Salons are one of the few areas in the beauty industry that remain heavily segregated, lacking the diversity that other facets of the industry have developed. It doesn’t take in-depth research to notice that many salons in the white community only service Caucasian hair (and hair types). Likewise, many salons in the Black community only services Black hair types.
Despite shifting hiring practices that have included more diverse stylists in mainstream salons, the type of services performed tends to be directed to Caucasians/European hair types –– and this is not a new phenomenon.
Stylists are trained to master straight hair, with beauty school curriculums focusing more on straight hair and the processes associated with it. With this in mind, non-white stylists often come out of cosmetology school with an abundance of knowledge and training on how to color, cut and style straight hair, but little knowledge of how to do the same on curly and textured hair.
Diversifying salon staff is an ill and masked attempt at diversifying the salon industry as a whole. Salons exist to service clients. If a salon’s client demographic is not diverse and staff members cannot service ethnic hair, it doesn’t matter how many non-white stylists are on staff. Your salon is still not diverse.
Understandably, this can leave many salon owners wondering how they can authentically and effectively diversify their salons, so here are a few essential steps that owners can implement to create effective change:
Hire Diverse Staff That Specialize In Diverse Hair Types
Salons that understand the need to diversify will often begin and end with hiring non-white staff. However, hiring non-white staff who only do Caucasian hair is oxymoronic. It basically says, “We’re willing to diversify our staff, but not our clientele.” If you sincerely desire to operate an inclusive salon, seek to hire diverse staff that service various ethnicities and textures.
Educate Staff On Services For Textured Hair
If you’re a colorist and only color straight hair, you haven’t really mastered the skill. Likewise, if you’re a master cutter but don’t cut textured hair, are you really as advanced in your skills as you claim? Being a diverse stylist doesn’t always mean taking you out of your niche, it means extending your niche by learning how to perform the same skills on whoever sits in your chair. From cutting and coloring, to smoothing techniques and beyond, there are ample opportunities to grow as professionals by extending your knowledge of hair types and textures.
Add Retail Products For All Hair Types
Just like there are different skincare products for different skin types, there are various hair care products for various hair types. Ensure that your salon’s retail product offerings meet the needs of textured clients, even if this means going outside of the retail line you currently carry. This will take research and investment, but your new clients will thank you.
Use Your Branding & Social Media To Speak To Diverse Populations
If your branding doesn’t represent diverse populations, you are implying that you only want to service majority populations. To make it a little more plain: If your salon’s IG only has photos of Caucasian clients with straight hair or beach waves, you are implying that is the population you wish to service. If you desire to be more inclusive, begin by reflecting that in all of your marketing channels.
Diversifying the salon industry may seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. I love that we’ve been able to create a place like Hazel O., where an older Caucasian woman can get a root touch-up next to a millennial Black woman with thick, spirally, curls. Just like anti-racism, de-segregating salons is going to take the intentional efforts of salon owners and staff who are willing to show their commitment to authentically diversifying the beauty industry, from skincare to salons.