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The double standard of cosmetology training between Black and white hairstylists is an ongoing issue that is not only seen across beauty salons but also felt by consumers with textured hair.
Black women are among those consumers who have endured negative experiences from professional stylists not trained to work with curls, waves, or coils. This has led consumers to go to beauty salons that they know specialize in their hair type, many of which are predominantly led by Black stylists or people of color. As a result, a division between hair salons created a segregated environment between Black and white hair care professionals.
The discrepancy between Black and white hairstylists traces back to the educational gap. While Black hair stylists understand how to treat textured hair and are trained to work with other hair types, their white counterparts are not held to the same standard. New York legislators are addressing this inequity by requiring all hair stylists to be trained in “various curl and wave patterns, hair strand thickness, and volumes of hair” to become licensed professionals.
Bill S6528A was initially introduced in April by Sen. Jamaal T. Bailey, who shared his experiences of needing a quick haircut but needing to be more comfortable walking into an unfamiliar barbershop. On Nov. 17, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law and is slated to take full effect in six months. The law also requires that questions regarding servicing all hair types are included on exams.
While a person with finer hair can be serviced at any salon of their choosing, those with textured hair are left with the burden of being unable to walk into any salon without being denied service or fearing their hair may be damaged. Textured hair customers often face requirements before their hair appointment to make it easier for the stylist to complete their job. It continues to be more common for hair stylists to charge extra fees for the thicker and denser curl patterns. From demanding clients to show up with their hair washed, detangled, and blowdried to making derogatory comments about texture, salons’ inequalities force more textured hair consumers to leave behind salons altogether.
Barber Shops run into similar issues.
White clientele was the primary group served when Black barber shops arrived in America during the 19th century. After emancipation, Black barbers could serve who they wanted, which shifted their clientele to more Black customers. Still, the disparity remains. Black barbers can cater to clients of different backgrounds. On the other hand, white barbers are often not trained or unaware of the different tools and common conditions, like razor bumps and ingrown hairs, that more clients of color are prone to.
The frustration from the lack of knowledge has led to many sharing their unpleasant encounters online, including models and actresses who have dealt with similar issues behind the scenes with stylists not knowing how to handle textured hair properly.
In a 2022 interview, actress Storm Reid described the hair disparity as “dehumanizing” and “heartbreaking.” She noted that it was not until she worked with Kim Kimble while filming “A Wrinkle In Time” that her hair was appropriately treated.
Historically, cosmetology schools did not include educational lessons on styling textured hair. Straight hair was the primary hair type, and unless one sought additional training from a Black beauty school or other resources, learning how to do different hair types was not required. It was not until 2020 that the Milady Standard Cosmetology Textbook – one of the primary guides that beauty schools use to compose their curriculum – was updated to include more sections about working with textured hair.
Despite the prevalent bias in the hair industry, progress is being made to rectify the disparities. New York was not the first state to alter their training requirements for hair professionals. In 2021, the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology standardized all licensing exams to include a section on cutting textured hair. It made Louisiana the first state to implement textured hair education in cosmetology schools’ curriculum.
Significant changes continue to be made as both regulations align with part of the CROWN ACT’s mission to “extend statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles” in professional environments and public schools. The act also works to prevent discrimination against natural hair and has been legislated in 23 states since its creation in 2019.
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Image Source: @thecrownact
While these advancements will not be quick fixes to a generational issue, they target the root of the lack of diverse training in beauty institutions. This can be a game-changer for consumers because it can ease the hair styling experience and release the burden of subjecting customers to a particular hair establishment.
Even with the progress, however, it does not erase the generational trauma that has ensued from non-Black hair stylists. But, it can potentially reimagine the future of salons and barbershops for new hair professionals.
Join us in sharing your salon experience and how this new bill impacts you and your curls!