We don’t talk much about locs in the NaturallyCurly world, but Annette Roche, owner of NappStar Salon in New York City, is on a mission to change that by showing the world about the versatility of natural hair through her specialization in locs and her mission to enhance your loc journey. I first learned about Annette through Franchesca Ramsey, @Chescaleigh on Youtube and Instagram, when she named the stylist who slayed her locs for everything from red carpet events to television appearances, and I’ve been following them both ever since. I got the chance to chat with Annette before her Midwest tour, where she will be traveling and teaching all about locs. I asked her questions about NappStar, products, loc care, styles, and everything in between. She shared her expert tips as well as advice that she would give anyone who is on the fence about starting their own loc journey. I left our chat feeling like I wanted to start my locs all over again!
The NappStar Salon
Annette has been doing hair for 15 years, starting at her mother’s African hair braiding salon in Maryland. Both she and her sister, Melissa, own NappStar salons, and while Annette works out of New York, she worked between the Maryland and NYC locations for 6 years. Ultimately, Annette made NYC her home base, and she’s helped NappStar build a social media following of over 40K followers. It’s no wonder- the salon’s social media is loaded with photos of intricate styles, fun and bright dye jobs, the freshest retwists, and videos of stylist confessionals for your entertainment and inspiration.
Annette says that things really took off around the time when many women of color were starting their natural hair journeys. “When everyone did the big chop, Franchesca Ramsey, @chescaleigh, she was a really big advocate for us,” Annette says. “She just organically talked about us on her YouTube, which really helped us. She was one of the beginning people on YouTube to really show tutorials on how to take care of your locs. And then we just backed it up with the actual brick and mortar experience. So that was a great combination early on and we had really awesome work.”
What other natural styles does NappStar Salon do?
“We specialize in locs and our number one best services probably our loc extensions because we manufacture them ourselves. That's our FashionDreads line. As expert locticians, when we first started doing loc extensions, we noticed that the old technique, which was the wrap method, didn't look as natural. Then we started offering the crochet loc extensions. It really, really blended in! Clients liked it a lot better, so it pushed us to start manufacturing our own and it really drove a lot of revenue to our business. And then we started creating other services around the crochet, like Instant Locs. So now instead of going through the six months to a year phase of locking your hair, we can do it in one day where your hair is already mature. And that's just with your natural hair without adding extensions.”
What would you say makes NappStar Salon unique?
“We're a natural hair brand that exclusively focuses on locs. So our niche is locs and that's what makes the salon unique because we find ourselves as the locs experts and the locs standard. We really want to provide a professional salon experience and elevate that because I feel like in black hair, in general, the salon experience has always been so stereotyped. It's always a long day thing, so we're really trying to change the black salon experience as well.”
What's next for NappStar?
“So many things! We're about to launch the clip-ins for FashionDreads, which is our extension company. We feel underrepresented at the beauty supply stores and we don’t think that it’s fair. You go to the beauty supply store, you can't buy anything for locs that looks like your locs. It's either shiny or synthetic, but it doesn't look like our natural locs. So I developed clip-ins the same way you would have curly hair clip-ins or any other type of clip ins for straight hair, but it's for locs. This is going to be a great option to have more versatility with your locs if you want more volume. It's a great way to play with color and not commit yourself or damage your hair by coloring it.
What is the difference between freeform locs and like a more stylized loc?
“Freeform is where you kind of just let your hair be free and literally what it sounds. It takes up a loc form within itself. You don't really do much to it. You might get it crocheted once a year just so it doesn't start growing all together, but the whole point is to just let your hair be free and it'll just do whatever it wants. Whereas a more stylized fashion dread person is someone who gets their hair maintained and manicured. I would say it's the difference between you going to get a manicure versus never doing your nails at home.”
What advice would you share with people who are just starting their locs?
“I would say you're going to go through a lot of phases in the next couple of months, especially if you didn't add in hair. If you're just going through your "ugly phase," which I don't believe in, you're going to be learning a lot about yourself and you're going to have to be patient with your hair. It's not going to look the way you want it to look everyday. You're not going to instantly have that length that you got locs for. You're really going to have to go through it and it's going to be beautiful. Enjoy it because once it gets long, it's just long. You're never going to get those organic short days back. So enjoy it and trust the process!
How often should locs be retwisted and is there a right way to do it?
“Yes. Locs should always be twisted to the right hand side. We recommend in the beginning phases, year 1-2, getting your locs retwisted every four to six weeks. Once your hair is mature, I'd recommend getting it twisted every six to eight weeks. But it's also a personal preference thing. If you have to be in a corporate environment and have to look professional all the time, then every four to six weeks, but just remember, don't over twist your hair.
Locs were not always fashionable and trendy as they are today. What do you think made people more accepting of loc styles?
“I think men are just doing a lot more with their locs, personally. So that's really nice because when they use our extensions, they love it because it blends in instantly so they don't have the thought of ‘Oh, people think I have extensions in my hair,’ and they feel really confident with that. I think it's becoming more trendy because after the big chop, we kind of were in limbo with what to do with our Afros. So locs are a great choice because your hair's always done. It always looks cute. You can just throw it up into any style. Even on your worst day, it looks good. So you're just part of this community. And I think because there's so much social media, we have a lot more access to styles. We have pioneers like Franchesca who showed us how to do our hair at home. With locs, it's not something you necessarily have to go to the salon for, but it's really nice that in between the salon visits, you can maintain your hair very easily. We want movement. That's why we have braids and that's why we wear weaves. We want movement with our hair, whereas Afros just kind of stay in one position, even though it's a beautiful crown. And most of us don't have wash and go hair. So it's like what do you do now?
What do locs represent to you?
“I feel like we're rebels. Locs represents us. It's our hair. It's an expression of ourselves. I feel like we took a stand against society's norms and that's why we're discriminated against. We chose to be different. We didn't used to look like everyone. We didn't choose to wear straight hair. We chose to wear our hair- and do it proudly and boldly.”
A healthy scalp is the secret to healthy hair, and the same goes for locs.
Moisture seems to be the secret to healthy hair and scalp. What are your top five products to use?
“For your scalp, grapeseed oil, avocado oil and almond oil. For the locs, you can use rosewater to mist them as a daily hydration or you can get distilled water and mix a little bit of almond oil with to help strengthen your locs, and it's like a leave-in conditioner.
Are there any products to avoid on locked hair?
“Don't use black gel, and NO WAX. You wouldn’t believe the amount of product buildup that people come in with in their locs from wax. For gels, I would recommend nothing with wax, nothing with shea butter. Shea butter is great for the skin but not for locs. Joie Naturals has a product called MyGel. It's an awesome all-natural product. And honestly, I know it's super cheap, but Eco Styler gel is great. With locs, you want to use something light that will wash out well. Also, before you wash your hair, make sure you open your roots to get product build out. For shampoos and conditioners, we use Giovanni, but anything sulfate-free. And then, at least once a year, do an apple cider vinegar detox on your locs. If you go to the gym, I'd recommend you use Sea Breeze on your scalp. If you get sweaty a lot, Sea Breeze your scalp and towel dry your hair that way. And then, of course, don't forget to wrap your hair every night to avoid lint because lint does not come out.
How often should you wash and retwist your hair?
“I would say every time you get a retwist, that's when you should normally wash your hair because, with locs, if you wash at home and you don't know what to do with your hair, it’s kind of all over the place. So every time you are going to do your hair is when you should wash it. So I wouldn't overtwist it. I recommend every 4-6 weeks.”
A common misconception about locs is that there are limits to the styles that you can do with your loc’d hair, and this could not be further from the truth. At NappStar, there are styling options galore!
With locs, your hair will go through growth and maturation phases, and the comb coiling method prepares the hair for each one. “Normally the first one to six months is called the budding phases. So That's where your hair kind of starts to lock at different points. It doesn't like fully washed out yet, but it's not mature. And after a year, the natural comb coil method is mature and that's when you start having weight to your locs and when they start hanging really nicely.”
Another option saves years of going through the loc journey and gives you the look of mature locs in one salon visit. “If you want to lock your hair instantly, but with no hair added, we also offer the Instant Locs. That's done with our NappStar Crocheted Technique. And that's similar to how the loc extensions are also made. That's great for very straight hair or curly textured hair. Like if your hair has a hard time locking, Some people have really loose hair so it's a really great technique, also if you want to free form your hair, the Instant Loc is a great way to do that.”
Another familiar style may be loc extensions. They can be done with different textures of hair but they are a great option for temporary added length. ”If you don't want to start your locs, you can start with the loc extensions. That gives you length instantly, so you can get up to 16 inches instantly and it will blend in with your natural hair as you go through the locking process. And that's a great option for people who have a certain job or need to look a certain type of way instantly versus going through a bunch of phases.”
What are some fun things that people can do with their locked hair?
“You can get Expressions Hair or Marley hair and add ponytails to your locs. You can add jewelry to your locs, like gold wire or gold string that you can get from Michael's. You can add the gold cuffs to your hair. That's super cute. There are so many style options! You can get the FashionDread clip ins and make yourself a bang. That's what I did with Franchesca Ramsey, and people really, really loved that. With the FashionDreads, we do have a six inch clip-in bang that is really cool.
Since you use your own brand of loc extensions, What else can they be used for besides adding length?
“We do a lot of crochet and repair with the locs. We do loc combinations with the crochet method. So you may have 120 locs and then you wanted 50 locs. We can combine your locs and it looks beautiful. I actually did that for a lot of the NFL players. You can take the extensions and add them into styles. If you have short hair and you wanted a bigger bun, you can make a bigger bun out of it if you want. You can use it for a bang piece. It just gives us a lot more variety. Anything you can do with regular kinky Marley hair or Expressions braiding hair, you can do with our loc extensions.
Check out these articles on loc care as well!