Why Hair Salons and I Are Not Friends

I’ve noticed that there are quite a few new hair products, stores, and salons all dedicated to us naturals sprouting about everywhere. Firstly, I think it’s great. It’s about time that there are spaces for us to go to, to easily buy products and get our kinks and curls nurtured. What I don’t like is what I’m finding or hearing about some of them. Throughout my natural hair journey, I’ve been asked many times to recommend salons to you and I haven’t actually written a post on it yet because…I don’t have enough of them to recommend.

**I’d like to point out my disclaimer now, because I know someone will tell me not to generalise. I’m not saying all salons or all stylists. This is my experience, and it’s based on about 98% of salons I’ve been to all of my life – before and after going natural. But for the sake of this post I can’t keep saying 98% of the salons I’ve been to… so unfortunately, I have to generalise.**

My hair care is 85% DIY and I only have someone else do my hair for my protective styles. I’ve never kept it a secret that I’m generally not a fan of salons. Because so many have recently opened up, and I’m always asked for recommendations, I wanted to try and scout these newbies out and at least have something to say when you ask (me guinea pigging myself again). Earlier this year, a new natural hair salon around my neck of the woods opened up. I found it on Instagram and was intrigued. I was a bit doubtful because of my experiences with salons, but a small part of me actually got excited as it’s literally up the road from my place, it looked cute online and I wouldn’t mind the extra help with Fro. I mentioned this to Ncomeka of Wooden Mirror the other day when we were chatting and she encouraged me to jump and finally check it out.

So I popped in on Women’s Day to have a look, get a feel of the place and possibly book an appointment. My first thoughts were here we go again, another unkempt Black hair salon. I saw wet rags hanging around, an untidy workplace, random un-salon like items and a back room that needed its door firmly shut so customers wouldn’t see the inside. Why do so many look a hot mess? It just felt like no one cared. I put all of that aside & greeted the stylist who was busy weaving a customer’s hair. She seemed to be the only one working there so I asked if I can ask her a couple of questions.

What kind of treatments do you do? How much do they cost? Do you specialise in natural hair only?

Genuine customer questions right? But she answered every single one with a sigh or eye roll. I thought, maybe she’s too busy concentrating on the weaving so I just asked her if there’s a website or Facebook page I can refer to (instead of clearly wasting her time) to which she replied an abrupt no. I was with Kai and wasn’t about to let her ruin my mood and day with him with such an attitude. I suspect the lady being weaved recognised me, as she waved at me through the mirror in the beginning. As my conversation with the stylist continued, the customer even told her to inform me better or at least direct me to get in touch with the owner. The stylist shrugged and said “ya, you can ask so and so”. As if from that response, I’d know how to contact said owner.

Me: Does she have an email address or contact number?

Her: Go on the Instagram and chat to her there (siiiiigh)

That was the end of it. I told her I’ll do that and left. My heart sank. There I was, trying to support a local, Black business and possibly bring them more clients etc. But now I’ve been given so many reasons not to. I’m so genuinely sad that with the few new salons dedicated to natural hair around, we still have to put up with such disservice.

My questions are: why? Why the dirty and untidy salons? Why the rude stylists and assistants? Why am I made to always feel like they’re doing me a favour rather than treat me like a (potential) paying customer? Don’t we deserve better? Have we put up with it for too long that it’s the status quo?

How many of you have walked into a hair salon and had to ask or look for someone to help you? Instead of being greeted and welcomed, showing you who actually works there. I know I’m not the only one who’s made an appointment to do my hair, and another customer walks in to get a “quick retouch” and I’m abandoned in favour of that customer. I once told the stylist if she didn’t come back to finish me, I was walking out – hair half braided and all. They looked at me like I was crazy, but they’re the ones disrespecting my time.

Too many of my followers complain to me that their hairline is receeding but they still go back to the same stylist who caused that traction alopecia to begin with. Why? And when I ask this question, many don’t really know why they do it or there seems to be a fear of being upfront with the stylist about your hair. You’re scared to tell them not to use this comb (even though you know it’ll break your hair) or not to pull your edges so tight (but they tell you they have to, to make the style last) or to excessively blow dry it bone straight (because they can’t braid your kinky hair otherwise). Can we just let this all sink in for a minute? We pay for people to tell us what to do with our hair, abuse our hair and leave us to pick up the pieces at home. Who’s in control of your hair’s health? How has that stylist tried to help you recover your hairline? Does said stylist go home to deal with your hair falling out? No? Then who does? Who has to look in the mirror day after day, popping pain killers to kill the headache from a pulled scalp, sores and burns on your head? If the majority of salons offered a pleasant experience, listened to me as a customer and put my hair health first, I’d be a regular customer. I really wouldn’t be doing my own hair if I didn’t need to.

On another note, I’ve been on the receiving end of bad vibes and defensive comments from some salon owners or hair stylists over the years, claiming that bloggers give them a bad name. When I was frank and open about a horrible experience of mine on one of my most special days a few years ago, some told me they thought I took it too far and I shouldn’t have said anything. Why shouldn’t we say anything? I stand by my stance back then and I will do so now because I’m tired of people taking advantage of us and making us pay for rotten service, hair abuse and sub-standard facilities.

How many times have I had to become the “bougie” woman who asks them not to use a fine toothed comb on my head? Or to not use the blow dryer on high heat. Or to insist that they even put heat protectant on before they blow dry. The number of times I’ve walked into a salon and they’ve rolled their eyes at me because I’m the “difficult” customer. No guys, this is my hair. I’m paying you to do my hair, this isn’t a favour you’re doing for me. I’m tired of it seeming like it is.

Any thoughts? Fellow rants? Are you a fan of salons? If so, can you please recommend a good one so we can show it some love?

Weigh in below.

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28 Comments

  1. Anga Yozi
    September 16, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    This is the reason, I completely stopped going to salons about 3years ago. I stopped with the protective hair styling as I saw that it was chowing my hairline rather than maintaining or protecting it. I loathed every salon visit as I thought of the pain of my scalp being pulled ever so tightly, like my life depended on the tightness of the braids. Until one day I cut my hair, want back to natural and decided to never subject myself to that kind of pain and disrespect I’ve been subjected to all this years. I too have a huge dislike for salons and all associated with it.

  2. Sarah
    September 12, 2017 / 8:01 am

    I wish I could tell a different story, unfortunately I can’t. I experienced the exact same frustration,
    always coming back home from the hairdresser with a sad feeling and this question: why do “our own people” treat us so bad??!! Dirty salon, rude staff, always having to fight for my hair to be handled with care/or not daring opposing to things I don’t like…

  3. Thula
    August 20, 2017 / 7:46 pm

    Wow! I thought I was the fussy one when it came to hair salons but now I know I’m not alone in yearning for decent service.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      We’re all yearning Thula…unfortunately 🙁

  4. August 18, 2017 / 8:37 am

    This. Post. Is. Too. Real. I’m in Kenya, and it’s crazy how my whole life I’ve had to cross my fingers each time I’ve walked into a salon, hoping that the experience won’t be too uncomfortable. I literally cannot name you a salon that I’d recommend, especially for natural hair. Either salons need to start learning how to style with care, or I need to become better at braiding, etc.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      For me the answer is simple, they need to learn how to care for our hair – properly. And also go to some customer service classes while they’re at it!

  5. koki
    August 16, 2017 / 1:41 am

    Am I late to the party? I have great news ladies…. Ive found a hair salon that actually is… pretty amazing. Read about it in the papers, was doubtful… but it legit is bomb. Its Hairtural Studios in Brynston. They don’t use heat or combs ( Im not a fan of this method but anyway )so you know they are super gentle. I have ratchet 4c (c squared even) colour damaged hair… but every time I step out my hair looks and feels amazing! I experience less shedding when Im there, and bonus-the salon does kiddies hair so I always get to see mini naturalists getting their cute fro’s made up. I wiiiish they were closer(I stay in Krugersdorp) but I drive there every 2 weeks all the same!

    • Lulu
      September 6, 2017 / 10:10 pm

      Happy you had a great hair experience…… I think it depends on how much you know about natural hair. If you are a newbie then it’s easy to get impressed.

      My experience was quite different as they couldn’t tell me what’s contained in their unlabeled product. Further, they couldn’t provide me with hairstyle options for my Afro; said they mainly do kiddies hairstyles. I was quite disappointed as I was looking for a low maintenance hairstyle to last me for the week.

      A salon tha t I would recommend is Ruutos. They’re a little bit expensive but they’re a real treat when you’re lazy to wash your own hair. The customer service makes it much easier to part with your hard earned cash……

      • Aisha O'Reilly
        September 8, 2017 / 12:17 pm

        Hey Lulu, you make a good point in that different things will impress different people. It’s the same with products and their ingredients – some people believe what they’re told and think this miracle product really does make their hair grow and others know that product is nonsense and it’s more likely the person’s genes that do that. I also love Ruutos, I haven’t had a bad experience there but to each their own. I’ve also been made aware that I may have a different experience to others as the salon might recognise me and change their behaviour. I hope this isn’t the case as it’s very misleading.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:14 pm

      Hey Koki, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve heard that they’re closing down though :s I’m taking note of all recommendations though and will check them out when I can. I hope they are around because I’ve heard great things about them. It’s a shame they’re one of a few.

  6. Mogau
    August 14, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    This post is soo relatable. This is my experience. Hair stylists still think we go to them because we cant do our hair ourselves, that they have all the knowledge on hair care and when you try to correct them, you appear cheeky. Hence its always like they’re offering you a huge favour, instead of service. I ALWAYS have to say no to something; its tiring. So i dont go anymore.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:23 pm

      I do wonder if other races experience the same kind of attitude in their salons? I barely ever go anymore, it’s not worth it for me. And when I do, I stick to the old faithful.

  7. Meddy
    August 14, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    Omg… your post is my entire life existence. I been natural for 12 years. I have never ever ever had a good stylist. I swear its like finding the city of Atlantis and mermaid at the sane time, if you get a clean aesthetically pleasing salon and half decent stylist in one place.
    I have been doing my own hair and would love a salon, as an option. My relaxed friends say they love going to the shop, its a relaxing escape and takes stress away from having to it themselves. I have NEVER KNOWN that as a natural.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:28 pm

      Ohh gal, if the salon was a relaxing escape, I’d be there every week! I WISH!!!! I always have to brace myself before I go cos I’m not sure who will be there and what they know about hair. Eish.

  8. Victoria
    August 12, 2017 / 10:16 pm

    Yikes! This post is so timely. I have a really difficult time with hairdressers. I wish I could find it relaxing and soothing, but I basically hate it. My old hair dresser left my usual salon, so I’ve tried two new ones recently. At the first one the stylist told me, as I sat in the chair preparing to have my hair washed, that she normally charges £10 extra to detangle hair. I felt so humiliated. At the second salon I had a consultation where I was told that I could let them know things that I didn’t like being done to my hair: tangle teezers and brushing my (4C) hair especially when wet. Another stylist came over towards the end of the consultation and insisted that my hair had to be brushed in order for the products to be absorbed into my hair effectively. It was basically a case of “I know best”. My old original salon is difficult to get appointments at and I’m not really convinced that they know how to work with natural hair since my regular stylist left. So my search continues. Ugh!

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:29 pm

      Hi Victoria, that’s another thing. Once you get used to one stylist but then they leave and you have no way of finding out where they are or they’re too far away for you to go to. It’s all such a nightmare and reeks of inconsistency. We deserve better.

  9. Mrs JK
    August 12, 2017 / 9:54 pm

    Nail on the head. I do my own hair. The hand full of times I’ve gone to a hair salon in the last 10 years, I’ve left upset. Either by having been there for longer than I needed cause they started doing someone else’s hair before finishing mine, or totally ripping it of my scalp…literally!!! I ain’t about that life. They could do such better business if they took care of their customers. And I’d put that at 99.9%.

  10. Lindy
    August 12, 2017 / 5:55 pm

    I don’t like salons either, they just don’t have the patience for your hair so I prefer doing everything myself and that, I enjoy

  11. Makoti
    August 12, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I’ve had the same experience at salons. If I try to voice out my opinions about how my hair should be done, then it is never done properly. I didn’t like doing my hair myself, I preferred going to salons. When I started growing it naturally, I dreaded salons. They literally pulled out half my hair with a fine toothed comb and I would see it lying on the floor after hair drying. I also got tired of explaining why I don’t relax my hair and having to direct the stylist. I do it myself now. Salons are Trauma!

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:31 pm

      Amen to this. Amen. The explanation of why I don’t relax my hair – yawwwwwn. I’m so over it. It’s almost like they’re hell bent on punishing you for being natural!

  12. Amanda
    August 12, 2017 / 9:20 am

    Black salons unfortunately do not honor our time or our money! There is no such thing as ‘booking’ an appointment, they all work on a first come first serve basis! If I say am going to the salon, my husband knows that it means I will be unavailable for the whole bloody day!!!

    I went natural last year feb but am yet to find a hair salon that deals with natural hair in my area! For now it’s all DIY! And I only go in for protective styling, and the blow drying is brutal! And out of fear of being a difficult customer I just put up with it!

    But your right Aisha! It’s my hair and I’m paying my hard earned money for it!!

    Would be interested to know if salons that deal with natural hair in the centurion area!

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:34 pm

      I honestly think we’ve let it go too far. Surely if we demanded better service and held our coin they would have to change right? They need us for their business to survive. If the majority of us didn’t accept the BS they dish out, they would no longer look at us as the “bougie” women.

  13. Zamakhuze Zikalala
    August 12, 2017 / 7:26 am

    Aisha,I share your sentiments. It’s a mindset thing and as black people we need to be frank for it to change. We have been subservient for too long shame. Salons need to change, as women, we must stand for what is right. Why must it be like a unicorn to have good,healthy and undamaged hairline as a black woman?!

    There is a gap in the market though, especially in Durban.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:36 pm

      That gap is real Zamakhuze, and unfortunately exists everywhere. I know literally two salons in Joburg that I can personally recommend. TWO. Eish. I agree, we’re too used to the subservient role. We must demand more, it’s time.

  14. Precious
    August 12, 2017 / 4:15 am

    Gosh you are spot on! There is just no proper customer service in ethnic salons. I once witnessed a customer being kicked out by a stylist because she complained affer the styling that the outcome was not what the discussed. Stylist demanded her money too! Disgusting really!

    In my own experience, the stares are a constant when entering the salon & stylists harldy greet. I have dreadlocks and i have had the same stylist for almost 6 years. He styles beautifuly hence i keep going back. However he once almost used a damp towel on my head, i could smell it had been used on another customer and i told him straight up, you cant use that towel on me. I got that “what’s wrong with you today look.” He did not really apologise. This i don’t understand, im paying this guy and he wants to treat me sub – standard. By the way, i have to take my own shampoo & shea butter with everytime because the salon uses some nasty shampoo & hair food i dont need on my locs or scalp. The salon is fairly clean, could be better. The customer service is pretty much at say 35%, i keep going back purely because my stylist styles proper – apart from that i do wash locs at home when when im need in need of styling.

    I think us, black folks have tolerated mediocre services when it comes to hair for so long. Stylists have for long not known what to do with natural hair – Which needs to now change clearly.

    We have a long way to go until majority of these salons are actually clean, customer service improves to point of at least being offered a glass water. Customers have to demand proper service After natural hair is HAIR.

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      Hey Precious, I have no shame bringing my own products, especially a few years ago when I frequented salons more often. I had to grow a hard shell to not feel like crap every time they looked at me funny or rolled their eyes at me. My hair thanked me for it! And they’re only changing their “catering” now because we’ve made this natural thing a movement. The attitudes still stink though and humility in their lack of knowledge would be very welcomed.

  15. August 11, 2017 / 7:08 pm

    I never go to salons unless it’s for protective style because of the same experiences. The one thing that annoys me the most is them not wanting to blow dry on low heat, and they keep saying my hair is too course

    • Aisha O'Reilly
      September 8, 2017 / 12:41 pm

      Same same. “It’s too coarse/it’s too long/it’s too thick”…

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