Celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood has worked with some of Hollywood’s hottest stars, including Viola Davis, Nicole Ari Parker, Ava DuVernay and Jill Scott, to name a few, and is currently gearing up to film the second season of her web series Head Cases with client and friend Issa Rae. Leatherwood knows textured hair of all types and shares her expertise exclusively for B*Real’s Healthy Hair Month sponsored by Strength of Nature.
“Healthy hair is always in the power of the person that’s working with the hair,” Leatherwood says. “[For my clients], I look for really great scalp condition so they don’t have dandruff or any other condition that would prevent them from really enjoying their hair and prevent it from growing. And that, a lot of the time, has to do with genealogy or diet.”
She encourages her A-list clients to drink plenty of water to keep hair hydrated from the inside and to eat a clean diet to insure their scalp gets the nutrients it needs to thrive. She also says that loving your hair is a mind-body-soul type of connection, which can be hampered with mainstream society’s often limited appreciation of highly textured hair.
“What I notice, when you look at [social media], I notice that the ladies are drawn to the women that are light-skinned with the long, curly hair. And not that they don’t have gorgeous hair, because they do, but I think that we always have to check in with ourselves to see what it is that we really like about the hair and if we are looking at someone who reflects us and our beauty. I think it’s really important we teach our young girls to look up to someone who reflects you, who makes you feel good about yourself,” she says.
Whether your hair is long, short, wavy, curly or kinky, here are Leatherwood’s tips and tricks to keep your mane flourishing.
1. Understand your hair texture
I created a hair board that shows you the texture of the hair. The reason why you would need to know is not to compare if your hair is better or worse than anyone else’s, it’s because of products. You have to know that when you have Texture 3 hair, that is a curly texture of hair. Texture 4 hair is a kinky-curly texture of hair. Then it goes into A, B or C, which gives you the tightness or the thickness of the coil.
2. Use the best products for your hair type
When it comes to Strength of Nature’s products, I found that the Beautiful Textures line worked excellent with Texture 3 and Texture 4A. Beautiful Textures works excellent for providing the moisture that women need in their hair. The other line that Strength of Nature has that I am excited about is the Elasta QP Olive Oil and Mango Butter Anti-Breakage line. Any woman having extreme shedding, or if the hair is breaking or if they’re trying to transition [from relaxed to natural], I would definitely recommend this line.
3. Find the right cleanser
I notice that a lot of women don’t want to shampoo their hair because they feel the shampoo dries their hair out and that it will tangle the hair, especially when you haven’t had a trim, but I don’t think many women know about conditioning shampoos. When you use a shampoo with conditioner, it will provide cleansing of the hair as well as softness and moisture. I have been working with the African Pride Olive Miracle 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner as well as their leave-in and I found that the women I’ve worked with in Texture 4 have benefited greatly.
4. Start (and keep!) a hair care regimen
Everybody wants that “Genie in a Bottle” effect, but there’s no such thing. You have to stick with it, and I’m going to tell you the real timeline. Whenever you start a regimen, whether it’s working out or your diet or your hair, your want to do it for at least three months to six months, and really, six months to a year before actually stopping it because it takes the body three-to-six months to realize that you’re doing something differently. I highly recommend that when you find something really great that works, stick with it for the rest of your life.
5. Fight and repair damage
Some women have worn weaves over and over again, even knowing that their hair was beyond repair. That’s very difficult to bring the hair back [to health] because it will create traction alopecia, which is a form of hair loss. For this, I would say the Profectiv Growth Renew line is good and I would also tell them, before chopping it all off, start doing curly roller sets or bantu knot sets, which create styles that can last two to three weeks. Then, as the hair grows out, little by little, you want to trim up the strand every three to four months, about half-an-inch to an inch. This is also a good regimen for heat or chemical damage. You definitely want to do deep conditioning every two weeks, for 25-35 minutes at least, with the anti-breakage conditioner by Elasta QP under a plastic cap and possibly a hooded dryer if you have one.
6. Switch up your style
There’s always the double-strand twists and braids with hair added. I think that when it comes to protective styling, no one knows how long they should keep them in, and it depends on your hair. If you are Texture 3C, 3B, 3A — the curly, wavy textures — then you can probably keep the hair in for about two months. But if you’re in Texture 4 and your hair is really thick and it’s dry and it’s prone to locking up, you might want to consider only keeping the braids in for four to six weeks. And you also have to get a retouch on the edges after two-weeks because women of color are the most likely to lose hair around our edges. You must get a retouch to ensure the braid isn’t hanging on by a thread and being pulled every time you pull the hair up or down.
7. Use the right tools
My Felicia Leatherwood Detangle Brush opens up and moves with the hair, so you don’t get snags, pulling or breakage, and it can be paired with any of the Strength of Nature conditioners. The next thing I like are [hair] steamers. When you have issues with retaining moisture, it really does help you with opening up the cuticle on the hair strand to accept the moisture, lock it in place and give the hair the strength that it needs. It helps with styling if you treat your hair twice a month. For the women who have more wavy and curly hair, they would benefit from having a diffuser attachment for their blow dryer. It's meant to basically dry the hair without shrinking it, because you can kind of elongate it as you’re drying your hair, but also it won’t blow your curls all over the place.
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(Photo: D-Andre Micheal)