Maya Smith is the hip-hop head, hair stylist and creative entrepreneur behind The Doux. It’s a beauty brand that consists of a salon in Macon, Ga, and products positioned at the intersection of where her passions for hip-hop and hair meet. Smith has been in the business for over 22 years and has made it her mission to provide no frills hair care solutions.
“I don’t make a 4c product or a 2c product because it’s just not scientific. It makes a lot more sense to create products or to create formulas that create results on anybody’s hair, and it’s important to us not to get into selling these romantic botanical stories. You’ll never see a coconut cut open on my kitchen counter or hibiscus flowers in my marketing,” Smith tells Hello Beautiful. “I do believe in plant science, but what I understand from the process of the way that most products in my category are made is that those things that are used to market to the consumer don’t necessarily have a direct effect on the long-term results of the product. No one wants to say that, because it doesn’t sell anything, but the truth is when we develop our product line, we work on real people’s hair, thousands of clients over and over again to create those results.”
You can catch Smith dropping gems on her Instagram — we all have more time to play online during this time in quarantine. Interestingly, twist outs have been more popular during this time and that’s perfectly fine. Smith says it’s important to make hair care part of your self care routine and since we got the chance to talk to her, we couldn’t help but get some tips for the perfect twist out. We also got her take on hair typing, and more.
Like hip-hop’s most important founding principle — keeping it real — Maya Smith tells nothing but the truth.
Your products have the coolest packaging. It looks very Fresh Prince. What was it about 90s hip-hop that influenced you to the point where you infused it into your business?
I didn’t necessarily make a conscious decision. I’m an artist that happens to do hair. So hip-hop and street culture are my greatest influences as an artist. I’m a product of the culture, of course, and music is essential. It’s an essential part of my creative process when I’m working or when I’m creating, whether it be package design or graphic design. I also handle the graphic design and creative direction for the brand, so the names, the colors and the visual language of The Doux are just reflections of who I am as an artist and my love for hip-hop culture, and that’s just hip-hop in general. I know a lot of people draw parallels to the 90s, specifically because of the colors, but 80s/90s hip-hop, classic hip-hop in general, is what I’m inspired by, so it really just comes out in my work and I wanted to make sure that anything I created as a hair stylist reflects who I am as a person and as a creative.
We’ve seen a trend in retail giants like Target, and other places like this that sell The Doux, where they’re highlighting and partnering with small businesses. What does that type of support mean for businesses like yours?
I think the support of any retail partner definitely helps your consumer. It makes you more visible to the consumer and it really does help you expand your brand’s message. Being in Target has helped us communicate with more people where we would otherwise just be meeting with people on a one-on-one basis, from behind the chair. Now we’re able to take a lot of our expertise and our brand’s message to the masses.
Your publicist mentioned that twist outs have been a hit since quarantine started so what are some do’s and don’ts of how to make your twist out pop and what products do you suggest?
The natural hair movement is big on self-educating and watch and learn, but what’s missing is that you see the process but not really understanding the science of hair care. That can get you kind of confused as far as what to use and when, so the most important thing when it comes executing that twist out process is using the right set of products and understanding that you’re really just reforming your hair’s pattern into a pattern that doesn’t naturally exist, so the most important thing in doing the twist out is to keep in mind that you’re styling the hair, and that you want to use water-based products versus the traditional heavy oils and heavy butters. They don’t attract moisture because they’re oil-based. So while they’ll temporarily help you create that pattern but it doesn’t last long.
It’s really important to set the hair and to think about a twist out the way you would think about a roller set, and use your water-based products to fit that twist in place, and to let it dry completely before you take it down. Another big mistake that people make by watching YouTube is they completely miss the drying time because they get so obsessed with the take down part of the process. But they don’t really understand the significance of allowing the hair to dry completely. It doesn’t matter how great your product is. If products aren’t allowed to set on the hair the way that they’re designed to, you’re going to get a lot of swelling and frizz. So for us, the two products that we created for the twist outs as a solution is the Mousse Def Texture Foam, which is a water-based solution, and you can use that alone. It’s an all-in-one product, so it doesn’t have to be layered with leave in conditioner or extra oil, and if you’re a person who wants that softer hold, and you like to use a creamier product then you would want to use the Twist and Curl Cream.
So basically you’re telling me I’ve been using too much product!
Most people are using way too much product. It doesn’t matter how great the product is, I can’t stress that enough. If the product can’t dry, it’s just going to be frizzy. So you’re better off using a little bit of product on soaking wet hair that will dry faster. You’ll get a lot more hold that way than if you load it up with a bunch of stuff.
You mentioned that you don’t cater to the hair typing system when I mentioned my own 4c hair. Talk about that.
A lot of people are just really saying 4c, for example, as a way to describe a certain set of symptoms. The whole hair patten scale was designed by somebody who was selling a book and selling hair care products but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with cosmetology. In natural hair culture, the terms are being used because that’s the way that hair care companies are communicating with the natural hair community. They’re telling people classify their hair so that they can make better product selection. The problem with that is in Black culture or textured hair, kinky hair culture, we’re conditioned to to view 4c hair as dry or nappy or we’re usually classifying that by the symptoms or the things that we experience. For instance, when someone says to me, “I have 4c hair,” and I ask what do you mean by that? I get those same types of adjectives. It’s really dry. It’s coarse and hard to manage. Usually, 4c for most people is code for I don’t know what to do with my hair or is it more than I like to manage.
We’ve been conditioned to classify our hair as a culture but most people will find when the hair is reconditioned, rehydrated, and when it’s trimmed properly and there’s regularly scheduled maintenance that starts to happen, what feels like a 4c curl pattern a lot of times will feel a lot softer Instead and those curls start to appear to be looser because the hair is well hydrated. I know that’s a lot more than you asked when people are describing 4c hair they’re really just describing an experience they’re having with their hair more than the actual hair itself because it’s your hair density and your hair’s porosity that really determines how you want to use products, more than the actual curl pattern itself.
Finally, being in this period of quarantine has some people freaking out because maybe they can’t get their hair done or the professional grooming services they’re used to. Talk about how people can lean into hair as part of their self-care routine during this time.
This is important for women of color because we’ve been so conditioned to see our beauty in media images where there’s a lack of representation. A lot of times we have a really distorted idea of what we’re supposed to look like so I don’t necessarily see it as negative that everyone can’t get to a salon or nail shop. It really gives us as a culture the opportunity to to disrobe, and it gives us an opportunity to see ourselves the way we really are and start to appreciating and nurturing that. It’s not going to kill you to do a shampoo and a deep conditioner and sit in a bubble bath. People now have an opportunity to see what our hair really looks like, and to experiment with new styles because they’re not going anywhere. A lot of self care is really seeing yourself and spending time with yourself. We get so caught up in running to this office or this party or that party. We’re masked, in a way, when it comes to how we show up in the world and really, the heart of The Doux is helping people see themselves and see their hair in a way that they never have before. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we get a timeout when it comes to spending time with ourselves.