These Sisters Are Breaking the Myth that Says Black Women Can't Grow Long Natural Hair

They're using the power of protective styles to help you grow your own inches.

Tonya Thompson & Sharie Wilson/DreamGirls
Photo: Courtesy

Launching a haircare line at the height of a global health pandemic is risky — but Los Angeles-based hairstylists and sisters Tonya Thompson and Sharie Wilson were up for the challenge.

With non-essential businesses closed across the country, and their DreamGirls salon clientele now having to figure out how to work with their own hair at home, the pair decided to launch their five-step Health Hair Care System to help women reach their desired length without having to make regular appointments with a stylist. Luckily, that's been one of their main goals since since opening their original salon in 2006.

"From the start, we've always wanted to help women," Thompson tells InStyle. "We'd see our clients' confidence skyrocket after styling their hair and it was an incredible feeling. The goals of DreamGirls is to break the stereotype that Black women can't have long, natural hair, and to help build their confidence in knowing that they can do anything."

Here, we spoke with the sisters about their journey into haircare, the benefits of weaves when it comes to retaining length, the proper way to incorporate their five-step system into your regimen, and more.

Tell me how your careers in haircare got started.

As Los Angeles girls who came from a middle, working class family, we didn't always see a lot of wealth or even the possibility of what could be. As a result, we've always felt that we needed to see and do beyond what was familiar to us. We wanted to bring our community with us on our journey by pouring back our time onto others to help them achieve their hair goals. In 2006, we opened our Sacramento and Los Angeles salon locations and began our Healthy Hair Care Program to provide professional services for women looking to grow their hair long-term. We wanted to empower the women in our community through their hair and help educate them on healthy hair practices so that they can achieve a new learned confidence in their hair so that they can maintain the health and growth they attained under our care.

You two launched the hair system in the midst of the pandemic, which I can imagine was scary. What was that process like?

In Mar. 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, we launched our Healthy Hair Care System product line to allow women across the globe to care for their hair at home with the same products we use in our salons. On Mar. 20, we held a three day-long pre-order launch that brought in $30,000 in sales. We officially launched our products at the very beginning of May, and we're excited to have brought in $75,000 in sales within the first month. We just celebrated our first anniversary since launching our signature product line and surpassed over $2.5 million in sales, to date.

There's a myth that Black women can't grow long natural hair. How exactly are you working to disband it?

Numerous women have come to us with lack of proper haircare knowledge, and as result have suffered from hair breakage and loss due to a variety of factors, which includes lack of hair moisture, irregular trims, overuse of heat or chemicals, and more. We inform our customers about the hair maintenance they should also be keeping up with since they are doing this from home and not in the salon. We emphasize how important it is that they first start with a trim of any damaged, frazzled, discolored, and see-through ends. The reason for this is because if the ends of their hair are damaged, it is acting as counter-productive to the growth they will achieve from the products. The ends will thin out and the length will continue to shorten if the damage is not removed abruptly from the point in which the hair is no longer healthy.

But we don't focus on just the growth portion of the hair growing process, we also emphasize the importance of improving the overall health of our customers' hair and scalps, as well as hair maintenance through retaining the increased length and density of their hair once it has grown.

As the second wave natural hair movement has gained more steam over the last decade, it seems like less Black women are installing weaves. Could you explain how they're used in your system to benefit hair growth?

Protective styles are an essential part of our Healthy Hair Care Program. Protective weave styles help to keep your natural hair healthy and allow for noticeable hair growth every time you come out of your weave. All of the products in our Healthy Hair Care System were designed to help prep your scalp and natural hair both prior to and after incorporating a weave to prevent unnecessary breakage and hair loss. With summer right around the corner, we recommend wearing weaves, as they also help protect your hair from sun and water damage which can make your hair weaker and lead to hair loss.

Could you breakdown the five-step Healthy Hair Care System?

Our Healthy Hair Care System kits consists of the TLC Comb-Out Treatment, Renewing Shampoo and Conditioner, Revival Deep Treatment, and True Essence Oil. Our TLC Comb-Out Treatment is essential during your detangling process. The formula gently allows your hair to detangle, while smoothing out the strands with less stress. This helps to limit the amount of breakage when taking down your protective style. Our Renewing Shampoo helps cleanse both your hair and scalp without the harsh stripping agents. Its rich lather removes excess oils and product build-up, while strengthening hair and improving body and shine. Our Renewing Conditioner helps to replenish and restore moisture into your hair. The deep conditioning treatment helps to restore moisture in your hair, especially when you are experiencing dryness and breakage. We recommend using this treatment every six weeks. And our True Essence Oil promotes growth when targeting thinning areas. In addition, the oil helps reduce skin inflammation and can also act as a DHT blocker.

What else should women know about maintaining their hair at home while using this system?

The key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp. When your scalp is clean and free of any build-up including dandruff, natural oils, and excessive amounts of product, for example, it leaves an environment that promotes growth. Otherwise, your growth may be delayed, which will lead to frustration. Remember: the scalp is your foundation for hair growth, so it's very important to take care of it.

Also, don't give up on your hair, because we certainly haven't. We highly recommend wearing some type of protective style to give your hair a break from everyday wear and tear. We also recommend using our TLC-Comb-Out Treatment to prevent breakage, excess shedding and hair loss when combing out your natural hair, in addition to our True Essence Oil Treatment, which is formulated to stimulate hair follicles and promote growth in thinning areas.

VIDEO: 4 Natural Hair Growth Tips From Childhood That You Should Be Using Now

Shop DreamGirls' Haircare Products

TLC Comb-Out Treatment

DreamGirls Products

This peppermint oil and vitamin B5 treatment is a dream for both your scalp and natural strains, girl. Add to a spray bottle with some water and apply to hair, then gently detangle from ends to roots with a wide-tooth comb.

To shop: $30;

Renewing Shampoo

DreamGirls Products

Tea tree and lavender work together to clean and soothe the scalp after taking down a protective style. Build-up is gone after one wash.

To shop: $25;

Renewing Conditioner

DreamGirls Products

This creamy conditioner works to renew and moisturize hair. Simply apply from roots to ends, leave on for three to five minutes, then rinse.

To shop: $26;

Revival Deep Treatment

DreamGirls Products

Give your hair a boost of moisture with this deep treatment. Like the conditioner, simply apply to your hair, wait for three to five minutes, then rinse out.

To shop: $35;

True Essence Oil Treatment

DreamGirls Products

Once you're done with your wash day, apply this blend of peppermint, almond, and soybean oils to fingertips and gently massage into the scalp and around the hairline.

To shop: $20;

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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