If you live in Atlanta, chances are, you know about Jasmine “Razor Chic of Atlanta” Collins. If you live outside of Atlanta, you may not know of her, but you likely know her work. The hairstylist, with more than 25 years worth of experience under her belt, has styled the hair of NeNe Leakes, Terri J. Vaughn, Trina and more. However, she has gained notoriety for helping everyday women save hair that has been damaged beyond belief due to poor maintenance and wearing weaves way past recommended lengths of time. Considering that Atlanta is seen as the weave capital of the world, it makes sense that Collins, who specializes in chic short cuts and color, would be who people flock to for help. Still, she never could have imagined just how many women would come to her chair, in tears over signs of traction alopecia, looking for her to work a miracle with her shears.
“I always tell people that this is actually something that I stumbled across,” Collins told me over the phone in Atlanta. It all started when she decided to not just share the “after” pictures of her clients, but also some of the very telling “before” images that included some women with large bald spots and damaged strands. “When I was doing them, people would come in and they would have slight cases of traction alopecia around the temple area,” she said. “By me starting the transformations and being able to give people a nice haircut, I was was able to show how I was camouflaging these minor flaws that they have. So I stumbled across this whole hair loss, traction alopecia thing. It’s almost like I accidentally kicked over a barrel of water and I’m trying my best to dry it up, but I can’t dry it up because people keep coming.”
Nowadays, Collins said women with these specific hair issues have become the majority of her clientele — 95 percent. She says it’s because she’s one of the only stylists trying to really show what’s going on instead of trying to cover it all up. But Collins isn’t against weaves and protective styles that cover the hair but do a lot of pulling. As she put it, there’s no wrong way to wear hair, just wrong techniques to creating styles and wrong maintenance.
“I always start off by telling people that I’m not anti-weave at all,” she said. “But it’s healthy for people to wear their own hair. The way I view hair extensions is I view it like an accessory. A piece of jewelry. You’re not going to take a bath or sleep in this jewelry. You’re only putting jewelry on temporarily because you want to feel extra for a particular day or moment. But the problem is, people are going into these weaves and they’re not coming out of them for years on top of years.”
And by “years on top of years,” Collins means that people are doing back-to-back weaves. She has clients who haven’t dealt with their own hair in years — back to back to back weaves and wigs worn for upwards of 15 to 20 years.
“For people who have sat in my chair and had these hair extensions issues, they don’t ever need to go back to that,” she said. “Just how you need air and light to be able to breathe and have some life, your hair follicles need the same thing. But if you’re constantly pulling on them and having them locked up for so long, you’re working backwards.”
Something I did notice from Collins’s popular profile was that the hair of many of the women who were having these major style transformations seemed to be relaxed in the “after” photos. I wondered if that could be more damaging to already damaged hair, but Collins said she only applies partial relaxers for some clients.
“It depends on texture,” she said. “If a person has a certain grade of hair, I can just cut it, do a hydration treatment, steam it, do a nice haircut and they can wear it like that. But a lot of times, I have to put at least a partial relaxer around the perimeter for it to lay down and look real polished. I always tell people, for really short hair, if you want it to look really good, you’re going to have to have some relaxer somewhere.”
When I asked her what she would say to those who say that the best bet for these clients would be to go natural, Collins reiterated the point that people should wear their hair however they want (though she recommends embracing your own hair), including relaxers. However, these same people need to see stylists who have the right techniques. She said that at one time, wearing weaves was a lot simpler and healthier, but things changed drastically.
“I’ve been in the hair care industry for over 25 years, and the Black hair care industry has taken so many turns,” Collins said. “Back in the day, when everybody was doing relaxers, people had heads full of hair. They would get roller sets and still had a lot of hair with relaxers. And then bonding, it was one of the healthiest ways you could add hair extensions in. You could control the amount of glue you put on the tracks. You didn’t have to load the track up with glue, you would just dot it here and there just for it to last about a good week or two. People weren’t losing their hair by the boatload until every everyone started running toward sew-ins because they didn’t want glue in their hair. But think about it: If you constantly pull on the hair follicles — first of all, you have to braid this hair down, take some needle and thread to sew it down and lock it down for a long period of time, then you add four or five bundles of hair that will pull on it. Your hair doesn’t have a fighting chance to do anything because it’s weighed down.”
She even said that women need to ease up on wigs as well, specifically lacefront options that weren’t meant for everyday usage.
“Those units were made for theatrical shows and people who didn’t have any hair at all,” Collins said. “It gave you a more natural hairline and look. People today are not even wearing their hair. They’re sewing it down and throwing a lacefront on it because people have gotten lazy and don’t want to do their hair anymore.”
But she’s hoping to help other stylists help their clients change all of that. Collins has been teaching classes over the last three years in an effort to aid stylists in learning her technique and hopefully helping their clients with extreme hair damage. Her programs, called “Edge-U-Cation,” offer varying things, from creating waves on a short style and unique cutting techniques to ways to camouflage thinning and balding edges for those with traction alopecia and general hair loss. But overall, she hopes that she can also encourage women through these transformations to give their real hair a chance and weaves a rest.
“Enough is enough. It has been trending for too long,” she said. “I don’t know if you remember, but back in the day, it was a secret to wear hair extensions. Now people don’t even care anymore. Their hair goes from being short to down their back. Even when you look at TV now, it’s all over TV. Every reality star, everybody has it in their hair. It’s a trend. Do you remember when gold teeth were popular back in the day? I know I wanted one and I was crazy. It’s a trend, just like everything else. But when people see the damage that has happened over time, trust me, people are going to get back to wearing their hair. They’re slowly coming out of it now.”
Check out more of Jasmine’s transformation images via her Instagram page, which you can find here.