Tamarac, Fla. — Simone Hylton was mortified when, in beauty school, the only instruction provided regarding styling black people’s hair was relaxing it so that it could be treated like Caucasians’ hair.
Prior to that, she and her sister, Trudy were attending Virginia State University when Hylton realized that “I was doing more hair than going to school,” despite her sister’s constant reminder that they needed to go to class. Hylton, the neighborhood girl who would braid hair, had taken her entrepreneurial skills to college to earn money for herself and her sister.
She decided to go to beauty school and pursue hairstyling as a profession because, “My parents are Jamaican, and you can’t just say ‘this is my passion, I want to do it.’ You have to become a professional.”
What she learned in beauty school confirmed that her instincts about natural hair were correct.
“They were telling us this stuff (hair relaxer) is horrible for the hair, it’s horrible for the skin, but these are things you have to do to counteract the trauma.” She reluctantly resorted to relaxing her own hair to placate South Florida customers hesitant about embracing a natural hairstylist back in the 1990s, but her heart was still on caring for natural hair.
“The natural thing became my passion. I needed to let people know that there is an alternative.”
So convinced that black women’s hair “is stronger in its natural state,” Hylton began weaning clients off of relaxers without their knowledge.
”I had one client, I would pretend that I was relaxing her hair but I really wasn’t, and her hair started to grow,” Hylton said. “It started being a little study of mine. When I stretched out the (time between reapplying) relaxers, the hair grew thicker and nicer.”
Hylton eventually surrendered to her natural hair passion and decided, despite several naysayers, to open a natural hair salon in 1997.
“No one was doing natural hair; they were looking at me crazy.”
Fast forward to 2015 and it is apparent that Hylton’s prophetic decision was indeed ahead of its time; with natural hair care now a $70 billion industry.
Hylton said it’s unfortunate that although more and more women are going natural, they are also shunning professional stylists.
“Women don’t trust hair dressers any more. They think that because they’re natural, they have to do their hair themselves.” Hylton explained, adding that the consequences of women doing their natural hair themselves are twofold. “It’s killing the beauty industry from a natural aspect,” she explained, but more importantly, “Your hair can still get damaged without chemicals. If you wear it in a ponytail everyday and you don’t comb it out or you wet it every morning just so you can comb it, you’re going to dry it out.”
Hylton has been hosting a natural hair expo for the past four years, to allow customers and hair professionals to gather “under one roof,” to receive the vast amount of information available for the proper care of natural hair. This year’s expo is scheduled for Dec. 12 and 13. In addition to hair care information, the expo will also include a wide variety of free interactive workshops focusing on hair, skincare, diet and overall wellness. The brunch on Sunday will include a motivational message, as well as an extensive Q&A session with a panel of experts.
She compares what’s happening with natural hair care information to what happened with black hair care pioneer, Madam C.J. Walker.
“They didn’t understand what she had when she was making our hair straight. I don’t think we understand what we have when we’re bringing it back to its natural state,” Hylton said. “Teaching people to embrace their natural beauty has always been the driving force of what we do.”
Hylton said the expo also seeks to answer the question, “Where is this whole natural hair care movement going? The purpose of the expo is to connect this network of consumers and professionals who seek this knowledge and each other.”