I’d like to take the time to blame all of my hair issues on one particular childhood salon experience. At the age of 12, after having been natural for about four years, I requested a relaxer upon entering junior high at a predominantly black school. The girls there had relaxers, and I would make the “transition” as well to properly acclimate myself into the new environment. So I shed my two-strand twists and welcomed the world of swoops, banks, and ponytails once more. Here’s where the plot thickens.

Mom allowed me to accompany her to the salon just a few days before the start of school. She and I sat hand in hand in the salon chair — creamy crack applied — excited about how my below shoulder-length hair would look blowing in the wind. And blow it did. Weeks later, it blew right out of my head. No amount of pink lotion could save the strands that left a trail of hair from my bathroom sink to the shoulders of my school uniform, to the bathroom at school, and oh yes, the teeth of my comb.

Yes, I blame all of my hair issues on the stylist that performed a ritual that left me with a bald spot on the right side of my head for six weeks. My stylist remained silent during my subsequent visit while combing over said bald spat. She layered on the classic black gel to cover up any damage and said nothing to me during my “touch up.”

I was an adolescent without a voice and self-esteem that was on its way in to the toilet. There were no hair care instructions post-appointment to assist me with my newly chemically treated hair. There were no products recommended. No techniques taught. Since the “incident” I’ve been side-eying every stylist post-trauma.

All too many of you share my experience. No matter what age it happened, many of us have experienced the stylist that takes our money, destroys our hair, and offers no remorse for our damaged tresses. Those paid professionals who we bled our hearts to, unveiled our hair’s deepest concerns and ultimately trusted to heal our manes, broke our hearts more times than we can count. And just like in a bad relationship we went back hoping that the next time would be different. But it never got better did it?

These days we flock to YouTube and heed the advice of bloggers with bountiful hair who’ve figured out the healthy hair care formula — women like you and I who’ve been victims of under-educated stylists. These women have found reprieve by the makings of their own hands and have passed down their teachings to millions of us around the globe who’ve ever sat in front of their mirrors in tears as they watched their tresses fall to the floor.

These “experts” share with us their regimens, give us product suggestions, and tutorials — and we adore them. Almost too much. Granted they have their place, we can’t forget that majority of them have no actual professional hair training nor a license. I give them brownie points for their research skills and application; however, it would be nice to sit in the chair of a stylist that can give me the best of both worlds.

Will all the licensed and educated hair stylists please stand up?

What was your scarring professional hair care experience? Have you finally found solace in a stylist you trust?

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17 Comments

  1. Yes! I have never really thought it thru like this before but this is exactly how I feel! I’ve been doing my own hair aside from trims since I went natural and would LOVE to sit in a chair and be hair pampered but its hard to find a stylist who has the same education or care that I’ve scrapped together from my favorite tons of bloggers. It’s disappointing.= (

    • @Chenzira: Agreed. The two stylists that I have seen since going natural (both of whom were black) badly damaged my hair. I went to them for trims, and due to the fact that my hair is 4Z (I know it doesn’t exist, but my hair is nappy!)they used an excessive amount of heat on my hair. After this, I decided that I’d learn to take care of my own hair. More black hair stylists need to learn how to take care of natural hair, and then, I’ll start going back to the chair. I feel the majority of salons only know how to straighten nappy hair.

  2. It just highlights the shift in the hair industry. As hair stylist were more concentrating on in store presence and conversation about whatever the client wanted to talk about, hair bloggers were more interested in having a focused conversation about growth and the health of their locks. It’s a different dynamic.

    I’m sure you had a terrible experience but you also must admit you were a little girl at the time and the fact the hair stylist didn’t create an environment that you felt comfortable talking about her egregious mistake led to you not speaking up. On the internet, the anonymity makes it easy for people to sound off; even if one can see your face, as with YouTube bloggers, you can’t get at them in the same way a one-on-one convo can facilitate.

    I’m glad you’ve found the right formula for taking care of your hair but I’m sure a lot of stylist in beauty shops are just as knowledgeable as internet hair bloggers and in mass amounts.

  3. I was fortunate to find a stylist in 1995 who could beautifully blow out my natural hair without the need for a relaxer. It fact, it was smoother and easier to manage than when it was relaxed years earlier. She learned the ins and outs of my multi-textured hair long before the hair curl categories were created. I trusted her to color my hair in 2000 and it has remained healthy, even with the 3 months applies color and bimonthly heat styling. This summer I decided to stop the heat styling and enjoy my curls. To my stylist’s credit, I had very little damage and my curls are bouncy. Kim is a master stylist, constantly stays educated at her craft and imparts her wisdom to those around her. I wish that more stylists had half of her talent and intelligence.

  4. As a “naturalista” my whole life long before there was ever a term, I can tell you that its a few major things.

    1) Professional beauty schools by and large do not teach how to care for Black hair, or even non-traditional white, Asian, or different textures of Latina hair. It is primarily focused on a few textures that do not include the type of variety that actually exist. That is probably based on a “normative” approach to learning, that the texture of the majority of white people (straight with frizz not kinks) is the normal hair type. Of course that is not true….but that is what we get in the schools and it translates to the shops. Aveda salons and schools are one good exception.

    2) Those who are traditionally trained, licensed cosmologist who also actually know what they are talking about regarding different textures of unchemically treated “natural” hair, are focused on hair health. That is great. Don’t get me wrong. They need to know how to wash, condition, cut, and treat the scalp of the person. BUT they generally have no experience or imagination when it comes to styling….at all. There has never been a way for that to be taught unless for example you are in a community (like living) in a community where many people have locs and you began exchanging how to twist and loop, etc.. That is how “afros” developed. People taught each other in person and then the stylist picked it up.

    3) There are some natural stylist out there who are paying attention to the trends and are now adding Dominican blow outs, and wet styled hair styles to their list of options but they are few and far in between. It would do the professionals some good to learn a few tricks from the CREATIVITY of the youtubers.

    4) My solution is to get your hair professionally washed (and trimmed or blowdried) every few months by a professional (at half the price without styling) and continue to style it yourself.

  5. In high school I went to get a perm and the hair dresser left the perm on for a long time. Luckily, I spoke up and said something but when I did…I got THE BIGGEST attitude from the hair dresser. She told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and my hair wasn’t going to be THAT straight. I told her I didn’t care and didn’t want to have a perm on my head for 30 mins. Luckily my hair didn’t shed and it was bone straight. My hair would have come off if she left it on any longer.

    I’m now natural. No chemicals. I still can’t believe how rude she was. It’s MY HAIR! If it would have broke off…all she could say was “sorry”!

    • At least she said “sorry.” I’ve never had a hairstylist apologize to me in my life. Never. They usually act like they are doing me a favor.

  6. I had an amazing hair dresser. She’d analyze my hair with the skill of a scientist. She was an older lady that actually cared about the art of hair. However! Her employers said she took too long and apparently other clients had complained about the amount of time (care) she’d take…she was eventually forced out. In the mean time, I moved and used a new stylist and gave him the specific instructions that she’d told me to relay to him. He looked uninterested and a week later my hair was falling out! No more!! Natural since 2007!

  7. I must confess to having some hostile feelings toward stylists. The majority of them do not know what they are doing, natural or relaxed, and then call themselves professionals. The last time I went to a stylist, she was asking my advice about natural hair and SHES THE *PROFESSIONAL*…….Thats it! Im not going back to them because I cannot control my tongue anymore and i will give it to them.

  8. The internet blogger killed the hair stylist ;-)

  9. I have done that dance too many times. I went to stylists for years & was disappointed with the quality & styling of my hair & gave up the chair. During the time that I was a student & young professional my hair grew using drugstore products & low manipulation due to lack of funds. I finally went back to a stylist that had done a fabulous job w/ the hair of my roommates & several classmates. The results were gorgeous – at first. Within 4 months my beautiful mane was stripped & I was nearly bald. The first sign of trouble should have been when she said that she wanted to “marinade” my 4z hair, which actually translated into severe overprocessing. I am newly natural this year & am using bloggers & youtube videos as my hair gurus. My hair is on track to return to the thickness I love but if it’s ever severely damaged again & least I will not spent countless hours w/ & paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to the person who did it.

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