ISSE 2015 Recap: Where Were the Curls?

ISSE 2015 Recap: Where Were the Curls?

Hey guys!

I didn't talk much about it prior to (because I wasn't sure that I would get in being a non-license holding, non-professional and all), but I had the extreme pleasure of attending ISSE (International Salon & Spa Expo) 2015 in Long Beach, California. Y'all know I'm an LA native, so getting there was nothing but a quick drive down the the the the 710. It sounds worse than it actually was, lol.

ISSE 2015 Recap: Where Were the Curls?I was able to attend ISSE thanks to Jodi Cioffi and the Zotos Professional team -- and I am super grateful for the experience. There was absolutely no way I would have gotten there without Jodi. ISSE is an exclusive experience for beauty and haircare professionals, and now I see why.

I started out my afternoon super wide-eyed, visually, and auditorily overstimulated -- like a kid at Disneyland for the first time. There was so much going on, I didn't know where to start. I thought I was in product junkie heaven, as my eyes and ears began to focus and really take in the experience. I saw brands I recognized immediately -- Vidal Sassoon, Amika, Sexy Hair, Zotos Professional (of course), Agadir, Pravana, American Crew, and countless others. After checking in and chatting with Jodi and the Zotos crew, I wandered around to get a glimpse of what ISSE had to offer.

The more I walked around, the more I realized something was wrong.

There was a serious void at ISSE 2015 -- there were absolutely no booths or spaces dedicated to curly, natural, or textured hair. Not. A. Single. One. I wasn't expecting a natural hair expo, but there are salon professional curly brands like DevaCurl and Ouidad that I expected to see there. Heck, I would have even like to see Miss Jessie's or even TIGI and their curl line. I don't know if they were snubbed or just chose not to attend -- but the lack of resources and representation for curly hair was a disappointment.

ISSE 2015 Long Beach
There was a lot of this....going on at ISSE 2015.
I think ISSE 2015 missed a huge opportunity this year in neglecting the curly hair community. As much as the expo was about selling and introducing products, there was ample space for education and demonstrations. I walked by runway and stage after runway and stage watching master stylists and brand educators cut, flat iron, blow out, dye, and add in hair. Not a single demonstration on curly hair. In fact, I overheard one stylist/educator inform a crowd of 50 or so stylists at the Brazilian Blowout booth that clients with kinky, curly, and frizzy hair are the ones who need the Brazilian Blowout the most. I flipped my curls and walked away....into some more mess.

I moseyed along to another booth, where a brand actually had a curl cream. I thought I was finally getting somewhere. First, the brand rep touched my hair without permission. Second, she told me to stop using gel and to use their curl cream only. But not to define my curls -- but to brush them out and prepare for straightening. This was beginning to be painful.

ISSE 2015 Long Beach

The absolute last straw that had me nearly storm out of the Long Beach Convention center was a run in with a gentleman that wanted to show me a flat iron. Eh, I have 3 -- but what's the harm in looking? He started explaining something about steam and ions, but I got distracted by his purple bang and the fact that he sounded like a posh version of Klaus from American Dad. Next thing I know, he's pulling out his chair and firing up an iron to straighten my hair. No, sir. Absolutely not. I declined, and his words were, "Let me just straighten one piece. You'll love it." I declined again, citing that I only straighten my hair a few times a year. He insisted, "I'll do it on the back so it will be covered." I said no, and he went back to the one piece argument. I finally got irritated and told him I had just washed my hair, and it was still wet in some places (which was the total truth). He let out a posh sigh of irritation, and gave me the haute version of "to the left" -- turning away from me and flat ironing his purple bang.

ISSE 2015 Long Beach Product Haul
My ISSE haul :)
I can honestly say that Amika and Zotos saved me. Not only was the Amika setup so cute (their colors are to die for), but they actually had products that catered to textured hair. They had sold out of their curl cream, but also had a curl gel and leave-in conditioner in stock. Oh, and a deep conditioner that will probably make my soul very happy. Beyond the products (which I totally bought, because like 5 products for $60 is a steal -- especially considering that the deep conditioner is $40 on its own regular retail), the Amika folks took the time out to educate me on products, inquire if I needed help, and just overall be personable. They didn't just shove samples and bags at me -- they shared product knowledge and actually cared that I wasn't looking for products to straighten my hair. Thank you Amika -- may you live long and prosper.

Zotos was another happening spot for me. Although the focus of their space was hair color, they made me feel welcomed and I even had the opportunity to chat products and hair cuts with a fellow curly girl. I appreciated the fact that Zotos definitely has products that appeal to ladies with natural hair -- and I will most certainly be sharing my review of those soon.

Overall, I did enjoy my experience at ISSE 2015. I got a superb deal on Amika products (you can count on a thorough review soon), and tons of free samples from other brands. I noticed while sorting through my Zotos goodie bag (they gave away free hair color!!!), they also included a sheet of coupons -- one of which was for a free 180 Pro Discovery Kit at Sally's (the discovery kit contains a shampoo, conditioner, and damage eliminator treatment). So you know I stopped at Sally's on my way home. Free goodies aside, I still very deeply appreciated the exposure to the professional side of the haircare industry.

Although there were some struggle points, I walked away with a re-focused perspective and some very valuable knowledge. ISSE 2015 helped me re-focus my perspective in why my blog is so important (to me). Yes, I'm here to share my experience, connect, and help you all. That will always be the heart and soul of what I do. But I also see a larger mission -- advancing the narrative in natural and curly haircare. ISSE very plainly showed me that we are a loooooong way from mainstream acceptance of our hair. Yes, there are celebs big chopping and flaunting their kinks and coils on the red carpet, and more women in commercials have curly hair. Those are great stepping stones. But I can't ignore the fact that virtually every brand's response to sexy hair involved a flat iron or straight weave pieces. Because you know, my hair is a problem that needs to be solved.

My curls are what's hot in the streets. :::one more hair flip for the road:::

My challenge to ISSE 2016: Open and expose the professional community to the world of curly hair. There are a wealth of professional-level brands out there -- Ouidad, DevaCurl, and Miss Jessie's to name a few. Invite them. Bring them out. Show stylists there is money to be made in caring for curly hair.

Thank you again to Jodi and the Zotos Professional team. You guys were amazing. Thanks for making a curly girl feel welcomed <3


  1. There used to be tons of brands that carry curly lines but not many were present. In fact most of the major vendors were missing! Paul Mitchell , redken, Wella, morrocan oil, keratin complex. That's a few of the major salon brands that were MIA. In fact redken was having a huge symposium in Las Vegas at the same time! I will not attend another ISSE SHOW for now because it's not worth the $60 admission price. I expect a lot for that price and they failed miserably this year! As a hairstylist I go to see new exciting techniques, products and trends for the year, I saw none of that this year. Super disappointed.