By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
Going to your hair stylist should be an enjoyable experience—however, for transitioners and new naturals who are visiting with their stylists just after their decision to go natural or big chop, the trip can be daunting.
In order to get the most out of your healthy hair care journey, your stylist must absolutely be on board with your decision. If you are already working with anatural hair specialist, then you are probably already in very good hands; however, there may be some changes needed if you are currently working with a stylist from your previous hair care days. Your hair change may not always mean the end of a great client/stylist relationship— but sometimes a break up is in order.
What Should You Look For?
Ideally, you want a stylist who is happy to work with you no matter how you choose to wear your hair. Ideally, this person should be knowledgeable about styling and care techniques for any hair type you present them. Ideally, this person will hold your hand, guide and support you along the way. Unfortunately, the real world may not work like this for you. The stylist who was perfect for your sleek, asymmetrical bob look and flowing rollerset during your relaxer days may be a fish out of water on your baby locs or TWA (teeny weeny afro). Now! One mistake that is easy to make is to automatically assume that because your stylist has relaxed hair, she must not know how to handle or style natural hair … Or to assume that because a stylist has natural hair, she will take great care of yours. False! Don’t jump to conclusions and always do your due diligence.
When you start thinking about transitioning, discuss it with your stylist and gauge her reaction. If you hear any of the following statements, it may be time to pack up and bid your stylist farewell:
1.) “I don’t do natural hair.”
This one is pretty easy. He/she is letting you know right off the bat that you won’t be finding much support in their establishment. This type of stylist makes no illusions about his/her skill sets, and you should take it in stride and respect their honesty. Think of it like going to a pediatrician for your heart condition. While the pediatrician is a bonafide doctor in every sense of the word and could very well save your life in a clutch situation, they are not specialists in that aspect of medicine. You need a cardiologist! In hair care, some cosmetologists, while experienced in hair in general, are better suited for particular aspects of hair care like coloring, weaving or working with natural hair. You would much rather her tell you this now than to have her later mishandle your hair unintentionally.
2.) “Um, but your texture is not _______ enough.”
You can fill in the blank with anything at this point—curly, strong, soft, thick, loose, etc. No matter what word they use here, it’s bogus. Whatever you have IS enough. If this person cannot see it, they aren’t going to help you see it either when you are feeling doubt or fear on your journey. Doubt and fear are normal emotions for transitioners and new naturals to experience— you don’t need anyone else feeding that emotion. Any hair type or texture can be worn and styled the way it grows from the scalp. The ugly cousin of this statement is “Your hair is too________.” No matter how this discouragement is presented, avoid, avoid, avoid the messenger. I have very low tolerance for people who say something “can’t” be done based on their limited worldview- whether it’s in hair care or anywhere else in life. Instead of telling me how it can’t be done, use that same energy to help me figure out how it can be- or point me in the direction of someone who can actually help.
3.) “Why? “ or “Are you sure?”
Now, “why” and “are you sure” are not always bad questions to ask (in fact, they can be quite helpful)— but they can be loaded questions depending on your stylist’s body language and tone. He/she may be genuinely curious about your reasons for starting the transition (or chopping your hair) which still, in most circles, goes against the grain. But you know when, “Why?” is being used as a weapon of discouragement. If your stylist cannot understand why you would personally decide to eliminate chemicals from your hair care routine, this may not be the stylist for you. Whether your stylist is relaxed or natural, a good stylist will recognize your freedom to wear your hair in any state that suits your fancy. ( Even if she personally doesn’t care much for the style.)
While it’s okay to question or offer up objections to some of your hair care whims, in the end, your stylist should work with you to further YOUR hair care goals. Your stylist should carefully point out the potential problems and benefits of any hair care change— and if you still decide to move forward, he/she should help you preserve your hair as well as possible in the altered condition. That’s what you pay for!
4.) Over the Top Reactions
Occasionally, you’ll encounter “over the top” reactions to your decision to transition—even in a professional (or should I say, not so professional) hair care establishment. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, wrong or small for making your own hair care decisions is unacceptable in a professional establishment. I’ve even heard of some stylists calling on other nearby clients and stylists within earshot to discourage the would-be transitioner from their goal.
Girl, did you hear Pam say she wants to go natural! What? With this thick stuff? *picking through Pam’s hair in disgust*
If your stylist is not supportive of your hair care decisions—especially ones that you believe are better/healthier for you— drop her and find one who can offer you the support you need to stay the course. While you cannot readily exchange parents, inlaws, siblings and other family who aren’t supportive of your decision— you can easily find a new stylist!
Awesome article, and so true! Ladies, when did you realize that you had to give your stylist the boot?
Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).