Why Are Beauty Schools Ignoring Natural Hair?

by Leila Noelliste

“But you have to understand, we don’t study natural hair here. We study real hair.”

I was on the phone with an instructor from a well-known Chicago beauty school and I just finished asking her about natural hair care basics, things like daily moisturizing, deep conditioning, detangling and clarifying. Her cluelessness became quickly evident and yet, her company wanted her to speak at an event for naturals that I was organizing.

I was excited at first, when I heard a fancy-pants Chicago beauty school liked my site and wanted to partner. And somehow, I was still optimistic when I was told the designated speaker tried, and failed, to go natural.

But my hopes were pretty much dashed with her declaration of the unrealness of natural hair. I think it was the fact she spoke the words without a hint of the gross irony.

After that conversation I set out to understand how – despite existing in an age where Black celebrities are taking razors to their heads in the name of naturalness — the mainstream beauty industry seems so blind to it all.

I asked my readers to submit their insider beauty industry insights. Reader Aeleise Harris, a licensed Chicago stylist, shared her experience; “The haircare industry is lagging behind its consumers when it comes to natural hair. White companies don’t market to us and the Black companies only teach about relaxers. There is a serious disconnect between a.) consumers who want and need licensed professionals to care for their natural hair, b.) companies that produce natural products but provide no advanced education on natural hair c.) mainstream product companies that don’t even acknowledge the natural movement, and d.) stylists who can’t/won’t access the education to branch into natural haircare.”

I attended the Aveda Institute Tallahassee in 2005-2006 where care for Black hair — even how to relax it — was barely taught. Natural hair was discussed even less, except in the context of flat iron silking/chemical texturizing it. I learned natural hair through my and my friends’ experiences. Upon moving back to Chicago, I attended a Black hair school to get extra certification hours, and natural hair was only taught in the context of pressing it.

Beauty school is designed to teach you hair theory — the anatomy, chemistry, and the disorders of hair and scalp – the safe use of chemical treatments, and basic cutting and styling techniques that can be used on a majority of hair types. A beauty school’s only goal is to help students pass the state board exam, which is normally a 100-question computerized test.

After that your real education begins. Advanced classes are where stylists hone their skills of cut, color and style. Most of these classes are provided by companies that produce salon professional products, like Aveda, Redken, and Mizani.

But natural hair product companies go consumer direct, completely bypassing the licensed stylist. And unlike companies like Aveda, they are not providing the advanced education stylists rely on to build their educational arsenal. They do not stock their products in professional-only stores — and I should note that the average product in a professionals store is 30 to 50 percent less than retail.

Many professional stylists want to incorporate natural hair into their service menus, but first the education must be accessible and experiential and the products must be salon quality.”

What are your thoughts on this topic?

For more Black Girl Long Hair please visit www.bglhonline.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bianca-Belonga/1353368701 Bianca Belonga

    Wearing my hair natural for almost 11 years, it is unfortunate that everything said in this article is so true. I guess “society” has done a damn good job at deeming natural unkept, unprofessional, and militant. There is no proper education on how to care, and the stylist are completely clueless. I have two horror stories about professional stylists and my hair, and two too many!. I refuse to go to anyone to do my hair at this point. But they can relax and fry the HELL out of everyone else’s hair. There is nothing wrong with wearing weaves and relaxers, but it would be nice to sit in a professional salon to get my natural hair styled.

  • http://allnaptural.blogspot.com/ Laquita

    Great article! – There is actually a company that is working on behalf of briaders/natural hair stylist to get the licensing regulations changed – they are also providing training, state license board exam assistance as well as affordable healthcare for the stylist.

    For more information join in on the ebraiding.net/eNaturals conference call tonight 6PM Eastern time – 1-800-920-7487 pass code 35684528# (pound)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sasha-Shae-Shaw/85600031 Sasha-Shae Shaw

    Great article. I hope one day they will all be open to the idea that natural hair isn’t going any where. It hasn’t for years, and I am sure it won’t any time soon. I too thought about why beauty schools have yet to share knowledge on taking care of natural tresses, but it’s great to see that we are working hard to send them a message. I hope something gets done.


  • http://www.EbonysBraidery.webs.com Mesha

    Great article!

    There are some little known gems that teach natural hair care, the anatomy of the hair, recognizing scalp disorders and cleanliness/ disinfecting. The school that I highly recommend and where I also received my certification from is Madam Walker’s Braidery and School in Temple Hills, MD. The instructors are Marci and Shawnti Walker. They also provide classes at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD.

    I think some of these schools need to reach out to those of us in the industry that provide classes, that have their licenses or certs, are natural and have been providing their services for awhile.

    BTW – I have been asked to teach a class at her school. So reach out because knowledge is power and power in numbers cannot be ignored.

  • brina

    I’ve been natural for 10yrs now and ironically, I did it so that I WON’T have to be confined to a salon. In fact, the only time I go is for trimming and color which they’ll straighten my hair for. What I find disheartening is when the price is higher for naturals. I’ll never understand that. Relaxers are waay more because you have to buy them as well as the shampoo/conditioner and other styling products.

    However, there’s a thing called supply/demand. In our natural world, it may seem like a lot of women are natural but in reality there aren’t enough to change the system.

  • http://bglhonline.com Leila

    @Brina … Interestingly, at the naturals event I mentioned in the piece, many women said they would love to see more natural hair stylists — especially ones that are specialized in cutting natural hair.

    Although natural hair is generally a low-maintenance lifestyle, there are many women who don’t have the advanced skills and abilities to diversify their styling options.

  • BritDefine

    Great article, and everything in it really needed to be said. I am currently transitioning into my natural hair state (6 months strong yeah!!) and I have noticed that there are very few stylists who specialize in natural hair care. heck I don’t even know who to go to get my BC done..but my best friend who’s natural can help me out with that I’m sure.
    I just don’t understand why people think that natural hair is bad hair and that it is nappy and black women in general should move around from that state of hair. Its what God gave us so why can’t it be appreciated, loved, and cared for by everyone else? There needs to be something done here. but in the meantime, I will stick to caring and doing my own beautiful hair.

  • I love love an Asian Man

    Always natural. That’s the first thing my husband notice … my long natural hair. And he love it!!!

  • Alexandra

    They need to get with the program. What did beuaty schools teach when black women and relaxers werent so common? There was a time where afro’s were the norm.
    Sooner or later, they’ll have to start ‘learning’ more about natural black hair, cause a lot of black women are not going to relax their hair anymore. They’ll just lose money….

  • Beef Bacon

    Right on….

    8 years natural and oh so happy with that choice. As I do realize it is MY choice. A choice that I see everywhere, more so than 2-3 years ago. I went home to Alabama last weekend and was shock to see so many women rocking pony puffs.

    Something has obviously awakened in my sisters and they are tired of seeing the effects or relaxers on our hair. Which is not seen until your well in your 30s and 40s, which is why I THINK most woman that age rock short relaxed hairstyles?

    I had a woman (aspiring hair stylist) that made a SAD SAD comment the other day in response to a woman who just did a BC….

    “I told her to do something else to her hair because wearing a short afro is NOT feminine” *ughhh* It hit me to the core that I am sure she is not the only hair stylist with this view. I feel the need to tell her: You should not say this to anyone as a hair stylist and especially as a black one at that. Natural hair will not just be a trend for long…it is coming back to stay and there will afros of all sizes seen.

    I have yet to say this because I do not want to get in a debate and she is entitled to her viewpoint. I just feel that when you are in the position to make your clients feel beautiful, you should be careful with your choice of words.

  • http://clutchmagonline.com/lifeculture/feature/outside-the-flock/ Just Me

    I’ve been natural for a while now and just started babylocs almost 2 months ago. I’m very happy with my decision. I did not go to a loctician because I did a lot of research and was able to do it myself (I even made my own loc butter.) I must add that I also attended cosmo school years ago, but didn’t pursue it as career after graduation because I didn’t really learn anything about taking care of Black hair accept for the basic relaxer application technique, flat ironing, wetsets and the press and curl. I was never comfortable with putting such harsh chemicals in someone else’s hair. I just alway felt I was doing more harm than good. I was a decent enough stylist, I had a small “kitchen” clientele, you know, a favor here and a favor there, but I was never passionate about it, Once I went natural, I stopped performing my kitchen services. I’ve learned alot about natural hair just through trial and error of taking care of my own hair. When I decided to loc, I thought about Sister Locks, (which is a professional service in it’s own right) but decided against it because I felt the cost was highway robbery (plus, I personally like the look of traditional locks better, but that’s neither here nor there). Other than that, I never really considered going to a pro to take care of my natural hair.

    Now taking care of other women’s (and men’s) natural hair; that I can see myself being passionate about.

  • http://www.noiredesignconcepts.com Camille E. Reed

    The main issue with why Natural Hair cirriculums aren’t taught in schools is mainly political. Think about this: How will black haircare companies that market relaxers and all of their other supplemental (and often unnecessary) products unless they are being raved about by the cosmetologist, themselves? If we want natural hair schools, we are going to have to create them. More importantly, we are going to have to sit with the State Boards of Cosmetology and make them understand that there is a market for this and that it would serve the people to make this a legitimate course of education.

    I have had my license for several years now. I studied theory on my own for 2 years, then accumulated my hours through Maryland’s in-Salon apprenticeship program. After another 4 months of intense, private instruction, I passed my state exam on the first try. I support e.naturals in what they are doing here in this state. There needs to be a higher focus on education, teaching these young people not only how to style, but to maintain the hair’s integrity and strength in its most natural state.

    -Camille E. Reed
    owner, Noire Salon

  • http://www.theknottytruth.net m michele george

    this is common and the beauty industry seems to enjoy missing the mark. thats fine, they’ll miss our money too. but, no, the information is NOT out there on natural hair and they act as though it can wait for another day. the industry is 20years behind the time, and to stuck to come out of it. its sad, but they need to release the art of black hair care and allow it to go in a different direction, since they dont know what to do with it.

  • rugglebyc

    Given the Dominican takeover of straightened hair care and the Asian dominance of weaves, wigs and related products, this is a perfect area for enterprising African Americans to get a foothold in the marketplace.

  • http://www.naturalafrodisiac.com Cassandra Bentley

    I recently toyed with the idea of becoming a natural hair stylist and started inquiring with various beauty schools. I spoke with a few reps on the phone who either couldn’t tell me how much their curriculum was dedicated to black hair (let alone natural hair) or just said that a black hair model would be included in the kit. And I have the feeling that all that will be taught is how to straighten it.

    In my research, though, I discovered that there are a few states who offer natural hair stylist licenses with lesser hours requirements, and in those states there are schools that just teach natural hair. There is one in Detroit, Everett’s, that I would LOVE to attend, but I live in Indiana and thus the license here would be no good. If I were in a position where I could uproot myself for 6 months I would love to go to the school just for the education.

  • dvine

    what the hell is real hair???

  • bernie

    There is definitely a lack of stylists that do natural hair. However, there is something I don’t understand about this article: as far as I know (I am natural), there really are not any products that can be said to tailor specifically to natural hair. Yes, there are natural products (products using only natural ingredients), but not all people who like using natural products have natural hair. Also, not all naturals have an affinity for using natural products. I use the same mainstream product lines for my hair because they are less expensive work just as well to moisturize and strengthen my hair just like they do for anybody else white, black relaxed, curly blond etc.

  • http://www.bglhonline.com Black Girl Long Hair

    @bernie… Hey! It’s Leila.

    I definitely think there are certain brands that lean towards a natural audience; Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter, The Jane Carter Solution, Curls and Kinky Curly come to mind.

    They might be open to everyone using their products, but I think it’s fair to say that they all tout natural hair as a specialty.

  • Courtney

    “Although natural hair is generally a low-maintenance lifestyle, there are many women who don’t have the advanced skills and abilities to diversify their styling options.”

    You are so right Leila. I am one of those women.
    While I like my fade haircut, I would love to grow out my hair and play with it more but I’m pretty clueless when it comes to styling my hair, braiding it, etc.
    I’m willing to pay someone to do it but right now I am not at the point in my life where I can afford to pay someone $70 to do some two-strand twists in my hair. I say $70 because that is what the two salons (I know of) in my area charge to do two-strand twists. Thanks but no thanks.

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  • Camielle

    There definitely need to be more salons that cater to natural hair. I’ve been natural twice in my life, once for 5 years, and then a couple of years later for about a year. I have absurdly thick hair, and frankly I got tired of the time involved in styling it, so I went back to a relaxer. I do my own braids and twists, and I’d never pay anyone else to do them, but I didn’t have any options other than a fro when it came to my own completely natural hair. It didn’t grow, it didn’t do anything and it was frustrating. I really could have used someone to help me with it and show me how to really embrace it.

  • Beef Bacon

    I agree. I am not sure if anyone near ATL or RICHMOND VA but these cities are having a Natural HAIR WEEKEND——


    I look online for styles, an even print them to show them to my stylist. I have found a stylist in VA that is reasonably priced– 50 and under for my styles. I find hair accessories from the beauty supply stores or even make them out of old clothing, etc. I have also found a back up stylist on CRAIGSLIST. AS with anything, ask questions and research. I am not as creative as others are when it comes to self-styling. I just throw a pony puff in and go. However, when I want to switch it up, I do my research and move forward. There are ways to switch it up–you just must KNOW YOUR RESOURCES.

  • http://www.thebestreddress.com Janna

    I just skip them. What’s the point? My hair has never been better, healthier or longer since doing it for myself. Since each head is so diverse, I’m really not sure it can be taught in a beauty school. I think you have to have walked the walk, and learned for yourself and via other. That’s the only kind of person I’d let touch my natural head. Someone from a beauty school, that hasn’t lived it? I don’t think so. Never on your life.


  • bernie

    Hi Leila, yes you’re right. Those are companies that cater to naturals. I guess I forgot about them. @ Janna, I totally agree. I am a DIY natural all the way. I think it’s because up until a few years ago, you really had to do it all yourself if you decided to go natural! But I like that. Although I think women should definitely have the option to see a hairdresser who specializes in natural hair, there is so much POWER in being able to do it yourself, to be able to care for and style your own hair! I mean, let’s be honest…it was when black women lost the KNOWLEDGE to style and care for their own hair that they became slaves to the black hair care industry who–as we all know–never had hair health on their agenda. Women became dependent on that weekly visit to the salon that they felt they needed. It became all about the product and the professional. I for one LOVE the fact that natural hair is in a stage where women are learning about hair health and styling for themselves! So empowering.

  • Donna

    There are beauty professionals that study the care of natural hair and are rockin naturals themselves. The issue is going to salons that do not specialize in natural hair and expecting them to understand your hair.

    Stylists in general, good ones will know how to care for your hair because varying hair structures are done and it’s like the medical field, a practiced not perfected profession. But someone who has done the same styles on the same or even varying hair textures 1000 times over compared to a friend or a newbie natural on youtube, the stylist will have the greater know how/experience.

  • Robbie

    Thank your for your comment.I feel the same way that you do. As a natural girl for almost 1 year now, I decided to let my hair grow. It is too bad that so many people do not want to accept what God gave us as beautiful. I plan to honor, cherish and love mine just the way God blessed me despite some very negative and stupid comments coming from our people. My hair is not ugly, it represents me.

  • http://www.EbonysBraidery.webs.com Mesha

    I like the idea that my meetup group, DMV Naturals, have in place. We believe in “each one, teach one.” We offer natural hair, product and ingredient information. We also have a series of meetups where we each do each others hair and share tips and techniques.

    I think these type of meetup groups empower naturals. We dont have to depend on a salon, we save money, we educate one another and we share in our journey.

    There are wonderful schools that offer natural hair care licensing and certification. One is in Detroit, Everette’s Cornrows (http://everettes.com/online.html) where they offer in class and online classes as well. Another is Madam Walker’s Braidery and School in Maryland (http://www.princegeorges.com/madam_walkers_braidery_school-sp-1462).

  • http://www.EbonysBraidery.webs.com Mesha

    Correction to website for Madam Walker’s Braidery and School – http://www.princegeorges.com/madam_walkers_braidery_school-sp-1462/

  • Beef Bacon

    That makes SOOOOO much sense Bernie! Great comment!

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  • Takia


    Iive in maryland have natural hair and I’ve been searching for someone far and wide that can help me with my natural hair! I would love it if you could point me in the right direction!

  • Takia

    I live in Maryland, I’m looking you up right now!! I’m so in need of my natural hair to be taken care of!!!

  • http://www.EbonysBraidery.webs.com Mesha

    Hi – It a depends n what you ae looking for.

    Ebonys Braidery
    Stylist: Mesha
    I specialize in double strand twists, spring twists and fluffy twists. I work from home.

    Infiniti Naturals (Natural Hair Salon)
    Stylist: Shawnta
    Locs and great loc product

    Naklectic Natural Hair (Natural Hair Salon)
    Stylist: All
    All Styles

    Stylist: Tempie
    PG County

    Madam Walker’s Braidery and School
    Stylist: Shawnti and March
    PG County

    I have a whole lot more. There are little gems throughout MD and DC. You can join me on http://www.meetup.com/DMVNaturals to get more information. You can also join and recieve great information about meetups where we share information, tips, techniques and so much more.


  • http://www.EbonysBraidery.webs.com Mesha

    Madam Walkers Braidery
    Stylist is Marci and not March

  • jkk28269

    “But you have to understand, we don’t study natural hair here. We study real hair”….so Natural black hair is not real…??????????PLease give me a break !

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  • Blaquestarr

    I have always been natural (24 years strong!) and what I’ve learned about taking care of my hair and stylists is that you look for someone with the same type of hair that you have. My hair is thick, course, and long to the point my mother gave up doing my hair when I was 5. From 5 until 16 I wore my hair in braids, and the lady who did my hair was not a license stylists or hairdresser, but someone who had a gift for it and as she discovered things about her hair she passed it along to me and the skills to do my own hair. When I started getting it pressed instead of braids (she still did it) and eventually when I went off to school, I had to take the knowledge she had given me and apply it to my own head. Although she eventually went to cosmetology school to get an official license and learn the science behind how the body grows hair, she had a “crafting” license in GA which allowed her to call her hair braiding shop a craft shop. Her best advice she gave me about my hair was “no one will know your hair better than you, because you’ve had it all your life – except me, because I’ve been doing it for you most of you life”
    Now that I’ve been away from home 6+ years, I’ve started taking care and doing my own hair because I didn’t trust anyone else. I went to salons for presses and tried to tell them what worked or didn’t work and some stylists actually ignored me! I’ve had bad presses, bad washes, and found it SO hilarious that people were always telling me how my hair should act or look when they just met me. I finally decided that I would stop going to salons in general and just experiment myself with some suggestions from friends, but I would find what products, what styles, and what habits worked for me. Because my hair is unique – naturally.
    Sure, it may be a stress to have to do my own hair (i complain often about how long it takes me to even cornrow my hair in giant plaits), and I get some friends to do simple styles for me because I don’t want to be bothered, but in the end – I direct what happens to my hair and how it should be treated. Because 24 years in – who else knows my hair history besides me?

  • http://www.faithbowmanphotography.com Faith Bowman

    Having lived in Chicago or a long time I will say this- the daay I broke down and wore a wig to a job interview was the day my life got easier. The day I went to the Egyptian hair salon and got my 5 years of natural hair growth relaxed into a thick, wavy, past shoulders mane- was the day I got a boyfriend. No one really looked at me before the hair came. I am dark, so my nappy hair made me a double outcast. With straighter hair I was more acceptable and was showing my willingness to go along with the prevailing white-influenced culture that dominates the Mid-West.

    In Chicago, there aren’t the choices that women in new York have. African braiding salons all over Harlem and Brooklyn keep competition alive and allow black women to experiment more freely with their hair. Top flight hair stylist like Amoy Pitters (http://www.thefashionspot.com/beauty/news/104157-amoy-pitters-on-weaves-extensions-and-how-to-be-the-next-hair-superstar) have salons here and are ready to talk and give advice. I love it here! this type of diversity isn’t present anywhere else.

    Here’s an example: I had dreadlocks while I was going to college, I twisted and set them myself. One day I was on the way to school and a car u-turned in the middle of the street and drew up alongside me. The car stopped and a voice called out- “Excuse me! Excuse me! How did you get your hair like that?” I looked and it was a black woman in the car.

    That’s Chicago.

  • http://www.3-dolls.com 3DOLLS

    I just went natural last month, and I wish there was a professional in my area who could help me figure out how to maintain it. Clearly, the methods I used when I was relaxed aren’t working. Natural hair is REAL HAIR that has REAL NEEDS that they are avoiding. With so many women embracing their natural beauty, its a shame that an industry has one trend in hair care and almost completely ignored an emerging trend that I believe is here to stay. I’m finally comfortable with my real hair, and I want the same quality of service that a customer who is relaxed gets from a professional hair salon instead of ONLY getting advice here and there from other experienced naturals. I’d rather have all the hair advice as I can possibly get!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ebonylolita Ebonylolita

    I guess this article depends on WHERE you live in the U.S. I’m from NY *AliciaKeye’sWail* and we have quite a few options for natural hair care stylists. Now, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but at least the options are there.
    However, had it not been for Youtube and other Natural haircare forums I would be LOST!!!
    I started my transition 2mo ago and am in it to win it. I last went natural in H.S. and had NO IDEA how to handle my hair, so I ended up relaxing it. The cycle of relaxing repeated itself till I turned 31 and now I’m going back to my roots. Because of youtube I was able to see the journey of many other women and the beauty that our hair possesses & the range of styles I can try. Don’t give up ladies and I hope you make it on your journey to natural hair :)

    !PopStyle! Ebonylolita

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  • Harmonee

    Cringing at the thought of some non-African-American lady or man feeling around in my hair doing cornrows or Bantu knots, satisfied with their so-called “qualifications” received from somebody’s natural hair care school. Some things are traditionally passed down & you just know…the same way you know how to care for your skin or body type. Some things you don’t have to go to “school” for.


    i have been natural for about 9 years now….i did the dominican blow outs, brush cuts, wore twists, braids, wigs, weaves, huge afro puff etc….ive tried to find stylist who knew what they were doing with my hair and its very hard…..yes all black hair isnt the same….i have at least 5 distinct textures on my head…..yes i do agree that only a stylist who is natural and has had their hands in many other natural heads could even do my hair but its hard to find somoeon that experienced…..i live in atlanta now and am from chicago and there are many natural women in both cities and mostly do their own hair because they have to….its great that there are many more companies paying attention to the “movement” but more education needs to be put out there about what hair really needs and what hair is capable of doing

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  • naturalbeauty

    I have been natural for 2yrs and this is my favorite subject. Everyone claims to be qualified to do natural hair but they use products that are full of chemicals. Thats why i leave my locs to myself.

  • http://www.thevisionacademy.edu/html/index.cfm MARIA

    they tackle hair treatment very diffrent manner!

    it is more intresting

    thanks & rerrgards.

  • http://www.thevisionacademy.edu/html/index.cfm MARIA

    they tackle hair treatment very diffrent manner!

    it is more intresting

    thanks & regards.

  • http://www.byondnatural.com ByondNatural

    This is so true, my mother is a natural hair stylist and has been doing natural hair for 20 years. She learned how to do hair by practicing on my sister and I after a number of salons turned us away because our hair was “too nappy.”

    My mom now owns a salon and you would be surprised how many licensed stylist have not a clue how to do natural hair. It’s crazy! She just hired a young lady that has never comb natural hair besides her own. These school really need to do better

  • JG

    I have been natural for about 4 years now, and I am terrified to go to a salon to cut my hair, or to have ANYTHING done for that matter. I have trim it myself, regularly, but I would LOVE to have some expert hands to nurture my hair. Everything that I have learn about natural hair, has been because of video tutorials, blogs and websites like this one, Thanks GOD for that!!! Recently I have been thinking about taking some Natural Hair care classes; how to cut it, style it, protective style, products to use, natural hair blow dry, ETC just to be able to take care of my hair on a more professional level, but since I live in Puerto RIco, I would have to move somewhere else to see if I can even find some Beauty School, that can guide me in the right direction. This is Crazy, and it upsets me so much. Its like the “community of Naturals” doesn’t even exist. I hope tis change soon. Anyways, Im sure that by now, I know a WHOLE LOT MORE than any professional about natural hair.

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