The reality is that not all naturals are styling savvy. Some of us will have to make use of the styling skills of professionals to get our hair looking cute. But with all the horror stories associated with natural hair and salons, it’s easy to live in fear of professional styling. Here are six tips for surviving a trip to the salon.
1. Say NO to the trim
Unless you’re going in with the express purpose of getting your hair trimmed, don’t allow any trimming. Stylists are notoriously scissor happy, and can quickly eliminate any progress you’ve made length wise. Now if your stylist informs you that your ends are in bad shape, be CLEAR that you only want a dusting (half an inch trimmed off). Keep an eye on what your stylist is doing and, if they go beyond a half an inch, let them know they’ve done enough.
2. Come with your hair pre-washed, conditioned, detangled and (if necessary) blowdried
If you are worried about the shampoo and conditioning products that will be used, or the amount of heat and manipulation your hair will be handled with, call ahead and let your stylist know that you will prepare your hair at home. Some salons will actually charge less if you come with your hair prepared, and some stylists actually prefer hair that is ready for styling. Another benefit? Less time spent at the salon!
3. Bring Your Own Products
Now, this might not fly at some salons, but it’s worth a shot. If you’re not happy with the conditioning, moisturizing or styling products that a salon uses, offer to bring your own. Some stylists are happy to oblige because they want to know what products their customers use. Others might be offended and see this as an overstep of a client’s bounds. Plus, some salons only use certain brands of salon-quality products, and might not want to stray. Just call ahead with your request and be respectful. You never know!
4. Speak up on behalf of your edges!
If you’re going in for braided or twisted styles, make it clear to your stylist that your edges are SENSITIVE and you don’t want excessive pulling on them. Many stylists say they pull tight on the edges to keep flat twists and cornrows as neat as possible. Let your stylist know that you’re willing to sacrifice some neatness for the sake of comfort and edge protection!
5. Bring a friend or family member for reinforcement
If you’re not the outspoken type and you’re afraid that you’re going to be railroaded, bring a friend for reinforcement. While getting my hair braided at a French-speaking African salon in college, I brought a friend who was from the Ivory Coast and fluent in French. Having her there was a godsend. She was able to steer the braiders away from using synthetic hair that was too heavy, and let them know when they were pulling too hard (as evidenced by the pained expressions on my face). Admittedly, it is a time commitment for the friend, so reward them with dinner or lunch afterwards.
6. Speak out on Yelp.com
For those who don’t know, Yelp.com is the most popular customer review and search website for local businesses. If you are unhappy with the service you got at a salon, let the world know! A friend of mine had a terrible experience at a local salon and wrote a scathing (yet honest!) Yelp review. The salon called her back the next day and offered to re-style her hair free of charge! They did a great job the second time around, and my friend went on to update her Yelp review.
Extra Tip: Be mindful of heat
The most important prep work for a successful salon visit happens before you even sit in the chair. It’s important to call ahead to get an idea of how much heat a salon uses for natural hair styling. If you are heat sensitive, and a salon informs you that clients’ hair is blowdried straight prior to styling, then it’s clearly not the right place for you. Don’t take your chances when it comes to heat, because heat-damaged hair is nearly impossible to revert.
Ladies, how do you survive your salon visits?