicians.
“What we do as professionals in the beauty space has a profound impact on people’s lives,” said Neill. “The beauty industry is a force for good in our world. And the industry is coming together in a way that it hasn’t before to make sure that these education standards are implemented throughout the country.”
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