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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Monica Stevens of MoKnowsHair and summer hair

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:55 PM

click to enlarge Monica Stevens of, Sally Beauty brand ambassador and curly girl champion. - PHOTO COURTESY SALLY BEAUTY
  • Photo courtesy Sally Beauty
  • Monica Stevens of, Sally Beauty brand ambassador and curly girl champion.

Known on social media platforms by the handle “MoKnowsHair” and from her eponymous website (, Monica Stevens is a licensed cosmetologist specializing in curly and natural hair styles. She’s in New Orleans this weekend for Essence Festival as a stylist and texture expert at the Sally Beauty pop-up salon and lounge. She took a few minutes off from being fabulous to talk to Gambit about rocking ringlets and summer hair trends.

Gambit: Why the focus on curly hair?

Stevens: I love focusing on taking care of textured hair (super coily, kinky, wavy — all of it) because I’ve found that so many woman will avoid dealing with their textured hair by wearing extensions or weave. I’m trying to take some of the mystery out of their hair by explaining how to care for it. Hair care comes first, and styling comes after.

G: What are your go-to hair products for summer?
S: For summer, wash & go’s are the easiest thing. A good co-wash [short for conditioner-only wash] and styler, like an edge control gel or a curly styling gel are must haves so you won’t feel like you’re spending hours on your hair.

G: What drew you to cosmetology?
S: I started doing my own hair at age 10, then I started doing my mom’s and my little sister’s, then members from church and so on. I started my blog in 2013 and then I moved to New York [from Kansas City, Missouri]. Aveda offered me a full scholarship to get my cosmetology license (after seeing my work on my blog). It shows that whatever is meant for you will come to you — I was visiting different cosmetology schools while working a 9-to-5. I already had my MBA (master of business administration). I really didn’t want to go to night school and work full time, and I was so wishy-washy about (going back to school). I realize now that it was because it was going to be available to me later.

G: You’re based out of a salon in Manhattan. What’s the biggest weather challenge there for hair stylists?
S: Humidity and air quality. Public transportation (is the main mode of travel) – everything is trapped underground (in the subway) and it gets in your hair. We also have a lot of ocean humidity — very dense, thick humidity. When you have curly hair, the cuticle naturally wants to open up and let in moisture, so you’re constantly fighting the frizz monster and the pollution monster. You have to wash your hair and then condition it — it’s important to clean (curly) hair. Avoid using styling products that have a lot of glycerin in them. Glycerin will attract moisture and hair will frizz even more. You can use those products in the winter time to provide a little moisture when the humidity isn’t as high. You may even consider shampoo and conditioner for thermal styling — they have silicone in them to block moisture (which can help fight frizz).

click to enlarge Stevens working with a client at a Sally Beauty pop-up salon. - PHOTO COURTESY SALLY BEAUTY
  • Photo courtesy Sally Beauty
  • Stevens working with a client at a Sally Beauty pop-up salon.

G: In New Orleans, summer weather can be brutal, especially on hair. What are some tips to humidity- and sweat-proof your hair style?
S: Be prepared to modify your style. Carry bob pins, ponytail holders and headbands in your purse — unfortunately, no product is going to be 100 percent fool proof against the humidity. Most (curly or natural) styles as they swell [frizz] are okay for a while, and a holding spray may help for an extra day. But carry accessories with you so you can go in the bathroom and rework your hair. … That … twist-out may need to be pinned up into a fro-hawk. You don’t want to sit around doing your hair again and again, especially since that can cause breakage.

G: What hair style trends are you seeing this summer?
S: I’m seeing a lot of braided styles, like large goddess braids. You can wear them all week long. Adding color is big, too — highlights, all over color and little pops of color — but in more natural colors that you can achieve without bleach. Mermaid and fantasy colors can cause a lot of damage. Instead of all that, just get some extensions, braids or clip-ins (in fantasy colors) and wear those for a while. They don’t destroy your hair and you’re not committed to (the color).

G: What’s the simplest thing you recommend to improve hair health?
S: Start at the foundation with shampoo and a deep conditioning treatment. … Get on a good schedule — (washing every) 7 to 10 days is good for most people with curly hair. Use products that are sulfate free ... and base your choices on what your hair needs — hydration or protein for repair and restructuring. You will have to try a few things, and give it a few weeks to see if it’s working. Once you find that shampoo and that conditioner that work, look at the (first five to seven) ingredients and find other products that have those ingredients in them.

G: What part of Essence Festival are you most excited to see?
S: I’m excited about the styling suite. It’s so cool to introduce different products and styling techniques to people. The more we can do to help people understand products, the more it empowers people. It also helps people see that they can use different products and different styles (than what their hair texture dictates). It’s also cool to try something new, and to have someone there to explain what the product should be able to do (to make an informed decision). [Paying money for products that don’t work the way you think they should] is a huge deterrent to a lot of women when it comes to trying new things with their hair.

G: Anything else?
S: Be on the lookout for Sally Beauty stores! Go explore — you’d be shocked to find that they carry all the products you probably already use and love. You can even go to the website to get your shopping game plan before you go. … Sally’s (Love it or return it) exchange policy is great because if you buy something and it doesn’t work the way it should, you can bring it back and get something else.

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