For Melanie Day, her life’s work has been helping people improve the health of their hair.
Day is an accomplished hairstylist who holds a master’s cosmetologist license. She has been behind the chair since 2005 and opened Kentucky’s first multicultural salon – Lexington’s You’ve Got Curls & Hair Loss Center – in 2012. A talented educator, Day has taught hundreds of students in cosmetology. You’ve Got Curls was named the 2023 Minority Business of the Year by Commerce Lexington Economic Development.
She discovered that it is often difficult for clients to effectively communicate with their stylist about maintaining their hair at home. That’s why she created the In Living Curls Hair Care Community to provide factual information from licensed beauty professionals about haircare, skincare, and healthy living.
Her appreciation for healthy hair products also inspired her latest venture – In Living Curls College Beauty Supply Vending machines on college campuses that provide a curated selection of high-quality, affordable hair care products for textured hair. The vending machines are currently at Berea College and Transylvania University in Kentucky; a third location is in the works.
“I wanted to provide solutions for students with textured hair who are on campus and away from home,” says Day.”I want them to feel seen and heard. My goal is for our company to be the No. 1 beauty provider on college campuses within the next ten years.”
Why did you decide to become a stylist?
I have always been around the hair industry. It naturally Happened. My parents had a salon when I was 5 or 6. They used to have hair shows. They also sold products. As a little girl, I was in the backseat of a car while my dad went to salons and told people about the products’ benefits. I had always been around the hair industry. It naturally happens.
In my senior year of high school, my friend and I decided we were going to go to the same community college. I knew I always enjoyed working with hair, but I never thought of it as a profession. My dad said, “Why don’t you sign up for cosmetology school?” He signed me up, and the rest is history.
In my 17 years of being in the beauty industry. I’ve heard conversations from others about how their family and friends felt about them pursuing this career. For some, it was viewed as a “backup” job, not a real profession. I’m grateful to my parents for seeing what interested me and allowing me to pursue a career in this creative field.
What inspired you to learn how to do textured hair?
Back then, Diane Da Costa’s book Textured Tresses was my bible. That’s all I had back then. There was no YouTube.
I had to find out a lot of things on my own. I traveled a bit to places like Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Wherever I could get an education, I would go.
I took a little bit from everyone and made it my own. Catherine Van Hook, my first mentor, was my biggest influence. She took me under her wing and taught me about cutting and coloring. I was her assistant for three years and learned many foundational things from her. She knew hair, and she knew texture. Her salon was multiracial. I still text Catherine when I have a question about a color formula. She’s a wizard!
Carla Johnson taught me about the importance of having a great shampoo. It sets the tone. Importance of consultation. Importance of why you should really take your time and get to know your clients. She also taught me about not being afraid to make a mistake.
Ladosha Wright in Cleveland has also been an incredible influence. She helped me look at hair like a fabric and not as a race early on. I still use that consultation sheet she shared with me over ten years ago.
Toni Love is another beauty industry mentor of mine. She really helped me with the business side of things.
All of these women have poured into me in their different ways. They saw something in me that reminded them of them. They saw my potential.
Do you have a specialty that you focus on when styling?
I’m really known for really good haircuts. How I approach each haircut and each client is intuitive. I mess around the hair a lot to see how it flows. I ask very specific questions. That allows me to be very holistic in terms of my approach.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to everyone. It’s a very individualized service.
Some haircuts may be wet. Some may be dry. Some may start dry and finish up wet. It really depends on the hair.
Some folks will say I want to do the Deva cut, the Mona Cut, or the Kadu. They saw this beautiful shape online and asked if I knew how to do it. I say: “I know how to cut. I know the rules of engagement.” I tell clients the importance of certain steps I’m doing so they understand.
Are curly clients different from straight-haired clients?
One bad haircut can set a person back for years. I’ve had clients come in and say they haven’t had a haircut for five years because they were so jaded by a stylist who didn’t know what they were doing. When they sit in my chair, they’re really apprehensive. That’s a lot of pressure.
Curly clients are very loyal. I’ve had men and women who have been coming to me for more than a decade.
What are your go-to styling tips for textured hair?
For 3bs, I like finger coils or rolling the hair up.
For afro-textured hair. You can do a dry set if you flat iron your hair, and it’s pretty tightly curled. That will give you the body, so you don’t have to put extra heat on it.
I love a good rod set because you can do much with the hair as the style ages.
We’re getting back to roller sets. That’s really good to do to minimize the excessive heat.
How did you develop the idea for the In Living Curls College Beauty Supply Vending machines?
There’s nothing new about vending machines. We’ve seen eyelashes and other different beauty accessories being sold in machines.
During Covid, I began thinking about different ways to pivot. What will my business be like once we return to being a person? I’ve always loved being on campus and getting people products on campus. I was online and saw another beauty vending machine on campus, and I thought it was cool.
As I began working on it, I wanted to help the students understand how to care for their hair. I have many students sitting in my chair who would travel hours to buy products because there weren’t any nearby.
We had the ribbon cutting for the machine at Berea College in February 2023 and added the second one in October. They are the first machines of their kind in Kentucky.
The machines have 15 to 20 items – a selection of shampoos, conditioners, tools for braiding hair, styling products, and other accessories. The products I choose are based on demand. In addition to national products like Mielle Organics and The Doux, I also try to incorporate local products.
What are your go-to products that are great for winter haircare?
1) Decca Satin Tame- Satin Tame protects the hair from heat damage caused by the use of various styling appliances such as: blow dryers & flat irons
Use as a moisturizer/revitalizer for natural, relaxed, curly, or permed hair and braids! It helps reduce split ends by adding moisture and elasticity to the hair. To help minimize chlorine damage, use the Satin Tame before & after swimming!
2) Design Essentials Curl Enhancing Mousse- One of my go-to styling products. Many people think mousse dries the hair out, but this formulation is excellent for all hair textures and enhances 2a-4c hair. Excellent also for short faded cuts when used with a curl sponge.
3) She’s Bomb Edge Control- Great edge control with amazing hold and won’t flake
4) Eco Styling Gel– A classic standby for your slicked-back ponytails or guys enhancing their natural curls
5) Design Essentials Coconut and Monoi Gelee– I absolutely love this for doing comb coils, wash-and-go, flat twists, or twists in general. It leaves the hair feeling really moisturized.
6) My Gel Joie- This is one of my favorite products for loc retwists. It doesn’t build up on the hair and washes out easily.
7) Decca Instant Conditioner- This is my stand-by product for daily moisturizing and as a leave-in. It doesn’t weigh the hair down and provides it with the right amount of moisture and protein.
Learn more about how you can embrace and love your curls with Melanie Day in her studio!