Natural hair expert and celebrity hair stylist Felicia Leatherwood shares her top tips for healthy hair and how to properly detangle curly and coily hair using her signature Brush With The Best Brush that was named the BEST detangling tool for natural hair in the 2020 Best of the Best Awards . Plus, she shared her experience styling Issa Rae for the past 6 years and what inspires all the amazing hairstyles we see on Insecure.
NC: Can you share how you got started and any career highlights?
Felicia: Some people know from me doing educational talks around the world, others may know me from doing “Love Your Hair” from natural care workshops internationally or I’m recognized for being a celebrity hair stylist. I’ve gotten to work with Jill Scott, Will Smith, Ava Duvernay, and Anthony Anderson just to name a few. Now I work with two clients, Issa Rae from Insecure and I’ve been styling her hair for six years in addition to Lenny Kravtiz who has the most amazing dreadlocks.
Image Source: @lovingyourhair
NC: How do you come up with the hairstyles we see on Insecure? Can you describe what that process is like?
Felicia: To be honest, my influence comes from the natural hair community. When I’m creating a hairstyle, I want it to represent women that have curly, coily, or kinky hair. I want them to feel like they are beautiful, inspired, empowered, and confident. Everything that is created on Issa is meant to shed a light on the beauty of who we are naturally. Most of the hairstyles I’ve made organically and others have been taken from influencers and then I put my own spin on it. I’ll also go look at old school hairstyles from back in the day or from Africa and add to it. I will also talk to Issa and consult with her on what her opinion is of my vision. What most people don’t know is that at times I may have to create five hairstyles a day and I have fifteen minutes to execute and that is the challenge.
NC: What’s your top technique for a quick turnaround between styles?
Felicia: A Lot of what we do in the natural hair community is doing our hair overnight, but that's not possible for me because I have to execute on the spot. Issa has to have her hair shampooed every few days to prevent product buildup. Some people have too much product on the scalp and that creates product buildup which makes it difficult for your hair to grow. You know when you have buildup from scratching your hair and residue appears under your nails or even when you develop white bumps under the skin and it’s tender. All of that creates blockage which prevents the hair from growing. With Issa I have to start fresh with her and that’s how I’m able to manipulate her hair throughout the day.
NC: Has Issa always been natural? When you introduced these hairstyles to her was she in the process of transitioning or was she already familiar with the styles?
Felicia: Issa is so amazing in the way she’s no fuss. She’s honestly the best out of everyone that I’ve worked with because she doesn’t trip, her hair is her hair. She’s truly no nonsense and doesn’t care about shrinkage, length, none of it. I don’t have to convince her to love her hair. It’s a different experience from me as a hairstylist to not have to coach her to like a certain style.
Image Source: @lovingyourhair
NC: Let’s talk about your detangling brush that won the 2020 BOB Awards here at NaturallyCurly, how did you come up with that tool and what made you choose that type of tool in particular?
Felicia: Growing up I had 4c hair and it always looked like “nappy” though nowadays I prefer to call it kinky or coily and it was torture having to style our hair with a pick or the toothbrush comb. I used to notice that some women had “webbing” which prevented me from detangling the hair properly and releasing the hair to open the scalp and get air for exfoliation. I wanted to create a tool that would help go into the hair, define it, detangle it, and really just make women with kinky/coily hair feel comfortable as they are styling. I had found a tool that was similar but I was inspired to create a tool that could easily be used on wash days.
What's great about the brush is that it opens up and moves with the hair and flexes. When a brush is stationary it can snap if you haven’t had your hair trimmed. This brush pauses to let you know that you need a trim and then it releases it into your natural texture. Most of us as kids dreaded having our parents comb our hair, I wanted kids to be motivated to brush their own hair and enjoy that process. I’ve even had men using the brush to detangle their beards. It’s just been an amazing process and I’ve been in business with the brush since 2013.
NC: What is one of your biggest accomplishments in creating this brush?
Felicia: It's helping people realize what their texture is because it helps with clumping and definition. When your hair is wet you begin to see what your hair texture is which can help determine the best products for your hair. When I’m teaching women I always emphasize that texture 3 hair uses gels/creams and texture 4 hair uses creams, butters, and oils. I want women to feel the ease of natural hair.
NC: We noticed you had a travel-sized version of the brush, what inspired the smaller version?
Felicia: The travel size mini is perfect for being on-the-go. Sometimes you’re at the gym and you need to detangle or do your hair. Our travel size is made for easy styling on-the-go in addition to working well with a blowdryer. You can also take out protective styles with the brush! There is versatility with this brush that is specially formulated to help you achieve your desired look. If you brush your hair vertically you get ringlets, if you want big hair you brush horizontally.
NC: How can I maintain moisture in my hair? Should I take the hair porosity test?
Felicia: When it comes to porosity and dry hair there are few things to consider and knowing your hair texture is the first step. A Lot of women have worn braids for years which means the synthetic hair that is used in their weave cuts into the cuticle and opens up the hair if their stylist wasn’t coating the synthetic hair with a butter or cream. When it’s open, it’s hard to close which then prevents you from maintaining moisture. There are so many factors that come into play as it pertains to moisture and one big method is L.O.C.(Liquid Oil Cream) which is better in a spray bottle. I recommend half a teaspoon of jojoba or argan oil, two tablespoons of your favorite conditioner or leave-in, the rest is water. You can spray it on at night, cover it with a plastic cap which will allow it to steam inside the bag and get moisture on the scalp.
NC: You mentioned jojoba and argan oils earlier, there is an ongoing myth about what types of oils are good for your scalp. Can you recommend your favorite types of oils?
Felicia: Jojoba, Argan, Almond, and Black castor oil for the scalp. Oil is not for everybody. If you sweat a lot or if your diet consists of foods with alot of oil, it’s an overload on your scalp. It can start to go rancid and your hair will smell. You have to test oil out and it’s okay if it doesn’t work in your hair.
Everything starts with your digestive system. Your scalp and skin are the first alarms that something isn’t right in your body. You have to be able to exfoliate the scalp so your hair can grow. For those of you who have super thick hair, we often forget to work our shampoo into the scalp. Massage your shampoo into your scalp and that can cleanse your hair and scalp simultaneously.
NC: How do you moisturize cornrows?
Felicia: I recommend doing the L.O.C. method and then tie it back to make the frizzy hair laydown. What I notice is that when people get braids or cornrows they always negate their scalp when in reality that’s the most important time to give your scalp some love.
NC: What are your thoughts on trimming our own hair?
Felicia: Askfelicia.com features webinars that show you how to trim your own hair at home and my recommended products. I advise trimming the hair 2-3 times a year and if you are gonna trim it yourself then twist it up and you only want to take the hair off the bottom, don’t go crazy. For texture 3 you can spray it and stretch it out to see what needs to be cut. Texture 4 hair requires a blowout because of the shrinkage that occurs for you to see the ends in full form.
Image Source: @lovingyourhair
NC: What are your tips for prepping for a protective style?
Felicia: The best thing to do is deep condition your hair for about 20-30 minutes. Get your flaxseed or TGIN honey miracle mask and always use a cream or butter when you are styling your protective style. You never want to use a gel because the alcohol content can dry out your hair.
NC: What is the best way to detangle 4c hair? Soaking wet, detangled or dry?
Felicia: This truly depends on how much work you wanna do. To me you have less work with the conditioner on your hair. Section your hairs into fours after you shampoo it, put the conditioner on, split that first piece in half, get your brush (brush from the bottom and not the top) and then twist it up. Keep moving to the other sections, wash the product out while your hair is twisted then insulate with a t-shirt.
NC: What's the difference between moisturized and hydrated hair?
Felicia: Moisturized hair is temporary. As a stylist I want to hydrate your hair because it gets into the body of the hair. Hydration means you give it water, when you moisturize the water sits on top.
NC: Does color-treated hair need more moisture or protein?
Moisture because some people are protein sensitive. If you feel that dry, brittly feeling that means your hair is protein sensitive. Color-treated hair is already dry so you want to add as much moisture as possible.
Thank you so much for speaking with us Felicia! We look forward to seeing all the new tools and products that will continue to inspire amazing styles from the natural hair community.