How These Southern Girls Learned to “Listen” to Their Hair
With their freelance fashion careers, strong sense of style and head-turning hairstyles, Tiffany and Amber Davis seem to be quintessential Brooklynites. But the 31- and 28-year old sisters are actually Atlanta, Ga. transplants who spent their childhoods soaking up Southern beauty ideals.
Curious how their feelings about their hair have evolved over the years and across zip codes—as well as what inspired older sister Tiffany to let hers go completely natural—we caught up with the pair to talk salons, idols and their top beauty tips for black hair.
Tell us a little bit about growing up in the south, with its strong hair salon culture.
Tiffany: It’s a very big social opportunity, especially for black women. It’s where you go to interact and talk with people, not just your stylist. In that space, there’s a lot more latitude for saying that hairstyles were influenced by people that look like us, much more than I find [in Brooklyn]. But there were no natural hair salons; it was kind of a no-no. You were going to a hair salon to get it permed, pressed, and blow-dryed. That’s what you did to make your hair beautiful.
Amber: Yes, I feel like salons were definitely a bonding experience and the whole culture molded my childhood perception of what beauty was. I was really enamored with it when I was younger; I thought of it as what grown-ups did to be pretty.
Who were your childhood beauty icons?
Tiffany: I loved all the Cosby show sisters. And as I got older, I was really into the R&B bands like TLC and Xscape. Having these girl groups come from Atlanta that looked like me was really cool because I could say, ‘she actually has good style and it’s not just parted in the middle and straight down.’
Amber: For me, it was pretty much a trickle-down effect of anything TIffany thought was cool — though my teenage years were the time of the boy bands, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. At one point I tried Sun-In, which basically meant I had fried orange chunks in front of my hair for a while (laughs).
So how has your relationship with your hair evolved over the years?
Tiffany: Well, two summers ago, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and was horrified because they were foreign objects in my body. I started thinking a lot about how the products you put on your body actually go through your skin and wanting to really take care of myself. Researching that led me to realize that there’s a huge link between uterine fibroids and permanent hair relaxers. So deciding to go natural was about wanting to take care of myself and who I actually am, instead of trying to retrofit my body to fit something else.
Amber: More than anything, I think I’ve just stopped fighting what is naturally there. If I want to wear my hair curly one day, I will. If I want to wear it straight, I’ll wear it straight. And I also feel less tied to trends and more interested in figuring out what actually works for me.
Most of us have complicated relationships with our hair. How would you describe your hair’s particular personality?
Tiffany: My hair is very thirsty! I was at a pool party this summer with misters and everyone else’s hair was soaking wet. Mine wasn’t even dripping. So I water it, literally like a plant, every day.
Amber: It’s curly. And independent. It really has a mind of its own, and I’m finally starting to listen to it.
What’s your number one beauty tip right now?
Amber: I’ve been leaving a little bit of conditioner in my hair when I wash it, and I feel like it makes a really big difference. If I’m doing, say, a crown braid, I’ll put conditioner on the ends and it goes a long way.
Tiffany: I have a regimen that I finally wrote down and saved in my phone (see image above). Out of those things, the most important is probably any sort of pre-poo, which is a funny word, but is basically a treatment before you shampoo. It can be an egg or conditioner. If you have hair like mine, which gets knotted very easily, it makes a huge difference.
Who are your beauty icons now? Have they changed considerably since you were younger?
Amber: I would say they’re the polar opposite of what I used to idolize, as I’ve started to see that there are so many different versions of beauty. At the top of my list are women whose hair is what I call my “spirit animal.” Tracee Ellis Ross’ hair is so big and so beautiful, and she’s rekindled my love of Diana Ross. Corinne Bailey Rae has really gorgeous hair. I’m intrigued by anyone who embraces what they already have and just amplifies it.
Tiffany: Definitely Tracee Ellis Ross. I love Esperanza Spalding. I also think Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union always seem to be taking care of themselves. Their skin always seems to be glowing and they always seem to be healthy, which I’m really into.
When do you find that you feel the most beautiful and confident?
Amber: When I’m in a spin class and feel like I’m killing it. I’m sure I look terrible, but it’s when I’m totally in the zone and feel motivated and excited.
Tiffany: Yes, definitely exercising. I also love when I just step out of the shower and put on moisturizer. There’s that moment when you look in the mirror and your skin is still a little bit dewy. That’s a really nice moment.