Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto


The Evolution of our Crowns: Carlo Pinto and her waist-long locs 

Carla Pinto, an independent stylist in Brooklyn, NY, is an artist whose dynamic voice and masterful techniques encourage increased frequency of salon visits. She specializes in all natural hairstyles, especially beginning locs. Her strong commitment to being bigger than hair – helping women see that they are “worth” it – is the driving force behind why she continues to be a hairstylist that educates her clients on the necessity of hair care and hair goals, over styles. One look at her beautiful waist-long locs, and one listen to her thought-provoking messages will keep you coming back for more. All realness here, so as they say, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!”

 Check out our chat below. And after, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How did you begin your journey as a hair care professional?

How I really got started is my mother permed my hair at 10, and by 11 it was all gone and cut off. I had the traumatic experience of attending my junior prom with a TWA (teeny weeny afro) and a yellow pleaded skirt. I was horrified, but I had to be proud at the same time. My mother was so happy that I had an afro, as she had always had one. However, she permed because she didn’t know what to do with my hair at the time. What’s worse is she didn’t respect the perm—she didn’t know how to comb or care for the hair—that’s not who she was. I vowed to never let anyone do that to me unless I wanted it. All of my peers were horrible, they made fun of me – I grew up that day. I started doing my own hair from that point forward. For the last 30 years, I’ve had people I’ve gone to, but I’ve been in complete control of whatever style I’ve had.

However, I began professionally due to a pregnancy and the need to be home. I began to apprentice for Ona the Locksmyth, the premier loctitian in NYC and the founder of Locksmyths on Greene Ave in Brooklyn. She was a real study of African culture – after viewing hieroglyphics of people grooming others’ hair – she developed a motion, a locking technique to re-create these locs. In addition, she is and was a lover of grooming and our people, and she shared the message of love with them. She’s an inspiration and legend in the natural hair world.

What do you specialize in?

I am definitely, well—to have a title, a natural hair stylist. Different from a braider, I concentrate on hair care first and styling second. My style is goal-oriented, and I am concerned foremost with what your unique hair goals are. Hair care first, styling after. I am a loctitian with an official locing technique under my belt and can perform full loc extensions from scratch and any loc style desired by my clients. Additionally, I braid with natural hair, synthetic and human hair extensions perform all types of twists, but nothing that requires tension on my clients’ hair. I do color, but always with the concerns and consideration of the quality of my clients’ hair. I won’t sacrifice applying color because she wants it. So, I guess I specialize in hair care.



You seem really passionate about hair care. Many Upswingers have mentioned their love of some natural hairstyles that may not be the best for them in terms of “hair care”, what advice would you give them?

Have options. A lot of times a desired style [read, amazing box braids] is based on something they saw, even though they aren’t sure how they will look with it. They get tunnel vision. I’ve never had a problem creating a slightly different picture than the one initially in their head and altering that picture with a style that emphasizes hair care. I want them to know “I see something even better for you.” But it also goes back to your goals. Is your goal “the best thing for me?” or “something different than the usual?” Let’s have a discussion, because it’s a partnership – an intimate relationship that is focused on the goal – your goal. That way our discussions can be framed around this – styles that interfere with your goals too much, should be out of bounds. I may say, “this style might do XYZ to you, so let’s tone it down.”


Wow, that really impacts my way of thinking. So, with all the outside influences we have now, especially with the advent of social media, how do you differentiate yourself and your message?

Great question. Among my immediate peers and mentors in natural hair care, about two years ago, when the “naturalista” thing came about, there was a bit of tension when women, who have been natural their whole lives seeking guidance, comfort, and good, honest knowledge, came into our established salons and said, “I saw this on YouTube, and this product will do this, and this is what I want.” We had to say, “How does this apply to your life and your hair technique?” The answer was always, ‘I don’t know exactly.” I say this because you have to find yourself in all this information. As women, we have seasons – we must be cognizant that we are always changing. In the world of the internet, anyone has to put their best face forward. There are so many women just seeking to belong, and I feel sad. I feel sad because they use multiple products and follow multiple voices and still don’t know where they belong. [The message] You must go on your own journey.  


But we love our products!

Yes, but with the advent of the blogger and multiple product lines – someone may have to endorse an entire line. Then what happens? You try so many products, too much, then product swapping begins, and you realize she’s not into hair care, she into product junking. It’s the blind leading the blind. But I don’t have that too much of that any more. I have a small clientele.


So with so many options then, what do you feel is really important? Where do we begin, especially if we lack a quality expert or stylist who knows our hair and can lead us?

Focus on the hair care opposed to the style. You have to think, “The integrity of my hair is in a good place, so now I can begin to style.” But our hair already has a certain style, so again, it’s starts with hair care first and foremost. And without an expert – it’s simply a great moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, and a good trim. With the shampoo, it’s not “No sulfates” necessarily. There are products out there with mild sulfates, and that’s okay. It’s like eating a little bit of fat – you aren’t going to die. Don’t be so extreme, that extreme just makes you more extreme and you come off track of your goal of healthy hair. Also, it’s important if you have color-treated hair, to get something for color treated hair – milder sulfates so it doesn’t strip your hair even more in its altered state. Secondly, get a great conditioner, and it doesn’t have to be of the same brand! For instance, Shea Moisture has great couples and their products work really well together, but again, depending where you are with hair care and styling you may need something different – be flexible. Your winter hair might enjoy one brand shampoo and a different brand conditioner – you don’t buy underwear from only one brand….but again it’s about learning and growing in what’s best for you.


Any more?

Yes, know the difference between a moisturizer and oils. Oils nourish, and moisturizers keep moisture balanced. Most people believe they are interchangeable – they are not. Depending on density, porosity, color or not color treated, medication you’re on – you may need more or less of either – there are so many different tweaking variables to take into consideration. So most importantly, tune up your hair. With a good shampoo, conditioner, good cut or trim, we’re usually good. Your hair has great style already, but the base of that good style is always great hair care – it makes a difference and is the most important.


So what can your clients’ expect in your chair?

Education. I educate them immediately. I’m not flashy, I don’t endorse any group of product because I want that independence, and I want you to feel comfortable with yourself first. I don’t want you to think, “If I don’t have this, I’m nothing.” I want my clients to think, “I’ll find my niche and my style.” And it will be the style we end up achieving.


Daily inspiration in looks created for client:

Inspiration is from my clients actually. I am inspired by the lack of inspiration. I am bored and aggressively disappointed in the way we are constantly afraid to be excited and celebrate ourselves and our crown—our hair. Because of that, and especially my clients who don’t add a lot of extensions, we create what we are feelings right then. Thus, as a client, I want you to know that when you come to me, this style was created for you and this moment—I’m not giving you a cookie cutter look. It’s important to me because its what I would want. We have an opportunity to be creative and challenge ourselves. It is just hair, but it is also our crown. When we are confident in our crown, we feel wonderful. When a woman feels wonderful and is inspired, it transfers into every aspect of her life. She’s more successful, powerful, and competent – she feels the way she’s always wanted to feel about herself. That’s the inspiration.


What are your future goals?

What I would like to do more than hair – is more for woman. I want [women] to become more complete. Because we get dressed, we buy fabulous things, have fabulous jobs, give to our families, but we don’t give to ourselves. We walk around as though we are queens without a crown. It’s really not just about the hair but the woman. And OUR women. There is this trauma that is going on. We aren’t in a good place. There is a lot of self-hate. Once you start to expose that – there is a lot of abuse that we put on ourselves, thrust upon us from our family unit. So much dysfunction because of our dark skin, curly hair, what we think we are supposed to look like. And fixing this is critical because women so dictate our families’ emotional balance.

That’s the most important part of what I do and why I do it. I’ve done so many other things, but this is the toughest but the most rewarding, because its so important. My aim is not just to fix your hair but “nigga nats,” “your hair don’t grow,” “you look like a boy or man,” “straight is better,” “what’s your boss/husband/man gonna think,” “you don’t have money,” “are you afro-centric” – all those labels we say to ourselves that fracture us and cause a lot of trauma. When women who have never seen their hair in their adult lives are forced to cut it off because of bad styling and cannot come to grips with how they LOOK – we need healing. It’s about our hair, our women, and our families.


To try out a natural hairstyle focused on hair care or to continue a thought-provoking, education-riddled discussion, reach Carla here. And when you’re done, don’t forget to rate her on UpswingMe! Drop a line below to share your thoughts on her interview and join the discussion.




Blog Stylists

6 reviews

  1. Michelle, Aug 05, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    Carla has been doing my hair for several years and I can’t praise her enough. She has educated me on hair care during the many discussions that we have when I’m sitting in her chair. I’ve been to salons where the focus was on the hairstyle, but a day after I left the salon my scalp was itchy. This never happens when I leave Carla’s chair. Hair care is number one with Carla, she also makes a point to have her client feel beautiful and renewed by the time she leaves the salon. Carla works with integrity and genuinely cares about the health and well-being of all of her clients. I love, love, love her.

  2. Yaalieth Simpson, Aug 05, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    Talented and knowledgeable in so many arenas – which includes, but is not limited to hair care and wellness – Carla Pinto uses her divine artistry and intelligence to craft unique visions that cultivate beauty, growth and expansion of the client’s crown and inner character. I highly recommend her work.

  3. Eliza Wrighr, Aug 05, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    My first appointment with Carla was transformative! In our first conversation, Carla afforded me a level of kindness, compassion and respect I had yet to experience in a salon. She didn’t just “do my hair.” She treated me and my hair with dignity. Since then, she has continued to nourish my locs with her fierce prowess and my spirit with wisdom, anecdotes and humor. As they grow, so do I. Carla is grace.

  4. tammy, Aug 06, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    Very educational gr8 job sis I am soooo proud of you. You are a born server, you serve others with excellence. Congrats

  5. Angelique, Aug 20, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    Finally I have found the stylist for my daughter. My daughter who is 4 had 2 horrible experiences with people that didn’t know how to work with natural kinky curly hair. I’m so grateful to have met her at a pop up shop for shea moisture last year. She is one of the most kind, warm people I have ever met. She was so gentle with my daughter. She told her step by step what she was going to do to her. My daughter never once had a frown on her face or cried, she loved her twists and didn’t want to take them out. Thank you so much Carla, this was the beginning of many many visits to come. 🙂

  6. Shante Haskins, Sep 05, 2013 - Featured STYLIST: Carla Pinto

    Carla Pinto is truly outstanding. I just made my transition to natural hair and Carla has truly educated me on the entire process of natural hair care. Her knowledge is very broad on the subject. I am so very thankful that I found her. She not only cares about the health of your hair, she truly cares about you as a person. God has given her a true gift, may she continue to bless us with her knowledge and fantastic services in the Brooklyn community!!! Shante


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