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Tina’s texture training diaries

As calls to improve representation and diversify training in the hair industry intensified last month, prominent session stylist Tina Outen was made to confront gaps in her own skillset. She made a pledge to educate herself in Afro and textured hair care and styling, starting with hours of at home practice, guided by friend and fellow stylist Aliyah Shields.

Direct from her NYC apartment, Tina has begun to document her personal journey exclusively for Creative HEAD. As well as helping to provide inspiration, tips and insight for fellow white stylists who have realised their experience is lacking and want to do something about it, Tina seeks to show that nobody is above admitting their shortfalls and accepting they can (and should) do better.

June 20th, 2020 – BACK TO BASICS

“I’ve been hairdressing for 30 years, and shamefully in 2020, I’m buying my first ever dolly heads of colour. That says it all – hairdressing education across the board needs to expand to train people in ALL of our wonderful hair textures.

“I’m excited and thankful to my girl Aliyah (@hairby_aliyah) for sharing her time and knowledge with me as I learn as many natural hair techniques as she will teach me. I have always brought natural hair specialists into my backstage show team and on set, as I knew you all knew so much better than me the steps and products required to bring the natural hair into the brief and do it right.

@peachestyles, @tricia_all_smiles, @_tristris_, @shanicenoelhair, @dapperdreece, @yann_turchi, @romansam, @rochelle_colorartist, @1natashataylor@kirastuger, @kellzatlstylist and @mideyahparkerhair; you are so talented and I have learnt so much from you all. I appreciate you, and have realised that now is the time for me to take action as well. To practice, create and grow my knowledge.

I learnt all about Juneteenth yesterday; today I start to learn the culture and beauty of black hair styling.”

Tina Outen texture training

June 21st 2020 – BLOW DRY FUNDAMENTALS

“With Keira the dolly head at the ready in my bathroom set up, I decided to start right at the very beginning – learning how to prep the hair by detangling and blow drying.

“Aliyah had made sure that I had the right specialised tools on hand to care for and work with textured hair  by providing me with a shopping list alongside my doll head order. She recommended the Rizzo Curls Detangling Brush, which turned out to be an amazing addition to my kit. Its unique design allows gentle action on the hair when combing through lengths – as the brush is flexible, the rows of teeth open up and move with hair instead of battling against it and causing damage and breakage.

“I learned to begin by fully wetting down hair with water, and then to brush gently from ends to the mid lengths and roots, working upwards to detangle section by section. At first, I didn’t realise the band could be removed from the brush to allow the sections to flex even further, so discovering this was a game-changer!

“Under Aliyah’s instruction, I worked to gently separate sections with my fingers, not a comb, taking care and time to ease through the curls and allow the curl pattern to emerge. Once detangling was complete, I split the hair into four sections ready for blow drying.

“Working with quadrant sections for the blow dry process lets you work from the inside to the outside; from the crown area out towards the hairline. And, by using twists to keep the sections you aren’t working on out of the way, this begins to smooth and stretch out the curl pattern while you are blow drying . So as you blow dry one quadrant, the other three are starting to naturally dry smoother and not curlier! I used aligator clips from my kit to keep the quadrants in place. They are especially good for textured hair as they hold the twists securely at the root and this helps with the stretching and smoothing of the curl pattern close to the scalp.

“As I practised washing and re-drying the hair, I found it easier to apply heat protector as I blow dried, rather than on freshly detangled hair. I found it made the hair a bit too slippery to twist tightly , but I’m guessing this is just a ‘practice makes perfect ‘ situation! I used a nylon bristled Denman Brush to dry the hair, using the teeth on the outside edge of the brush to pick up hair at the roots, stretch the lengths out and then dry to get maximum length from each strand.”

July 1st 2020 – BOX (BRAID) FRESH

“The first style I decided to learn is a summer staple – box braids. I set up my tripod, a freshly blow dried Keira, and my kit in my bathroom once more, and got to work.

“Aliyah had already planned to braid a client’s hair during the week and so she filmed little snippets of guidance for me to refer to along the way, which was extremely helpful (see right). Following her lead, I first began by creating a section ear to ear around the back of the head, before splitting that section into the first two rows of ponytails that would form the basis of the braids.

“As I soon learned, it’s really important to plan out before sectioning and banding the ponytails, and you need to carefully check the geometry of the pattern and how it fits the head. When I was starting out in hair, I trained at Thanet Technical College and learned a lot of techniques on older ladies. This often meant back to back roller sets, so the ‘brick lay’ or ‘brick work’ sectioning for box braids was an old friend! This pattern is vital as it means your braids will sit in an orderly fashion, evenly spaced around the head and with each braid falling in between others, not on top of each other.

“I found it super-interesting that the amount of hair in each ponytail ultimately effects the evenness of each braid . You will see this in density of each braid strand and it’s not easy to correct once everything is banded up. I used pink bands to hold my sections so I could see if I had covered them properly.

“Once you’re confident with the geometry, you need to take your time scooping the hair into the middle of each box section, so it lays flat at the parts and is all gathered in the centre. Using a braid gel like Shine N Jam gives you super clean exposed scalp sections that show the pattern well.

“When the whole head has been banded up, you can begin braiding. The process is very methodical, so I was glad I organised my braiding hair into even bundles and laid everything out in an orderly fashion. My braids were two strand add-ins,  so I simply counted the number of ponytails and doubled it and I was ready to go. The key thing I learned was to put the first strand over the ponytail, making sure it covers the band. One length of the strand then becomes the left strand of the braid, the other end becomes the middle strand of the braid and the ponytail of hair forms the third strand of the braid.

“Through repetition, it became apparent that holding on tight to the hair with your nails is a must! You also need to braid upwards towards yourself while maintaining that tension, which is tricky and clearly shows if you cheat. This is the discipline; only by getting it right consistently on each braid will you end up with clean, fluid, immaculate braids.

“The final step? Boiling the kettle – not for a celebratory cuppa, but to dip the ends of the braids. This seals each one and refines the hair, smoothing any flyaways poking out and cleaning up the finish.

“I was so pleased with my first full head of jumbo box braids and it was so great to learn something new. I owe Aliyah for her patience and for being an all-round awesome teacher. My next challenge is working with mousse and foam to create some wet-look curls. I can’t wait!”