You know that woman you’ve heard about that did really well at her job, but wasn’t too passionate about it? Then all of a sudden something clicked, she had the courage to change her path, and fell deeply into her groove. From there, everything changed and her life seemed to explode with positivity and passion.
We’d like you to meet Amber Curry, the woman who did just that.
After doing a variety of jobs that any theatre and fine arts major like herself would have killed for, Curry needed more. After a suggestion from a friend, Curry turned her hobby and passion into a career, becoming a craft natural hairdresser and colorist. She has taken the natural hair industry by storm and is the mastermind behind Afroista's look (you know, the one you’ve seen on Instagram reposts by @cosmoprofbeauty and @allure). If you haven’t seen, we have provided it for your dreamy-eyed gazing.
We had the honor of speaking with Curry about some fabulous color tips and secrets to share with you, as well as an exclusive look into her 6 hours (!) creating Afroista’s famous color.
What did Afroista ask for when she came in for color?
AC: Tessa (Afroista) and I had been talking about hair color for a while. She previously had a bad experience with professionals using box color. I cringed when she told me the story. I really wanted the opportunity to renew her faith concerning her natural hair and color. I wanted her to know that it is possible to get the results she wanted to achieve and still have the head of fluffy, healthy curls that she loves.
She knew she wanted to go lighter, but she really trusted me to formulate and create a Bespoke Color for her. First, we worked with a few inspiration images. With any of my color clients I look into their lifestyle, personality, skin tone, face shape, hair texture, and what the hair needs, then I build a customized color from there. With Tessa, I wanted to play with bronzes, caramels, deep coppers and chocolates and wanted to finesse her look.
What was the color session with Afroista like?
AC: First, I color cleansed, which is a step that should be left to a professional. You cannot lift color with color, so in order to get the results she desired, we had to start with a clean slate.
Her color formulations used a combination of permanent, hi-lift, lightener and Olaplex at every step. I used my own personal marbling technique at the root, which will help her grow out be less harsh. I played around with quite a few color lines because with curly/natural hair, there is no one-size-fits-all. For Tessa, I went with Kenra. I really love their new Bronze Metallics, and their Hi-Lift in Pearl Ash always leaves a very rich and shiny tone. I prefer to use oil-based lighteners and developers to give that extra level of protection while lifting and coloring and I used it on her end lengths.
It took me about 6 hours total to color Tessa’s hair and we did it all in one session.
We’ve all heard horror stories about hair getting damaged in the process of coloring. What do you do to ensure that doesn’t happen?
AC: Olaplex is a bond builder and is the one piece that is consistent across all of the hair colors I do for curly/natural hair. It goes both in the color and on the hair after the color has been rinsed. It helps to make sure that I am protecting the curl pattern at every step and is a tool that has allowed me to make hair virtually damage-free. Olaplex has given women of color and those with curly hair access to hair colors that have, until now, been off limits. Olaplex is not a miracle worker, but a great tool for restoring bonds to curls that have been damaged by heat or other chemical processes.
What do you recommend naturalistas ask for if they want Afroista’s color?
AC: First, research and find a stylist who truly understands and knows color on real hair. There is a huge difference between real hair and fake hair or extensions. Also, remember that this process doesn’t just involve showing your stylist a picture before they disappear in a back room and come back out to immediately go at it. Your consultation should be thorough. Your stylist should be able to explain every step and chemical process of coloring hair to you. Also as the client, it is important be honest in the consultation. There are a lot of outside factors that can affect hair color from medications and treatments, to hormones, box color, henna and other chemical processes. Achieving that perfect end result means being honest in consultation, but also sometimes means as a stylist saying no to coloring hair that is compromised or that needs to be restored to a healthy level first.
Hair color is an art so every colorist will have a different approach on how to receive the results you want. My advice would be to first do your homework. Find inspiration images, but beware that a lot of hair images are altered. Your stylist can’t make you into Afroista, so when you are thinking about coloring your hair, make sure it’s the hair color you actually want and not just an admiration of the person wearing the color. Play around with descriptive words when it comes to the color you want. Do you want to see warm colors or ashy, muted tones? With a consultation, less words is not more!
What’s your advice for caring for hair once it’s been lightened?
AC: Moisture, Moisture, Moisture! Layering water-soluble products and glycerin-based products is my number one recommendation for retaining moisture. A few that I love are IC Polisher Pure Tea Silky Gel Moisturizer, Label M Leave-in Conditioner, Curls Unleashed Shine and Define Mousse, and Bumble & Bumble Anti Humidity Gel Oil.
Invest in yourself and your hair by getting quality hair products (this doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive thing, though). Also, beware of using shampoos and conditioners with too much protein, but switch to lines that have light natural-based proteins. I like Amika’s Triple Rx Shampoo and Nourishing Mask and Label M’s Honey Oat Shampo and Conditioner. If you are using a protein-based shampoo, add in a moisturizing conditioner or alternate with a moisturizing shampoo weekly.
Hair also needs to be clarified every 4-6 weeks using something like Amika’s Balancing Shampoo. Follow with 2 moisturizing shampoos and conditioner.
Get a trim every 6-8 weeks because color will not stick if you don’t receive regular trims.
What hints and tricks would you like to tell our readers?
AC: There are a lot of myths out there about hair color and natural hair (needing to apply crazy amounts of oils or not using shampoo and only co-washing). Take it from someone who has been natural since birth -- I have done any and everything to my hair and never once did I stop using shampoo and conditioner. If I did, that was when my hair began to stop responding.
Have a consistent shampoo and condition schedule and make sure that you know what a good shampoo and condition looks and sounds like. Most of my time in a consultation is spent explaining the importance of cleansing the hair. If your foundation is built poorly, everything you build from that point is going to crumble eventually.
Starting with a clean slate is key! You hair will tell you everything that it needs, you just need to know the signs. A knowledgeable hairstylist will help you with this.
I will leave you here with what I call my Hi5. It is more about knowing the steps, and understanding what your hair is telling you, while being consistent and patient. It’s an easy way to remember the steps to follow when seeking well-moisturized and soft hair whether colored or not. Adjust as needed for you and your journey. Be rad!
1. Clarify (Squeak Squeak once every 4-6 weeks)
2. Cleanse (Load up on Moisture 2x please)
3. Condition (Detangle. Section + Clip if needed - Steam treatments are rad too)
4. Product (Layer it up, section by section, be generous. Wet to damp hair depending on desired result. Always use water-soluble and glycerin based products)
5. Shake or Style (If it’s a wash n go or out the door style, whip and leave it. Hands off, let it dry or proceed with style)