|Embrace the Beauty of You Discussion
Council for Senior Citizens, Durham, NC
Our objectives are as follows:
To provide a brief profile of why our salon exists.
To define the Schatzi’s natural hair salon and organic skin care experience as we see define it.
To provide general tips for the care and maintenance of natural hair.
To provide valuable skin care maintenance tips.
To address individual questions from the audience.
I will begin with the hair care component of our discussion. Andrea Richardson will discuss the skin care component.
For years, over 25 years to be exact, I did my own hair. Not because I inherently wanted to. Largely, because I did not want to be abused, verbally or physically, by my stylist. I didn’t want to be chided into wearing a relaxer. I didn’t want to have my hair raked and abused because it was just a little too thick and too long for speedy service. I didn’t want to spend the entire Saturday in the salon waiting for services that would last maybe two weeks. I wanted peace—inner and outer peace. So, I stayed home. Today, Schatzi’s provides an alternative to all of these negative experiences. We aim to create an environment of peace and serenity, where you feel empowered to embrace the beauty of you. All clients are introduced to our salon services through a consultation process that is free. From the consultation, we learn of your individual needs and desires and devise a plan of action to assist you in reaching your goal.
But our salon services are not for everyone. Someone who is not ready to see their natural hair, in its natural state, is not ready for Schatzi’s—pure and simple. One prospective client that called me some time back was one such person. She is a woman of 56 years, she confessed who is experiencing some hair thinning. She asked me what type of relaxer we could provide that would help her with breakage and thinning. I said, “We don’t provide relaxer services, Ma’am.” “Um,” she grunted. She then asked, “How can you press my hair out so that it doesn’t get so damaged?” I said, “We don’t press hair, Ma’am.” “Um,” she again moaned. “Feeling her frustration through the phone receiver, I dove into the heart of the matter.” I followed:
Ma’am, we believe in the inherent beauty of each individual as God created you to be. A mainstream stylist will place gloves over her hands to protect them while she puts the same chemical on your hair and scalp. A mainstream stylist will also place a burning hot comb on your hair to achieve straightness. We don’t do anything to the hair that we would not do to our skin, Ma’am. In this way, we guarantee the long-term health and vitality of your natural hair.
Her response: …… “Um!”
After considerably more discussion on the matter, we concluded that this client was not ready for the natural journey. And that’s cool. The staff at Schatzi’s represent women of diversity. We all reflect and celebrate inherent African beauty.
Natural Hair: A Brief Personal History
I would now like to talk about why I believe natural hair to be the zenith to which all should aspire and why I want to foster it for the wider community. I’ll begin with my personal history, as a young girl living in Alabama. Like many girls of that time, I wanted long flowing, silky straight hair like many girls today. I was enamored by it because it was so contrary to what I was. I wore a short afro. Despite inwardly desiring European hair, I was struck by the power, grace and beauty of my own mother, as all children are. My mother wore head wraps, indicative of many Afro-centric minded women of the 70s. Beautiful head wraps. She was the first black Director of Social Services in the South—Alabama (George Wallace’s state) no doubt, and she was regularly combating evil in high and low places. I believe her Afro-centrism was a badge of honor which said, “When you see me, expect something different.” I recall one child in first grade seeing my mother at the classroom door and asking, “Does your mother have any hair?” “Yes, I retorted.” I thought that child was SO IGNORANT! All that I saw was beauty and all he could see was a head wrap.
I also recall attending my aunt’s (my mother’s sister’s) wedding. I saw my aunt wearing a beautiful Afro, accented by a beautiful African dress, with her husband donning a dashiki. They were married in their home on MLK Jr. Drive in Greensboro, NC. I remember attending the wedding believing that my family was the most beautiful and most inspiring family in all the world. Such are the thoughts of a child. All the same, what strikes me most upon reflection is the power of these images and the long-lasting impact they made on my mind as a growing child. I believed in the inherent beauty of my people because it shone all around me. I wanted to be just like them. I had not learned to love European hair in my home. I had learned it from the wider society. Yet despite growing in a household with so much love and self-acceptance, I did not believe in the inherent beauty of my own African features.
While in high school and college, I wore my hair twisted as I do today. It is my style of choice. I recall being ridiculed and cursed at for reminding Black people how we look without the benefit of a Jheri Curl or relaxer. It was a troubling time. All the same, what truly struck and disturbed me was that despite all the abuse and name-calling, it ceased the minute I straightened my hair. So, it could not have been directed at me but at the image. I recall deciding to run for student body President. It was a complete whim. When I told my mother, she insisted that I press and curl my hair, for Speech and Election Day. I couldn’t understand why but I agreed. With straight tresses flowing past my shoulder and a classic Kelly Green suit, I recall the gentle hum that murmured through the gymnasium as I approached the podium in front of the bleechers. I imagined that people were saying, “That’s the same girl that wears that crazy hair.” I gave my speech and sat down. My opponent did the same. I really didn’t expect to win because she was more popular than I. All the same, I won. That experience showed me the power of European appearance. I was the same girl that they ridiculed and cursed at and ignored. Why did they suddenly accept me? It was mind-boggling. So with my new-found popularity, I insisted on relaxing my hair to my mother’s chagrin. After seeing my shoulder length locks gradually break off and lose their vitality, I realized my error. It was an important life lesson for me to learn.
By my first year of college, I was again Au naturel. After seeing my hair’s health and vitality return, I remember saying, “Thank you, God.” And I distinctly heard the response, “Now, can you keep it the way I gave it to you?” I recall stopping and reflecting deeply on the words, wondering if they came from within myself or from God Himself. The power of choice was apparent and real in the question. Not wishing to contradict what was implied to be the correct path to take, I have sided with God’s way everyday of my life since that time…unapologetically so, and have never looked back.
All the same, when you look on the covers of African-American magazines, it is still a very Europeanized look that prevails. We won’t bother to mention the covers of mainstream magazines. Within our society today, it is European hair which is most synonymous with beautiful, healthy hair. It is true that things are changing. But, we are far from accepting natural hair as the dominant image of African-American beauty. When I visit local pools and see young African-American girls looking longingly at the hair of their White counterparts, inwardly wishing to have their lot, my heart is broken. It happens every time I go. So, I aim to show them that they do not need to aspire to anything because excellence is coded into their very DNA. But how do we convince them. What has happened?
First, we have come to embrace a Europeanized image of beauty as superior to our own. Don’t underestimate the impact of movies like King Kong and Beauty and the Beast in glorifying Eurocentric features—beauty that can sooth the savage beast! Don’t underestimate the power of Tarzan beating whole tribes of Africans to protect Jane—his queen. Don’t underestimate the impact of Miss America pageants which consistently celebrate a standardized image of female beauty. Don’t underestimate the impact of today’s hair commercial which dazzle the eyes of our young people with long flowing tresses that shine like silk and move like water--with particular emphasis on the movement. Natural hair moves and shines. But, the beauty about it is sometimes it don’t. It all depends on the style and the condition. And that’s okay.
Natural Hair Care Tips
Second, we have forgotten how to care for our natural hair. That is probably the single greatest culprit in maintaining the status quo. Many women who come into our salon to transition to natural hair enter with no idea of what their natural hair looks like, let alone how it behaves. They simply want a change. When some of them start to appreciate how natural hair behaves to water, humidity, sweat, the comb: some quickly exit stage left and abruptly conclude their natural hair journey. As we say, the ride is not for everyone. But those who love it, never want to get off.
Some of the qualitative differences in hair care techniques that you will observe at Schatzi’s are universal and can easily be adopted for your home hair care maintenance program:
When combing the hair, we use a wide tooth comb or a pick. These tools work in tandem with the natural curl of our hair, allowing for give and take. Rigid, narrow-tooth combs with short teeth are best suited for straight and/or short hair styles.
We comb the hair when it is wet, not when it’s dry. This ensures that the hair is not being stressed unnecessarily. The water helps to soften the hair, making it more elastic and malleable.
We comb the hair by starting at the ends of the hair and working our way up the shaft of the hair to ensure that tangles are worked through in an orderly manner, consistent with logic and reason. Starting at the root and working to the end only creates larger knots and tangles, creating pain and frustration.
When shampooing very thick hair, we may section the hair off during the process to ensure that the scalp and the entire head are clean. This important step makes thick, long, kinky hair manageable and beautiful.
When coloring the hair, we tend to avoid lightening the hair. The reason is that the coloring process is as damaging to the hair follicles as relaxing. (EXPLAIN.) So, we primarily use Bigen hair color which has no ammonia or peroxides. It is much less damaging to the hair. But as a result, it is ideal when darkening the hair or covering gray. (Explain Henna’s Strengths and Weaknesses.)
When blow-drying the hair, we anoint the hair with oil or leave-in conditioner first to prevent dryness. The oil or conditioner acts as a lubricant and retards the loss of moisture. At Schatzi’s, we use Nature’s Blessings--all natural pomade and my gel—an all natural gel. Please avoid all products with petrolatum as they have a tendency to clog pores and attract dirt.
When styling the hair, our primary concern is the health and vitality of your established or emerging natural locks. So, braided services honor the need for less tension around the edges to maintain attractive hair lines. Lock services emphasize the avoidance of re-twisting locks in between services, to avoid excess tension and possibly breakage. Twist and coil services emphasize the avoidance of shampooing the hair between styles to minimize locking.
Last but not least, natural hair takes time. When styling your own hair, be sure to earmark the necessary time to complete the task. If you try to rush, you only create tangles and frustration. At Schatzi’s, we have a no-waiting policy which honors the time of the client and the stylist. As such, we operate by appointment and schedule clients based upon the amount of time the stylist needs to complete her work. We aim is to ensure minimal, if any, wait-time. On this note, our clients are deeply satisfied.
For ladies interested in transitioning to natural hair, the number one piece of advice that I can give you is to be patient and committed. The transitioning process will likely be the most frustrating part of your natural hair journey. It was for me. This is due largely to the difficulties created in managing two anti-thetical hair textures on each hair strand. For this reason, some ladies opt for extension braids or kinky twists while others simply choose the “Big Chop.” Whatever your choice, know that at Schatzi’s, you will be supported and encouraged as you make this journey of self discovery.
Women choose to transition to natural hair for varying reasons. Some are:
Tired of relaxers and chemical processes that only look good when you leave the salon.
Interested in thickening their hair. As we get older, our hair natural thins so wearing the hair’s natural curl adds volume and definition.
Attracted to the versatility and the genuine beauty of natural hair, whether locked, twisted, coiled or fro’d.
Whatever the reason, it’s a personal one which inspires a very personal journey.
I could surely go on and on with tips and tricks for transitioning to and maintaining natural hair, but we would like to ensure that we have adequate time to respond to your questions. So, I encourage you to visit our website at www.schatzisdayspa.com. On this site, you will find our Au Naturel newsletter, located on the last tab of our home page. All newsletters produced between September 2006 and January 2008 are available on this site. There, you will find a plethora of information that you can review and consider at your convenience. I would now like to open the floor up for questions that can be directed at our individual stylists or in general.