For her upcoming summer film “Sorry To Bother You,” Afro-Panamanian and Mexican actress Tessa Thompson underwent one pretty big transformation. In her latest role, the curly-haired beauty rocks a funky multicolor dye job that has us eager to copy and paste. Still, for some, the process of transformation that it takes to achieve such a look can seem intimidating. After all, as Afro-Latinas, on the occasions in which we’re not being told to put relaxers and straighteners on our hair, we’re often being dissuaded from even applying color. For a better understanding of how Black women can achieve Thompson’s look, FIERCE spoke with a natural haircare expert from Orlando, Florida with more than 30 years in the business.
Arlene Webber is the Jamaican owner of one of the first multicultural salons in the Orlando area. She specializes in texture, hair color and hair shaping and says that for Black women, Thompson’s look is totally doable. The first step in achieving it is knowing that there are several components to consider before attempting to do it.
To start, Webber says it’s crucial that curly-haired clients understand that this type of hair color will be a real commitment.
“Fun colors cannot always be applied to every hair type,” Webber says before explaining that a look similar to Thompson’s in the movie is possible for Black women whose curls fall into the range of 3b (tight curls) to 4c (kinky wiry) hair. Still, she emphasizes that patience and coming to terms with the prep work is key. “I get clients coming in asking for fun colors all the time, but [they] don’t often realize that there’s prep work and the long process. If the stylist is not a color specialist, you can also run into problems, so do your research.”
When attempting to achieve Thompson’s multicolor look, know that the results won’t be instant.
“Her stylists had to have a well-mapped out plan prior to the color date,” Webber explains. “Thompson’s natural hair color is quite dark, between a level one to four. To apply the fun colors [that she has], her hair has to be lifted or lightened to a pale blonde, like the inside of a banana.” This is where Webber’s notice about commitment comes in because to actually make this transformation, and keep your hair healthy, you won’t be able to do all of the lightening at once. In fact, this type of alteration will require several visits to the salon, where your stylist will have to do multiple applications. Webber also highlights that the entire dye process should kick off months before you actually start applying color to your hair.
“Condition of the hair prior is super important,” Webber explains. According to her, at least four to six months prior to the dying process, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’ve had your hair shaped. “Natural girls sometimes don’t shape for many months. That’s too long. [After all], the recommended haircuts are 10-12 weeks, even if it’s a trim,” Webber explains. She also emphasizes the importance of ensuring that hair is free of oil and build-up prior to the day of the actual service. “Co-washing of natural hair is very common but at some point, the hair has to be cleansed free of build-up from gels, oils, and creams. You always have to prepare the canvas prior to applying color.”
Webber also stresses that when it comes to naturally curly hair, knowing your hair culture is significant. “Natural Black hair is very delicate as the cultural layer is not as thick as Caucasian, Asian or Indian hair. Your culture matters,” Webber asserts. “So using a higher lift developer [anything with a volume higher than 20] is not recommended.”
When you’ve finally achieved your dye, Webber says don’t forget to condition and trim.
Of course, once the dye process is complete, it’s still business as usual when it comes to your routine practice of caring for your hair. Not too many of us love the idea of having to face scissors when we’re trying to achieve a certain look, but Webber recommends keeping an eye on your ends and considering a good trim. Mostly because once you’ve put your hair through this process, the tips of your hair will be at their weakest. Webber also recommends using colored shampoo or conditioner that has a coke pigment in order to keep your new fun colors fresh and bright. “Every time you shampoo [your dyed hair], the color pigment will fade,” Webber shares. “So using these types of conditioners will keep your color bright.”