This letter came to my attention on a post I did on the horrible products Aveda is trying to peddle to the natural hair community:
Hi Mrs. Chris,
I know I’m forever asking you for advice, but I really need it as a nautralista meeting my boyfriend’s mom for the first time. My boyfriend is on his way now from Wa to relocate to VA with me. I’m really excited about the first meeting with his mom, but I’m stressed…and now I’m having hair problems. I made the mistake of going to a black hair salon in preparation of the long awaited reunion, and first time meet and greet with his mom.
I’ve been natural for 5 or 6 years now. I was relaxing my hair only 2xs a year and thought it was pointless to continue the habit; so, I stopped relaxing my hair. I’m glad I did because my hair is so much healthier and manageable, for me. I didn’t know how to, or had the time to, properly care for treated hair. (I was in the Navy for 5 years, as an engineer)
Now as a naturalista, and civilian, my hair is extremely thick and long. Been this way since 2010, natural, civilian, 2012. Now comes my conundrum. I was talking to my boss about how I really needed to go in for a trim since I haven’t had one since late Jan early Feb. My stylist recently went up in price so I was considering finding another stylist. So, she offered me a chance to see her stylist, on her dime. I went last night. Worst decision ever!
I hadn’t been to a black salon for many years, and now I remember why. Black women handle natural hair roughly and without care, so I won’t be coming back to a black salon, ever. The beautician thought it was ok to comb through natural hair with no conditioner, while it was dry….roughly. I told the shampoo girl, who looked like she was 14, she was an actual teenager, to not detangle my hair while it was super dry…but to put a little water or something in it to help detangle it. She then proceeded to wash my hair instead. The lady that was supposed to be doing my hair then came over, and proceeded to “detangle” my hair with shampoo in it! No conditioner or anything. She handled my head and hair with no delicacy or care, and with a paddle brush!
She then preceded to talk about my hair to another customer…said I should have let the shampoo girl comb through dry hair before shampooing. How about wash my hair, and condition it! It’s a lot easier to comb through and detangle. This is the worst salon experience I’ve had, ever. I have never felt so ugly and unappreciated in my life. I felt like growing the hair that God put on my head was a burden to her, and it was ugly in her eyes. She kept telling me how she was going to have me looking like Farrah Fawcett. I’m a black woman with natural hair…I actually like the way I look. I have no desire to look like an outdated white woman. I should have known not to come here by the looks of the other client’s hair. They had none! No shade, but they were all weaved up or had some short relaxed dos.
I was there for 3 hours, and all she managed to do was wash, “detangle” (aka ripping my hair out as she combed it from the root to the end with a paddle brush, not a wide tooth comb), and condition my hair with something called a Keratin treatment. I asked her what Keratin was and she said it’s a conditioner, but it smells like chemicals to me. I didn’t let her finish my hair because it was 9pm and she left the shop in the middle of doing customers hair to attend to something else. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was extremely unprofessional, especially after she treated and talked about natural women’s hair like we were beneath her or crazy for not keeping it straight. I got from underneath that drier, had another girl rinse me out, and left. My boss paid that woman $20 for that mess! She charged $15 for the shampoo and “conditioning”, and my boss left her a $5 tip. She felt really bad about me leaving, and I will never go back to that salon, or recommend it. I told her from the start I was natural.
I’m glad I left because her other clients’ hair all looked damaged, or they were going completely bald in some spots and thinning in others. It was an omen that I was not to allow this woman to touch my hair. My hair is about 1.5-2 inches away from being waist length, again. I’m thinking if I allowed her to trim it she would have cut it out of a spirit of jealousy. I kept getting that feeling, as I began to ask God, that I should not let her touch my hair anymore. The amount of heat she used on her clients hair was outrageous and unhealthy. The products she used seemed unhealthy.
Now for my question: what exactly is Keratin, and will it “straighten” my hair out like a relaxer and change my natural texture? I love my natural curly hair and don’t want it chemically treated. What should I do now Mrs. Chris?
I’m sorry for the lengthy letter, but I had to rant because I feel like crying. She didn’t tell me she was putting a Keratin treatment in my hair, she did it without my permission. As I look up information about Keratin I become more confused because I don’t know the brand she used or if it was just a conditioner like she said. I washed it again when I got home, but it still has that chemical smell to it. I’m upset and could really use some guidance.
Chara aka Jazzy Jeff”
Here’s my take:
Many traditional press and curl/relaxer beauticians have a deep resentment for the natural hair movement. Whether thoughtfully or unconsciously, they were the purveyors of the cure to the self-hatred of our natural textured hair, and for generations, responsible for 100% of our hair care. Many of us didn’t know how to wash, condition, or style our hair without the aid of the neighborhood black hair beautician, which wielded upon her quite a lot of power, which many abused. Long waits, crappy service, unapologetic attitude about providing some of the worst customer service in just about all industries was the standard. And then came women who used social media to teach and tutor black women on how to love and care for their natural hair, in it’s natural state that wouldn’t require a $200 a month budget to be treated like the beautician was doing you a favor by taking your money.
After all, for over a century straight hair was the standard of a “well kept, classy black woman.” Natural hair was peasant class, ugly, nasty, (shockingly) seen as aberrant, and met with distain. For the brainwashed, this was a better option…
We were told that harmful relaxers that would cause major health problems were better options than the crown God gave us. We were told that pressing was better than twist outs. And since the beautician’s wallet was at risk, any threat to change was met with major negativity.
I have myself, since going natural, made the mistake of going to a “traditional black salon” and having beauticians tsk tsk my “naps” and try to comb through my dry hair, deliberately snag at it with fine toothed combs and not take care when detangling. I’d finally had enough. I decided to take my hair into my own hands and learn everything I could about taking care of my own hair, learning how it’s formed, the best way to style it, with the least amount of damage. I was happily putting a dent in contemptible stylists who abused their position and authority, and regularly encouraged others to do the same.
My advice to you, writer, is to seek a hair stylist that specializes and embraces the natural hair movement in your area. Here’s a link to Yelp-reviewed salons in your area; check the reviews and be 100% informed before you make a decision.
As for your question about the keratin treatment–yes; unfortunately many of the keratin formulas used to semi-permanently straighten the hair have harmful chemical like formaldehyde. If the treatment put on you had a strange chemical smell, then the may have likely been some of them. But it probably won’t do too much damage in the long run. Check out this helpful overview on WebMD.
In the meantime, you need your hair in good shape for your important meeting, so here’s my advice: Go to CVS and buy a Shea Moisture shampoo and conditioner. You can’t go wrong with that brand. Second, make an appointment for a blow dry bar. Yes; the ones for white women. After you wash, deep condition and detangle your hair yourself, twist your hair in about 8-10 twists to stretch the hair and make it easier for the stylist to complete the task. THEN go to a place like Super Cuts and tell them EXACTLY how much you want them to take off. They will do whatever you ask.
It’s sad that a so-called “white salon” is more likely to have more regard to our delicate hair texture, but…there it is. I’ve heard too many horror stories–and experienced many of them myself–to try to defend unscrupulous and unprofessional “black” hair stylists.
Hope this helps!
BTW, this was the LAST time I got my hair pressed by a negligent stylist. Find out why: