Celebrity Hairstylist Vernon François Breaks Down Caring for Natural Strands
Turns out “going natural” has a whole new meaning when you hear it from Kerry Washington’s & Lupita Nyong’o’s hairstylist.
When it comes to styling and caring for natural tresses (read: hair that’s not been chemically treated or processed), Vernon François has rightfully earned his title as the king of natural. The English-born hairstylist is the mastermind behind some of the most iconic hairstyles—including Lupita’s gravity-defying ’do at last year’s Met Gala. And his client rolodex reads like your fantasy group of girlfriends: Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Karrueche Tran.
Since beginning his career in London over 20 years ago, Vernon has always made it a point to encourage his clients to embrace their natural texture. “When my clients sit in my chair, I want them to feel their most confident and beautiful.” And while more women, particularly women of color, are embracing their natural curls, waves, and coils, Vernon finds that many of his clients are completely lost when it comes to properly caring for their hair. “I think there’s a huge education piece missing when it comes to natural hair, which is why I always try to teach my clients something.” He’s so committed to this mission that last year he launched a luxury line of hair products for naturalistas. So to help make your hair goals a reality, we chatted with the pro to get his POV on what it takes to truly care for natural hair.
Oils, Oil, Oils
“Kinky, coily, curly, and wavy hair types naturally tend to be quite dry. Curly girls really need natural oils to keep hair as moisturized as possible. My favorite oils are Argan, grapeseed, and almond because they nourish and strengthen the hair follicles and are fantastic for naturally hydrating the hair. You can apply these oils directly [to hair] by rubbing a few drops in between the palms of your hands and massaging throughout your hair. You can also make your own spritz by mixing a blend of natural oils and water before applying generously.”
The Old Adage Is Actually True—You Are What You Eat
“Healthy hair starts from the inside, so fill your plate with vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water to promote healthy growth and repair.”
Read the Labels!
“It is important to be ingredient-conscious, so you have an awareness of what your hair will benefit most from. I prefer to be specific about listing natural oils and active ingredients [in my products], which each have their own benefits.
“In my view, sulfate-free products that include ‘botanical’ ingredients are good because they work to actively increase moisture levels in the hair, which most types of curly hair crave. Sulfates cleanse, but they also strip the hair of natural oils, leaving hair drier. You’ll know if a shampoo contains sulfates because it creates that big foaming reaction on contact with water. I tell my clients to [try to] avoid parabens and phthalates in their products as well.”
Stick with Silk
“Silk or satin fabrics are the best materials to wear close to your scalp. They minimize frizz and lock-in moisture to keep your tresses frizz-free throughout the night. I recommend purchasing a silk scarf or pillowcase.”
As for Styling Natural Hair…
“Use your hands! It’s always less stressful on the hair to detangle it using your fingers, it reduces breakage and preserves your natural curl pattern. But remember, patience is also key. Detangle after applying a moisturizing spray and allowing hair to air-dry for the best results.
“I’d also say that another great ‘tool’ for styling is drying your hair with a 100% cotton t-shirt, or even better, a microfibre towel. Using one of these options places less stress on your strands. Gently patting and squeezing it dry with either of these will help to preserve your curl pattern without pulling or stretching the strands, which rubbing with a traditional bath towel can tend to do.
“Finally, for those who prefer to wear extensions, a wig, or a weave, it is extremely important to remember to care for your natural hair. Using a nourishing spray, like my Braids and Locs spray, will nurture a healthy scalp and foster hair growth.”