Equity of Access to Hair Care: The Revolutionary Position of the Louisiana Cosmetology Boards

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) -All hair is over 90% keratin. Keratin is a fibrous protein that also forms our small intestines and even our rhinoceros horns. Regardless of our ethnicity, we all spend a lot of time styling our hair. However, just as with the variety of skin colors, the human species has a great diversity of hair types.

Edwin Neill is the president of the Louisiana Cosmetology Board and says, “There is a long tradition of two types of salons for different hair types. If you look at the number of people in the United States who now have textured hair, which is defined as curly, coiled, or wavy hair; it’s 60 percent. Salons today need to be able to handle any client.

For decades, barbershops across America seem to be one of the last frontiers of separate spaces. Our hair salons have evolved to serve more than hair. Salons and barbershops are places where community awareness is served, politics is discussed, sports are watched, gossip takes place and more than anything; it is where we feel safe to be ourselves.

When it comes to hair, many salons and hair salons cater to specific groups of people and you only need to walk around a store to see what type of people frequent the store the most. Salons in general are ethnically divided today, not because of the segregation of the 1960s, but mostly because of a lack of knowledge about how to care for all hair types.

While straight hair has always been the focus of beautician schools; textured hair is often under-taught. On June 6, the Louisiana Cosmetology Board will ask all students to take a test with a section dedicated to textured hair. The goal is to equip a future where all salons and hair salons have the knowledge to serve all customers, regardless of race, ethnicity and hair type.

The ruling is the first of its kind for any state in America and is part of an overall push for Afro hair tolerance at the federal and state levels.

“It’s really amazing for Louisiana to be the first in something so positive. What happened in the Board of Cosmetology is really a reflection of what happened in the Legislative Assembly, where the Crown Act was passed unanimously by the Senate It hasn’t gone out of the house but I believe the awareness of the importance of making sure we include all hair types and all the hairstyles really came to the fore,” says Neill.

The requirement allows Louisiana to mark the history of the country. Students across the state will now be exposed to working with afro-haired mannequin heads, in order to receive a license. The section contains basic knowledge on how to cut textured hair, but Edwin Neill says the Cosmetology Board plans to include other components in the near future.

Tracie Barbre is a professional esthetician at Traelle hair salon in New Orleans and said, “I would love to see students learn how to deal with textured hair in so many ways. I want them to be able to cut textured hair giving it shape and volume and also be able to color it.

Taquanna Thomas (@Q_thebarber) is a barber and natural hair professional in HeadQuarters Barber Beauty & Natural Hair Salon and said “since we’re going to see a boom of people wearing their natural hair now, I wish it was mentioned more in the books and if you look at a typical hairdresser’s manual it suits straight hair more.”

The decision will not affect professionals who already have a license. Instead, the decision will affect the future with the aim of encouraging equality at the follicle level and promoting inclusive education.

However, learning about different hair types isn’t just for the benefit of being socially acceptable. Knowing more about hair diversity is also about customer safety.

“Curly hair shrinks and tangles. If you don’t know how to comb it, you can definitely cause more damage than good. It’s remarkable! Many Caucasians and other ethnicities don’t understand the texture and the curl pattern. I’m really happy with this decision,” says Babre.

“If you cut a person with real wavy hair and you use a single guard and you close it and go against the grain, you can cut a gash in their head. This decision is a game-changer. It’s all about skill! It makes businesses more competitive. It also allows everyone to grow and improve in their profession,” explains Thomas.

The crown we wear is organic and covers our mind. It is a conduit for our own expression and creativity. Taking care of all hair means recognizing that everyone has the right to look and feel their best.

Be sure to tune in each week as we celebrate and honor black history on WGNO.

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