Although the natural black hair movement was at a zenith about half a century ago, during a time when many African Americans realized "Black Is Beautiful," it suffered in the late 70s and early 80s. During these decades, there was a resurgence in hair straightening with the wider availability and advancements in chemical relaxers. Plus, many black people felt they had to assimilate into a "straight hair culture" in order to land jobs.
However, Diane Bailey didn't fall victim to these trends, and she authored books on natural textures and educated people well before this current natural movement began. Natural hair care and styling expert, consultant and educator, she opens up about her personal philosophies on whole-body health, children's hair care and much more in this exclusive!
Black Hair (BH): You started your natural salon and business long before this newest natural movement. What led you to take that road at a time when so many women felt relaxed hair was the only way to go?
Diane Bailey (DB): Natural hair care has always been an option in the African American community. The natural hair care industry was a grass roots or "cottage industry" and plays a part of the community's cultural aesthetics. Natural hair styling has always been a definitive personal choice for me. Every attempt I made to use a chemical relaxer would diminish my hair and irritate my scalp. My personal hair journey led me to realize that I was not alone. Many other women were looking for safe hair care options.
As I started my career, I discovered that there were many women who suffered from poor hair services and chemical abuse like myself. I discovered that they too were wounded, disillusioned and frustrated with their textured hair. In the late 80s, I had a vision; that vision became a business. I opened Tendrils, "a comprehensive braiding" salon. We focused on protective styling and loc grooming services. At that time, there were not many professional salons that nurtured textured hair by offering products and services that were wholesome, restorative and addressed the client's specific textured styling needs. As we grew, I refocused our mission to offer holistic spa-type services, including steam treatments, scalp massages, botanicals and herbal products that nourished and strengthened curly/coily hair.
My natural hair journey is like so many women's around the world; a journey of self-care and discovery. My journey has became my passion, which is to establish different natural venues, write books, DVDs, blogs, create hairstyles and promote products that empower women to embrace their textured hair and help them to feel more comfortable in their own skin.
BH: Can you explain what your workshop "Mommy and Me" is about and what you hope to achieve with it?
DB: I have designed the "Mommy and Me Natural Hair Care Workshop" for mothers/fathers/caregivers who want to liberate themselves and their daughters from the stress of combing multi-textural hair. This hands-on workshop will guide them in managing and styling their child's hair in a manner that is positive and healthy. It supports the parents in creating an open dialogue around natural hair and defining their child's self-image. By using the right tools and wholesome, gentle hair products in class, the workshop debunks the myths that textured hair is "unmanageable". This class is ideal for parents with daughters who have biracial, ethnic or African-textured hair. The goal of the class is to provide the parents with the basic skills, tools and product selections that will assist them in caring for their daughters' hair that is nurturing and drama-free. The class is fun, easy and allows the parent quality nurturing time with their daughters.
BH: Many parents who relax a child's hair say they do it because they don't have time to care for natural hair. What would you like to tell parents who are frustrated or lack knowledge about caring for their children's hair?
DB: Managing textured hair can be challenging for working mothers; however, to use a chemical relaxer on a young five year-old child seems very extreme, but it happens every day. Exposing a young child with a sensitive and delicate scalp to the corrosive chemicals of a relaxer can cause serious damage. Whether a concerned mother uses professional salon services or a home "kiddie" perm kit, over a long period of time, the harsh chemicals of the relaxing service can result in scalp chemical burns, severe hair thinning, balding or alopecia, uncontrollable breakage and in extreme cases, the fumes may cause eye and throat irritation.
Mothers love their daughters and don't want to expose their babies to harmful chemicals, but they are frustrated by hair and time management and lack the correct tools and products that can make textured hair more styling friendly. Today, a vast amount of information is available to parents; with social media like YouTube and blog sites that focus on "do it yourself" DIY procedures, parents can receive step-by-step instructions on how to manage and style their daughters' textured hair. Of course, hands-on workshops, like my Mommy and Me Workshop, are the most immediate in learning how to address the needs of their daughters' hair and scalp. With a professional stylist to guide the parents, the learning curve is faster.
My final word to frustrated parents: please be patient with yourself and with her hair. What you do to her hair will follow her for the rest of her life. Keep her hair natural and chemical-free for as long as possible. Let it be her decision at an age and time when she knows all the options and pitfalls to having chemically straightened hair.
BH: What's your personal philosophy when it comes to healthy hair? How important is it to have an overall healthy lifestyle?
DB: My personal philosophy to healthy hair is "less is best". By this I mean to do less to your fragile textured hair; less harsh style manipulation, less heavy extensions, less tight weaves, less harsh chemicals, less heat and less moisture stripping from frequent shampooing with sulfate shampoos. When it relates to natural hair care, "less is more". Keeping the textured hair in its optimum moisture/protein balance is the key to strong, healthy, manageable hair.
For many, choosing to "go natural" is more than just a hairstyle change, but a lifestyle change. Natural hair is an integrated system; it is beauty from the inside out. We realize now that organic, chemically-free foods are the best nutritional support to beautiful hair and skin. Putting a great conditioner on your hair is just half of the regimen to healthy hair. The other half to the natural beauty regimen is a high vegetable, fruit and herbal diet, regular exercise, minimal stress, reduced exposure to a toxic environment and the use of topical products that offer botanicals, fruits, vegetables, herbs, nurturing oils and butters. Beautiful, healthy hair is the byproduct of a healthy, balanced body and mind.
Interview continued on next page...