Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Are Naturals Too Harsh On Stylists... Or Nah??

It has been almost two years since the last time I let anyone else style my hair.  Since completing my transition, I've only gone to a professional stylist twice:  once to even up the big chop I thought I was prepared to do myself, and once for a trim.  Both times the stylist made my hair look cute, but didn't give me what I asked for.  I called the salon in advance both times to make sure that they would be able to style my hair similar to how I style it at home.  That is, stretched and moisturized, not a wash and go.  Of course, both times I was assured it would be no problem to style my hair in a stretched state because this salon was supposed to specialize in curly hair.  

Needless to say, I was given a wash and go that more closely resembled a picked out Afro than an intentionally curly style.  And the Deva Curl products used on my hair made it feel waxy and dry.  Not something I enjoyed at all.  I honestly would rather have my hair chock full of shea butter, weighed down, and stretched than "lightweight," dry, and fully shrunken.  I thought that with this salon specializing in curly textures. my almost $70.00 would be money well spent.  But apparently, it still holds true that I will have to be the only person around that actually knows how to give my hair what it needs at any given time. 

Putting the fate of my crowing glory into someone else's hands just because they say they know what to do with it is just asking for trouble.  So, it was with this fact in mind that I recently Googled natural hair salons in my area, hoping to find one that didn't just work with "curly" hair, but actual Afro-textured hair.  I found one very close to me and read up a ton of reviews for it, most of which were glowing.  So, I figured that if other naturals were having such a great experience with this establishment, they must understand the needs of natural hair and cater to that.  So I went ahead and booked myself a consultation.  I had already learned how bad it was to schedule appointments with people I had never met so I hoped to alleviate any anxiety I might still have by meeting with the woman in advance and getting a feel for who she was as a stylist.  Boy am I glad I did!

My "consultation" went so badly, I left this message in the "Contact Management" section of the website.  As a courtesy to the salon owner, I have changed the name of the salon and stylist in question for publication on the blog:

I just wanted to explain why I was dissatisfied with the service I received here in the hope that things may improve.  I have been natural for just over 3 years and have not had my hair professionally styled in almost 2.  My hair is about waist length when flat ironed and very highly textured.  I called the salon to schedule a consultation because I wanted to sit down with whoever might be doing my hair before booking an actual appointment in order to gauge her ability and mentality where natural hair was concerned.  In my experience, mindset in natural hair care makes all the difference.  
I expected to receive a confirmation phone call the day prior to my consultation, but did not.  This was my first hint that this would not be "an upscale salon experience" but I didn't let it deter me.  I arrived for my consultation and was informed I'd be meeting with [Ashley.]  She walked over to me and asked "what you havin' done?"  I informed her that I was not looking for any services, I simply wanted a consultation.  We sat at the front of the store and I asked, "So what is your philosophy on natural hair?"
She responded, "What you mean?"
I rephrased, "How do you approach natural hair?  Like, how do you handle it?"
"You mean like, what products I use," [Ashley] asked. 
At this point I was almost certain that I would not be utilizing her services, but I thought I would give her a third and final chance to impress me with her prowess.  She did not.  I went on to explain that I was looking to understand how she treated natural hair differently from chemically treated hair and she again went back to the product discussion, telling me that she uses what the salon supplies, Mizani.
I said I'd never used that particular line of hair care products, so I had no judgment on it for natural hair.  It was at this point that [Ashley] began to offend me.  She told me how "it seems like everybody is tryna be natural now."  But "with how some people's kitchens be with those naps and beady beads... some people just need to go back to the creamy crack.  Not everyone needs to be natural."  
Personally, as a natural hair advocate and aspiring cosmetologist, I was amazed she would be so flippant with a prospective client about natural hair.  I'm not sure if she picked up on my emotions, because I maintained a smile on my face through the entire conversation, but she did try to clean up her remarks slightly by telling me that it looked like I have "good hair."  Again, this is an offensive term in my eyes.  The implication was that I and some others are blessed with genetics that make our hair "good' no matter how it is treated, while for some it is the exact opposite.
I'm sure [Ashley] wasn't thinking about her statements in such cut and dry terms, but that is how they were received.  And as a hair care professional, I would think she would exercise a little more discretion and tact when talking about the hair textures of the clients she serves.  I found [Salon Name] by Googling "natural hair salons in [my area]."  I don't think women with natural hair would like to pay to have their hair taken care of by someone who disparages their texture, tells them to go back to chemically processing, and complains about her fingers hurting from dealing with such "rough" hair all day.  Rather than offer her clients education on how to properly care for their hair at home so it won't be so "rough," it seems like [Ashley] would rather laugh and ridicule.
If your salon truly does strive for five, this is a poor representation of that mentality.  I hope this comment will be taken seriously, and something will be done to impress upon all the [Salon Name] employees that how you speak and even think about the hair you are taking care of makes a huge difference in the overall experience of the client.

 I'm hoping that after reading my review, the owner of this establishment will speak to all of her employees and explain why making disparaging comments such as those I heard is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  Part of what made me Google natural hair salons in my area in the first place was the doubt I had about whether my previous salon experiences would be repeated if I went to a different establishment.  I can't say they were  because this stylist didn't actually touch my hair (which was something I expected her to do for a consultation, but whatever) but I think they very well could have, had I not insisted on having a consultation first. 

At one point I was wondering if my insistence to be my own stylist and keep my hair out of other people's hands was over the top or irrational, but now I see that my concerns were well founded.  I'm not saying that there are no stylists in my area who are competent with natural hair, but I haven't found one yet.  And now I see just how important it is to consult with someone before letting them anywhere near my head with a comb or some scissors.  Now I know that my paranoia is well founded.  If a stylist can't pass my initial "test" or answer my questions to my satisfaction, she can't do my hair.  It's a simple as that.  If you find yourself needing or wanting a stylist for your natural crowning glory, please interview the person you are considering first.  I promise it will make a world of difference...


  1. Thank you for sharing this! So sorry about your expirence. I hope the owner takes this time to evaluate their staff, and make some changes. Loving your natural curls no matter its texture is a beautiful thing! Great Job!!

    1. Thank you! I try to encourage all natural women I come across to love their hair just the way it is, but when your "hair care professional" is telling you how rough and bad your hair is every time you sit in her chair, it can be hard to believe it when someone else says how beautiful your hair is. That's why I felt the need to make this post. So people can see that the problem is with the stylist, not their hair.

  2. Thanks for this. I had to dump my long-time braider because she insists on using a fine-tooth comb on my dry hair before she cornrows. Not to forget the 'extra' charge some salons add because natural hair is too thick and harder to handle *smdh*

    1. I can understand that. It seems like many stylists don't want to admit that their clients know they own hair better than the stylists ever could. I think if a hair care professional is unwilling to adjust her methods according to what her clients hair needs, they don't deserve our money.