Even the basics of handling natural hair is lost in translation if a stylist is unfamiliar with the natural world and as simple or silly as this sounds, the basics of natural hair is just that…basics! For example, I went to a very well-known salon in New York 7 years ago and let’s just say their “innovating natural hair technique” of defining natural curls, involved the use of harsh chemicals and should I dare say it but, COMBING & BRUSHING FROM THE ROOT and this is a big no, no for detangling hair despite the shape of the strand, but ESPECIALLY for my 4c texture. To be honest they might as well cut off all of my hair, it would have been easier, since soon after I lost most of my hair. This of course is an extreme and there are very reputable and excellent hair salons that work well with natural hair but finding the right one takes work. If you are about to embark or venture in finding a salon and stylist that works well with natural hair then stay with me as I share tips on what to look for to ensure your venture works in your favor.
Referral: This is most likely one of the best tips in finding the right salon for you. Also take in account where the referral is coming from. Texture of hair can play a big part in a referral but certainly do not let this define your decision. If it is coming from a person you trust who is knowledgeable in natural hair then you need to take their suggestion seriously into consideration.
Consultation: Putting your hair in the hands of a salon without booking a consultation is like marrying a man without dating…um yeah, you have to put in the work if you want the results you seek. Before your consultation compile a list of all of your concerns and questions. Also take note you may have found the right salon but wrong stylist, call ahead time and ask to speak with a stylist who has more experience with tightly coiled and kinker textures if this is the case. Many salons are known for great natural hair services but find out how broad the spectrum of their natural hair care services actually go.
Intuition: Don’t let the word professional undermine your intuition. Sometimes we can ignore the signs because “professional” is thrown into the mix. Knowing there is a difference between a professional who knows hair and a professional who knows NATURAL hair will result in finding a salon that will benefit your needs.
Be Specific & Strong: Unfortunately no one is a mind reader, being specific to the tee can save you a lot of heartache and pain.
- Just want a trim? Strongly specify you only want a dusting or a half an inch trim (keep an eye out as well, sometimes certain stylist’s definition of a trim or dusting can vary, lol).
- Looking for a haircut or new style? Bring in a picture of the exact or closest replica of a look you want to achieve, bringing in a photo leaves little room for interpretation (of course if interpretation is not what you are looking for). Also regarding haircuts, ask the stylist if they cut the hair wet or dry. Remember if hair is blown out or cut while wet for a desired length, shrinkage needs to be considered in the equation of how much hair should actually be cut. Some salons specialize in cutting hair in its natural state while dry.
- Come with hair prepared for styling? Ask a potential salon if this could be an option. Sometimes salons will let you come pre-washed & conditioned, thoroughly detangled and if need be blow-dried, knocking your initial charge down. For some salons this is not an option, therefore if you feel more comfortable with preparing your own hair, than find a salon that will cater to your request.
- Can you bring your own products? Again this is up to the salon. Certain establishments actually have their own brand or staple products they use so this request may not be left for discussion. You definitely have the right to see what products they are using to view the ingredients.
- Something seems wrong? Speak up! As stated before no is a mind reader, if going for a weave or braided style and your edges are screaming mercy, let the stylist know there is too much stress or the bulk of the hair applied to your own is too heavy. If certain tools utilized to detangle are causing breakage due to your texture say something. Definitely helps if you see what tools your chosen stylist is planning to use beforehand but even then the right tools can be used in the wrong way, such as with too much force or heat. At the end of the day it is your hair and when asked in a respectful manner, no one should take offense at a concern you may have.
- You need this and you need that? If only a trim is needed but you are being coerced by the stylist that a haircut would suit you better then assess why the suggestion should be granted. If due to damage then yes, a simple trim may not be what you need but if due to appearance sake, such as a certain cut will “suit” you better then stay strong and stick to your guns if this is not what you are looking for.
- Stylists client referrals. Ask the stylist if it would be possible to speak to 2 or 3 of their clients. Of course some clients are confidential but if the stylist has been in practice for years with a loyal following their will at least be a few clients willing to give a good word.
- Is there a guarantee. No one is perfect and sometimes sh@t happens. As crude as this may sound sometimes you have to prepare for the worst. This is why you always want to go to the absolute best but just in case a coloring doesn’t agree and you start experiencing breakage the next day, you need to ask beforehand is there a charge or no charge for “rescue and recover”.
Peak Hours: Would you consider buying a new car off the word of a salesman…of course not! You have to take if for a spin and see for yourself how the car maneuvers, same goes for finding the right salon. Visiting a potential establishment during peak hours can really give so much incite, without saying a word.
Most Bang For Your Buck: Remember to ask for tips on how to maintain the look as much as possible until your next appointment. Good salons may cost more because of the time invested into natural hair so it is impertinent to your budget in finding a way to maintain until your next scheduled appointment. Also request if the stylist has any off peak days, the stylist may have more time to commit with your requests with fewer clients on the books.
The Proof Is In The Pudding: Many salons have a client based book with before and after shots. If they don’t volunteer the goods beforehand, ask if they have one. If the answer is yes, not only look at the before and after shots but ask to view photos of repeat clients and clients with similar hair texture to yours. A regular stream of clientele means satisfied customers.
Cleanliness of Salon: No one wants to sit in a sea of discarded weave tracks, excess cut hair, a visually disorganized work station or old and outdated tools and products. Cleanliness of the salon not only shows respect for their establishment but respect for the consumer.
Patience & Understanding: Now we all know time is money but remember it is your money! Looking for how patient, attentive, understanding and knowledgeable your stylist is with all of your questions, will give you a preview or mirror image in how they will treat your hair. You wouldn’t purchase a house on its last leg, hoping when you close the deal it will miraculously transform into your dream home. Finding a stylist works the same and a strong knowledgeable foundation of natural hair is a prerequisite not an option.
Yelp: With more than 100 million monthly users, this directory/review site is literally your Willy Wonka golden ticket. Take a look at all opinions, including the negative and mediocre reviews and assess from there. A good feature on yelp is you can review the same reviewer’s profile and see what else they have reviewed. Sometimes you have negative Nancy’s that are just out to put a damper on anything and everything.
Licensed Salon & Stylists: All stylists are required to show proof of license. The license should be out in the open at every stylist’s work station, if not just request to see it and check the expiration date as well. Also there is a difference between certified and licensed. A licensed professional will always say licensed not certified. Certified means a particular stylist in a salon may be more equipped to use a certain product or technique due to product companies selling exclusively to licensed professionals. Licensed cosmetologists will then take a class specifically to learn a technique or use a product. For example, a licensed hairstylist may know how to cut and style but is not certified for weaving or extensions. You can easily ask to see the stylist’s certification certificate with their name. Just think of certification as a sub-division of licensed.
Do Your Research: This pretty much speaks for its self! Put your inner detective skills to work by utilizing all the tips I have previously mentioned. Finding the right stylist takes work but it will be well worth it, if finding a salon is mandatory. Include the Better Business Bureau as part of your research. You can investigate if an establishment has had any consumer complaints.
Right At Home: Sometimes after years of trial and tribulations, heartbreaks and sorrows, then coming full circle by utilizing your past experiences to finally find a routine that works for you…finding the right salon can be literally be at your fingertips. I am perfectly happy and prefer to do my own hair but realize this is not an option for many others who may feel more comfortable with leaving their hair in the capable hands of others.
*There are reputable and amazing salons who are qualified to handle natural hair. Some stylists may take offense from all of your requests while others may welcome your suggestions and even if the suggestions are not warranted they are definitely accounted for with an open ear. Many naturals are perfectly comfortable in leaving their hair in the hands of a professional without any worries while others are more guarded. Whichever your preference, it is your hair and ultimately your choice. The key is finding the balance, and by all means it does not hurt to ask. Remember if you can talk to a Doctor and self-medicate yourself on aliments/symptoms and the MD can talk to you with ease and patience, without offense regarding your health, then by no means should certain stylists take offense regarding questions over hair!