Atoya Bass has devoted herself to the study of wavy and curly hair - and training stylists how to work with texture - because she was “that lady devastated by a bad haircut.” She opened her salon, The Curly Hair Studio, to fill the need for a minimal approach to textured hair care. She trains stylists at home and across the country her exact method for shaping and hydrating curly hair. Bass is paying her good fortune forward with Project 1248. It is not uncommon for her salon to give someone a free service when inspired by their story. Two causes that are near and dear to her are cancer survivors and mothers of special needs children.
“We feel blessed to be in a position where we are able to offer a small token of love to someone in this beautiful curly tribe of ours,” Bass says of Project 1248, which gets its name from Luke 12:45 "To whom much is given, much is required.”
NaturallyCurly: What made you decide to become a stylist?
Atoya: When everyone else was asking for Barbie Dolls, I wanted hot rollers. So, I was probably around 4 or 5 when I knew.
NaturallyCurly: Do you have a particular technique you use for cutting curly hair, and does it vary depending upon the texture?
Atoya: I love dry cutting. I like to approach it like a sculpture. I really get in a zone and get lost in it. I work off of a rhythm and feel.
NaturallyCurly: You have been working with curls for a decade. What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned?
Atoya: I've learned so much and everything has evolved really organically. Some of the biggest takeaways have been that everyone's hair is different and there really aren't rules as much as guidelines. I consider myself a researcher, and every day I learn something new from the clients in my chair. There are only two absolutes: Shape and Hydrate.
NaturallyCurly: You said you decided to specialize in curly hair because of a bad haircut. Can you share that experience?
Atoya: Jennifer Lopez had just come out with a new CD, and there on the cover were pics of the most sexy haircut. It was shoulder length and had so much movement and body. I figured, since our hair texture, density seems very similar, I would do the chop. I went to a bougie salon in LA and showed the pics to the stylist. She was highly trained and super talented, but I ended up leaving the salon looking like the Brady Bunch mom. I sat in my car and sobbed. It wasn't until years later that I realized it was because she had thinned my hair so much that I ended up with a bulky interior and stringy ends. I see this a lot in my chair. That was the last time I cut my hair off.
NaturallyCurly: You are a big proponent on curly hair health. What is the best way to keep your hair healthy?
Atoya: Keep it shaped up about every four to six month. And really understand hydration. I like to explain hydration as the marriage between water and conditioner. I can't overemphasize water and how crucial it is to hair health. It sounds so basic but our hair is an extension of our DNA. On a cellular level, we are made up of water and we crave water.
NaturallyCurly: How do you feel about curly girls going back and forth between straight and curly hair?
Atoya: I've never been of the belief system that you can't go back and forth. When I first started doing this, I would ask if clients wanted their hair styled curly or blown out. Since I do cut for the hair to be worn in its wavy or curly state, I always encourage clients to wear it that way most of the time. Otherwise, it doesn't make much sense to come to a curl specialist.
NaturallyCurly: What are the hottest trends when it comes to curly hair?
Atoya: Bangs. Bangs. And more bangs. Shags too. I've loved them both since I did one on myself about three years ago.
NaturallyCurly: What are your favorite curl cocktails for wearing your hair curly.
Atoya: I am really a less is more kinda stylist. I'm always preaching the minimalist approach to hair care. Simplicity. I teach most clients with type 3 curly hair- DevaCurl Low-Poo, Devacurl One Condition and Devacurl Ultra Defining Gel. At home, I have been using Gisou Honey Infused Hair Wash and Gisou Honey Infused Conditioner plus a combo of Kevin Murphy Hair Resort and Devacurl Ultra Defining Gel.
NaturallyCurly: Can you share a few of your favorite curl tips - things curly girls can do at home (clipping a certain way, styling a certain way, scrunching, etc.)
- Move your gel into the shower. This is the best way to trap water. It's like watering a plant. Building a shield around the maximum amount of hydration will let the water nourish the hair from the inside out.
- Scrunch and hold is really important for wavies. You hold in the scrunch for about 5 seconds before gently letting it down.
- For tight textured coilies, I love to mix deep conditioner with regular conditioner to give more definition and holding power.