No Lye

Lakisha Tompkins has influenced many black women in Philly to go natural.

By Shahida Muhammad
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 22 | Posted May. 21, 2009

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“I didn’t think natural hair was ugly,” says Ayisha, a twenty-two-year-old African-American woman. “But I liked wearing my hair straight.”

Seated in the lobby of Pierre and Carlo salon, with her long bangs slightly covering her face, Ayisha continues. “I started relaxing my hair as a teenager,” she explains. “I stopped a couple years ago though, because it was damaging my hair; that’s when I started going to Kisha.”

Just as her name is uttered, in walks a very confident Lakisha Tompkins, known to most as Kisha. With 19 years experience as a stylist, the Mount Airy native has set out to eliminate the confusion and frustration many black women have when it comes to their hair, with her line of all-natural products: E’Tae. She quickly joins the conversation, speaking with a frank aura of expertise.

“A lot of black women still struggle with their hair,” Tompkins says. “Our hair can be hard to manage when you’re not using the proper products; this is why so many resort to chemicals or weaves.”

While the term "natural" is usually associated with styles such as locks, afros, twists and braids, Tompkins explains for her, natural hair is simply “hair that is chemical-free.” For black women in Philly who opt to wear a straightened coif without the use of relaxers, like Ayisha, there are plenty of options.

“Philadelphia has a lot of salons that cater to natural hair now,” explains Kisha. “There are a lot of hair schools and stylists, so that’s what makes this city faster when it comes to hair care, styling and moving to the next stage –like wearing your hair natural.”

Tompkins claims some credit for the trend. “Black women have stopped perming their hair for years now, but before [I opened my salon] a lot of African-American salons did not want to give up the money they made from perms and relaxers.”

The camera is rolling and Tompkins is now seated in front of a shelf lined with her products as well as sporting a promotional T-Shirt. Before she demonstrates the latest technique in styling natural hair straight, using Ayisha’s as her example, we conduct a short interview. She makes sure to mention E’Tae in almost every response and follow-up each plug with a smile. Yet deliberate promotions aside, Kisha’s shiny and bouncy tresses speak volumes to her cause.

Tompkins attended Murrell Dobbins Area Vocational High School where she took up cosmetology. She opened her first salon, Hair Extraordinaire, at the age of 21 in 1995. She was inspired to develop her line of products after becoming unsatisfied with the results chemical treatments had on her clientele’s hair, as well as struggling to manage her daughter’s coarse, thick hair.

“The thing natural hair needs the most is moisture,” she states. “So I researched ingredients that contained oils and humectants that made hair strong.”

Tompkins first tested out her homemade mixtures on her daughter’s hair. Pleased with the results, she than began using them on her clients. As word spread throughout the city and demand for her products grew, she formally launched the line of products and opened salon E’Tae in 2004.

“We had clients flying in from different states to get their hair done,” says Kisha as we move to the sink and she begins to wash Ayisha’s hair. Both the salon and the products gained rave reviews on popular black hair forums such as and, as well as a few YouTube testimonials.

The name E’Tae is a play on the word "eat" and was chosen because many of the ingredients come from edible sources. Tompkins original creation, the Carmel treatment (a nourishing conditioner), consisted of honey, molasses, bananas, olive oil, corn starch, vinegar and wheat germ oil.

Despite its success, Tompkins closed Salon E’Tae in January of 2008. “It kept me inside of a building five days a week,” she says. “I knew that I wouldn’t be to network and build my company.” The ambitious businesswomen currently styles hair at Pierre and Carlo salon by appointment only in order to focus her time on growing her product line.

“I work in a European-owned salon now and I watch the clients,” says Kisha. “They’re in a good mood. They just come in, get cut and colored and they’re out the door. At African-American salons it’s a totally different experience; there’s always a problem or confusion about hair care. My main goal is to educate African-American women on how to take care of their hair and the benefits of natural hair care.”

Now that Ayisha has been washed and conditioned, her previously straight mane is full of thick, curly locks; a testament to her transition from relaxed to natural. “Once I stopped relaxing my hair I found it was much easier to manage when it was wet instead of it being dry and tangled,” Ayisha says as her hair is blow-dried and brushed straight with a paddle brush.

After rubbing a little E’Tae hair gloss through Ayisha’s hair, Kisha runs a ceramic flat iron over small sections until Ayisha is left with a head full of lustrous, flowing tresses. This process, Kisha explains, reduces the amount heat used in older methods like hot combing and leaves hair with more body, shine and bounce.

Two white female clients have already been styled in a neighboring chair and they leave just as quick and satisfied as Kisha described. But, although Ayisha’s experience was longer, once Kisha spins her towards the mirror her eyes light up and she’s genuinely pleased with the results. “Wow it looks great –I love it!” says Ayisha as she playfully swings her hair around. And with that, Kisha lets out a huge smile –this time it’s natural.

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Comments 1 - 22 of 22
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1. Mikki said... on May 21, 2009 at 01:53PM

“Okay so my question is how can you wear your hair straight if your natural without causing major damage to the natural curl? I hear that heat can damage your natural curl pattern, even if its not excessive heat...and do you know any other ways you can color natural hair without the damage of bleach or without using henna? I can't use rinses because they don't show up.”

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2. Danita Harper said... on May 21, 2009 at 07:26PM

“Kisha you never did my hair, but please keep up the good work and I wish you well in your business, I hope GOD continue to bless you, and that is so true everyone is really focusing on natural hair care and that is wonderful.”

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3. mysalonscoop said... on May 21, 2009 at 08:55PM

“I heard of this line a few years back but never heard the story behind it's creation. Good info.”

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4. KEA said... on May 22, 2009 at 08:00AM


It's KEA again. KEEP it up girl!!! One day I'm going to get out to Philly and book you to do my hair.”

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5. Trenika Austin said... on May 26, 2009 at 12:10PM

“I am a professional and I use this on me and my daughters. Sometimes on my clients depending on what the case is. I was pleased with the Carmel treatment for people with REALLY thick hair. My hair was beautiful afterwards. On the other hand my oldest daughter has naturally curly hair and it's a finer texture...It didn't do as well on hers. There was a build up. I did love their Buttershine---It did wonders for shine and manageability. I use their gloss now which is awesome. I also use other natural products for when I want a curly look and they are fabulous as well. But this column is not about them it's about ETae' and ETae is GREAT.”

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6. Anonymous said... on May 26, 2009 at 02:24PM

“I've been using E'Tae products for almost two years now. I was amazed with my coworkers hair. It was long, healthy, shiny, and surprisingly, all natural. It looked like a weave or a caucasion woman's hair. I couldn't believe it! She introduced me to E'Tae, and now, people actually stop me and compliment my hair! Some poeple even ask if I'm "mixed with something" because of the texture. I laugh, and always tell them about E'Tae products!

Please continue to grow your product line, good luck, and God Bless!!!”

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7. kbot215 said... on Jun 1, 2009 at 11:21AM


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8. kay said... on Jun 8, 2009 at 09:40AM

“A sister I know started using your products for about a year in 2006. Her hair at first was very short she started going to your salon and her hair really looked beauitful and long. Im sorry you closed your salon. I will be ma king an appointment soon. God bless you.”

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9. Rakia Alburg said... on Jun 10, 2009 at 02:43PM

“Love the product.”

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10. Jeannette said... on Aug 10, 2009 at 04:12PM

“I was introduce to this product at Abstract Hair Salon a few years ago. I absolutely love this product. I wish you much success.”

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11. Alethea said... on Aug 29, 2009 at 03:21PM

“I just want to say that these products are great my hair is so much more managable in it's all natural state. I know this may sound a bit crazy but I tried it on my dog and it has made her coat so shiney and soft and healthy looking. Maybe your next venture may be an animal care line, I think my dog is work it and i think many others may feel the same.”

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12. Cynthia said... on Oct 27, 2009 at 09:00AM

“I promote your product everywhere I go, my co-worker just came in to show off her hair to me whom I have been telling about your product for month she's grinnin up a storm telling me it really works. All I can say is I told you. I have been a faithful customer for the last three years. All I can say is I love it. And yes here to stay.”

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13. Community Organizer said... on Nov 29, 2009 at 01:01AM

“Congratulations on your new salon on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy!

I am looking forward to an appointment.

Best wishes and much success.”

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14. Shelita said... on Dec 2, 2009 at 01:40PM

“I would like to set up appointment to for a early saturday only because I leave in nj and I have been using ETae for 1 1/2 now but I still have spite end's and also it dry out to fast”

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15. Barb said... on Jan 14, 2010 at 05:21PM

“does your products restore thinning edges??”

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16. Marie said... on Mar 7, 2010 at 11:30AM

“I have been natural for about a year and a half now...and everything I put in my hair seems to break it. I just purchase the E'tae Prduct. I am so excited...can't wait til it come....”

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17. Berna said... on Apr 1, 2010 at 05:49PM

“Where is your salon on Germantown Avenue? And what is the phone number? I would like to make an appointment. My niece uses the products on her 13 year old daughter for the last 6-7 years. She has very beautiful, thick and long hair.”

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18. Betty said... on Jun 8, 2010 at 03:47PM

“Abstract Salon (Keasha) introduced me to the product. She tried to convince me to go natural but I fought for relaxers. I finally agreed to try it but orginally used the Carmel to deep condition my hair along with a relaxer. This process allowed me to go from getting a touch-up every 6 weeks to every 12 weeks after 18 months of use. At that time I began using just the Carmel. No more relaxers. My hair came "alive" it felt good and looked good. Carmelux came out and I used it but preferred the Carmel. I didn't mind waiting because good things come to those who wait. With the Carmelux there was no waiting. Just shampoo, condition and blow dry. My hair looked good but felt a little gritting from time to time. When the Carmel came back on the market, I was extremely happy. I use the Carmel now and have no plans to ever return to relaxers. Thanks Keasha & Kisha!”

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19. MMH said... on Sep 17, 2010 at 02:27PM

“Dana & Dana's cousin Keisha (Abstract Hair Salon) introduced me to the product like in 2007 and I have been using it every since. Although I get braids in between in the heated summer time. I only uses the 100% human hair because that hair the braid shops uses pulls your hair out.”

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20. octavia said... on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:23AM

“I wanted to add my words of encouragement to Keisha. I have used the Etae' products for quite a few years now and I agree, perms are a thing of the past. Stay encouraged and continue to use your gift to bless others.”

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21. Jeannie said... on Mar 29, 2011 at 02:35PM

“Kisha I want to 1st congratulate you on this incredible hair product line that I've heard so much about. I too am transitioning from a relaxer and currently going to a dominican salon here in New York City where I live for the past 2 yrs and b4 that Dominican salon. My hair is badly damaged and really needs some TLC .......... so I placed my order for your hair care line today (the entire line) after reading all of the positive testimonials I cant wait to get started to a healtier head of hair. I wish you all the best and keep updating us on how to better maintain our natural look.”

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22. Tiffany said... on Jun 13, 2012 at 10:03AM

“Her hair turned out to be gorgeous. I haven't had a relaxer in about a month in a half and I am known to be the Perm Queen. Soon as I see my roots coming in im perm, perm, perm. But lately I have been growing tired of all the relaxing and such and I want to go completey natural. When I was a teen and ealry 20's my hair had no problem growing and that wa swith a perm. But I recently turned 30 and I want a new look. Plus her hair had more shine and more bounce because it was natural and I want to flow, flow, flow like my sister girl in the video. I don't know about purchasing Etae but I will look for natural products pertaining to those ingrediants.”


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