Friday, March 8, 2013

The Black Salon

As a Christmas present I was given a beauty package from a salon downtown.  Even though I only live 20 minutes from the city I don't frequent many of the businesses downtown outside of restaurants and theaters.  I was excited to check out a new salon and to go somewhere where everyone looked like me.  Generally before making an appointment at a salon I need to call and ask if they have anyone who knows how to do black hair.  When I looked at the salon's website and saw all black faces, I was happy not to make the call.  I also wear my hair natural and was looking forward to getting new tips on hair care from a black salon. 

The mani-pedi was pretty average.  I've had both better and worse.  I generally get spa pedicures which include exfoliating and massaging of the leg so a regular pedicure doesn't really compare.
I don't want to start any drama but in the dozens of pedicures that I have received over the years the American-run salons don't massage and exfoliate as aggressively as the Asian-run salons.  I don't know if the American salons are afraid they are going to hurt their clients but sometimes it feels like they aren't even touching me.  The experience at the Asian salons is much more fulfilling for me personally since I like more pressure during my massage.  The black salon was pretty much the same as the other American salons that I've been to in this category. 

The facial was bad. There is no way around it.  No steam.  No moisturizing.  Just my face getting washed over and over again and me laying on an uncomfortable table.  My face was dry and itchy when she was done.  Not relaxing at all.  I was just hoping it would be over soon. 

The massage was not great either.  Not a lot of pressure and no music or fragrances to help the client relax. Another uncomfortable table and me counting the minutes until it was over.  If you have hairy arms and you are a massage therapist you should wax them.  It is not relaxing having scratchy arms rub on your back. I felt like making an appointment at my regular salon for a facial and a massage before I left the parking lot.   

But by far the worst part of the experience was the hair.  I asked the stylist if she did natural hair and she said she did it all the time.  I told her what my regiment was and what products I used and that I was open to whatever style or products she recommended for my hair.  Even though I have been natural for 15 years I didn't really learn how to take care of my hair until 2.5 years ago when I discovered Ouidad.  So many more people are natural now than when I first went natural.  There are great products, resources and blogs now so the experience is much less scary than it used to be.  I don't go a day without seeing someone with natural hair and that is a wonderful thing.  

After washing my hair she started to blow dry it.  No conditioner or moisturizer.  No detangling.  I told her that I didn't wear my hair straight and maybe blow dried it once every couple years or so to see how long it was.  She then wet the section of my hair that she had started to dry and sent me on my way.  She didn't do my hair at all. Blow drying my hair straight and then styling it like you would style relaxed hair is not doing natural hair.  I was so disappointed that I had to go home and do my hair after all this time spent at the salon.  I was annoyed that I had to pull my hair into a bun in the parking lot so my hair wouldn't be too much of a mess when I got home.  

I don't want to make any broad generalizations about all black salons or stylists.  But for whatever reason I have yet to meet a black stylist who actually does black natural hair without trying to straighten it.  I have several relatives who are hair stylists and when I talk to them about co-washing and Ouidad they look at me like I'm speaking another language.  That's a problem.  I know there are people who wear their hair natural in the areas where my family lives but there seems to be no desire on their part to learn anything new or different to increase their skills and clientele.  I have had more good experiences than bad with white stylists doing my hair both relaxed and natural.  It would be nice to see more black stylists push themselves to learn how to do natural hair like some white stylists push themselves to learn how to do black hair.     

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