How Ouidad Pioneered The Hair Industry One Curl At A Time

Did you know that 65 percent of the U.S. population has curly, kinky, or wavy hair*? For Ouidad, a Lebanese immigrant whose family landed in Rhode Island in 1966 where she and her sister were teased in school for their black “Mongol”-like curly hair, it certainly didn’t feel that way. But by age 15, Ouidad set out to achieve her childhood goal of “running the world” by swapping out a traditional high school experience to study cosmetology.  

At beauty school, Ouidad started to explore the chemistry of products and hair texture more deeply, leaving her curious as to the lack of education in the curly hair space. “Beauty school didn’t teach how to work with curly hair—hairdressers were petrified of it and ran away once they saw someone with curly hair walk in.” Whereas most of her early mentors advised her to simply blow-dry curly hair before cutting or styling it, Ouidad always believed there had to be a better way.  

After years of trial and error, she honed her iconic “Carve and Slice” cutting technique in which curls sit into each other in neat, circular patterns rather than on top of each other causing a pyramid-like shape. “The curls directed my technique. I’ve learned from the beginning that you cannot cut curly hair in a blunt effect or thin it out—it will only create shelves and fan (read: frizz) it out! Curls need to be puzzled into each other with a flow that allows them to have movement, so ‘slicing’ at the beginning curvature of a curl pattern allows the curls to sit into each other and preform. ‘Carving,’ which is a deeper slice in tighter curls creates the perfect seat for all that fine hair to work together.” 

It was Ouidad’s passion, skill, and belief in educating and empowering clients to “let curls be curls” rather than tame them that was a driving force in establishing the Ouidad flagship salon in NYC. “Education is key in managing curly hair and that’s what was lacking in our industry.” Slowly but surely, she grew a team of like-minded “Curl Experts” to conquer the curl community, many of whom shared a very defining characteristic: They were also immigrants. “It really happened organically. We had an unspoken connection, and all have curly hair. The mutual hard work and cultural ethics is what gravitated and bonded us with each other. My team stayed with me for decades, which is unheard of in my industry. It became a real Ouidad family!” 

Decades later, Ouidad is no longer behind the chair slowly breaking down the “Berlin Wall” for clients who struggle to find beauty in their curly hair, but she’s certainly still the original Curl Expert. “I’m very pleased to see many brands jump in the curly hair segment and their philosophies; they all have something to bring to the table. There are more curly haired people globally than straight hair and it’s about time that they stand up and recognize this large segment!” 

Ouidad now dedicates her time to the Curls for a Cure® Foundation she created with her husband Peter to benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a cause very dear to her heart after losing her mother to the disease and overcoming her own battle in 2002. For more on Ouidad and her journey, read “My Curl World: How an Awesome Team of Immigrants Conquered Prejudice One Curl at a Time”—100% of proceeds from book sales will be donated to the foundation.

*Statistic according to the 2018 TextureTrends Report

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