Ever so often, I hear a horror story of how a trip to the hair salon went horribly wrong. For women with natural hair, the worst of these stories typically involve one of four scenarios:
1) rough detangling using a fine toothed comb
2) a “trim” that resulted in a serious hair cut
3) heated styling tools that lead to permanent damage
4) adding a chemical relaxer to conditioners to “loosen” the curl pattern without informing the customer.
These are frustrating experiences that highlight the lack of care and understanding illustrated by stylists unfamiliar with natural hair. So, how do you avoid repeating a negative experience? How can you prepare yourself for visiting the stylist for the first time after you began wearing your hair naturally? Here, I provide a few tips that will hopefully make your next hair experience one that you won’t regret.
Bring Your Preferred Products
When you go a salon you are likely paying for a service that includes the products used by the stylist, such as shampoo, conditioner, oils, etc. However, if you know that there are certain products that you prefer feel free to ask the salon if they carry the product in stock and if not don’t hesitate to bring your preferred products with you. Not only will you be more comfortable with the products used in your hair, but you can also be more confident that the stylist won’t add harsh chemicals while washing or conditioning your hair because they now have the option of citing your products as the cause for any undesirable outcomes. However, this won’t prevent a stylist bent on harming your hair with chemicals. In this case, you’ll want to screen salons before booking your appointment.
The Screening Process
Just because a salon provides the service you’re seeking doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right place for you or your hair. The last time I had my hair straightened at a salon I got the impression, based on the stylist’s “advice,” that she had very little experience with tightly coiled hair. For example, she told me that I shouldn’t twist my hair because it compromises the health my hair. At the time, my hair was around waist length, thick and healthy so her advice seemed odd, to say the least. Trust me, you do NOT want to be a natural hair practice for your stylist; Be sure they have experience working with your hair type. If the salon isn’t one that specializes in natural hair then I recommend interviewing a stylist and asking the following questions:
Which size of combs would you use for my hair type?
What type of shampoo do you use? (if they are experienced with natural hair care they should have non sulfate shampoos in their inventory)
What is your method of straightening? (if that is the service you are requesting)
Trims, Cuts and Heat Damage
This is a tricky area because well-meaning stylists can be so focused on having your straightened hair appear “even” that they don’t consider how a cut will impact the styling of your naturally curly/coily hair. There are two ways to go about addressing this issue:
1. Ask that the stylist not cut your hair at all because you plan on cutting it yourself later.
2. Request that no more than “X” inches be trimmed but be sure to underestimate. So, if you truly want a trim not to exceed 3 inches then ask that no more than one or two inches be trimmed. If they exceed you request by an inch or two, your trim will not exceed your personal preference
When it comes to the use of heat on your hair, call the salon ahead and ask what heat protectants they use. If you prefer, you can even bring your own heat protectant, if you think it may be better for your hair. As for the straightening tool, feel free to ask the model of flat iron they use and explain that some flat irons have heating settings that work poorly on your hair. Once you have the model name, look up the specs of the brand so that you can request that stylist not exceed a certain setting. Be sure to tell him or her that you are less concerned with bone straight hair, so that they don’t feel the need to use the highest heat setting, which is typically the case for tightly coiled hair.
I know that some of these tips may seem overly cautious, but if you’ve ever had a bad salon experience then you know that best remedy is prevention.
Share you salon disasters. What do you do to insure that you are satisfied with your salon experience?