Cosmetology schools teach students hair theory and the beauty basics. However, are cosmetology schools teaching students how to style and care for curly hair? No. Is this a sign of hidden discrimination or is it the perpetuation of the Western beauty standards? The beauty standards that praise light skin, light eyes and straight hair. You decide.
As twists, dreadlocks and braided hairstyles become more mainstream, naturalistas are spending more time on YouTube and less in the salon chair. From natural hair care to natural hair products more women are taking style notes from beauty bloggers. Still, there are things that should be left to the professionals. But are cosmetology schools teaching students natural hair techniques?
Each state has a governmental agency known as the board of cosmetology and barbering. AKA the state board, which sets the licensing standards and regulations for the industry. While the numbers vary from state to state, becoming a licensed cosmetologist requires at least 1500 hours of training. Training includes; learning the basics of beauty in class, practicing on mannequin heads and working with actual clients. But, to put it frankly, cosmetology schools do not teach students how to do hair. They teach students how to pass the state board test.
Seasoned curly hair expert and owner of Southern Curl Atlanta, Robin Sjobolm, agrees "Students need be aware the primary purpose of cosmetology schools is to help you pass the state board test. That’s it. The state board test, by the way, has not evolved since the 1950’s. That by itself says a lot for its requirements. So, why pay ungodly amounts of money to attend a well-known “designer named” cosmetology school instead of paying half that amount to attend a junior college that’s going to teach you the exact same thing? No matter what, you're going to have to invest in post cosmetology school training, to develop your career specialty. And if you decide curly hair is going to be your niche, it’s more difficult because there are only a handful of institutions that train in proper curly hair care, styling, and maintenance."
More than half of Americans have curly or textured tresses. Yet cosmetology schools offer no hands-on training for curly hair. On the contrary, they teach students to blow dry and straighten curly hair before it’s cut, colored or styled. So, are cosmetology schools teaching students how to treat and care for straight hair? Yes. Are cosmetology schools teaching students how to handle and care for curly or ethnic hair? No. Stylists that want to cater to textured hair clients have to invest in continued education after cosmetology school for specialized training.
Beautician and beauty blogger Tyra Robinson explains this perfectly in her post, What Cosmetology School Did Not Teach Me About My Black Hair. She highlights an interaction with her cosmetology classmate and teacher. When informed that her natural hair would have to be shampooed and conditioned by her classmate. Tyra requested a condition and rinse instead so that her hair's natural moisture wouldn't be striped. This turned into a learning opportunity for her entire class, including her teacher! She goes on to say, “Cosmetology DIDN’T teach me anything about black or ethnic Hair. It taught me the theory behind hair period. It’s up to the individual to apply those lessons to their client or themselves no matter the type of hair they have.”
Currently, only 19 states require some type of formal training in natural hair styling. Some states, like California, do not require licenses or training for natural hairstyling which include braiding, twisting and locking. Is this setting the right precedent? Is the current cosmetology curriculum teaching students that straight hair is better than textured hair? Is it fair that stylists have to pay out-of-pocket for classes that teach them how to style and care for curly hair? Are the current regulations in states like California discriminatory towards people with natural hairstyles since no training is needed to become a natural hair professional?
Supply and demand are two of the fundamental principles of our economy. The law of demand states that the higher the price of a good or service, the fewer people will demand that good or service. Curly and textured hair Americans spend the most money on hair care but have the least amount of options. As more people embrace their natural curls, coils, and waves the demand for natural hair stylists grows. There needs to be a shift and natural hair care, and hairstyles. So do the fundamentals of curly hair care need to be added to the traditional cosmetology curriculum? What do you think?
Sources: Formal Training in Natural Hair Styling is Not Required, but Still Important, What Cosmetology School Did Not Teach Me About My Black Hair