Annie Lee painting

The painting you see here is called Extensions by Annie Lee. It’s available for sale here at BlackArtDepot.com. And you can learn more about this phenomenal artist at her website AnnieLeeArts.com.

I’ve been on a mission to find the ideal hair salon here in Chicago — somewhere I can get my hair styled into kinky twists or Senegalese twists for an affordable price. I’d like to go to a salon, not to someone’s home (yes, I’ve had that offer made quite a few times. Please don’t be mad at me, I’m sure your grandma is talented and her home is wonderful).

In this mission, I’ve had some interesting encounters. Allow me to share the most recent ones with you.

Experience #1 – I walk into a salon that looks like it can accomodate my needs. It’s filled with beautiful black men and women, doing hair and getting their hair done, but I see mostly relaxers and heat straightening techniques being used. When I walk in, you can practically hear the sound of a record player screeching to a halt. Everyone turns to look.

“Hi, do you do natural hair here?”

“Our natural stylist isn’t in today. Here’s her card. Call to make an appointment.”

“Oh OK…well, can you let me know how much she charges for twists?”

“I don’t know, but *looks at me with raised eyebrows* I’d say about $150.”


Experience #2 – I walk into a beautiful, brightly colored, black owned salon. Some of the stylists have natural hair done up in intricate styles. The walls are adorned with African-inspired art. I feel like I’m in the right place. I look at the price list — relaxers cost $65. Hair color starts at $45. Rates for natural hair all begin at $100. And there’s an asterisk after that last zero.

I’m finally able to speak with a stylist, who is busy flat ironing someone’s hair.

“Hi, can you let me know how much it would cost for me to get twists? Two strand, kinky, Senegalese…”

*looks me up and down*

“I’d say $125. Around there.”

Experience #3 – visiting a salon that boldly has “natural hair” painted on one of their windows.

I walk in, and nobody even acknowledges my presence. After a while a receptionist makes her way over to me.

“Hi, I’ve got a question. Do you have a price list, or a pamphlet with information about the price you charge for natural hairstyles?”

“You mean to press it straight?”

“Uh…no. I was looking for twists, a natural hairstyle. I don’t want heat on my hair.”

*blank stare* “Oh. Cause that’s what we do. Let me go ask somebody.”

Receptionist returns with a male stylist. When he sees me, he utters a concerned “oooh,” and proceeds to immediately put his hands on my scalp, to feel the roots of my hair — without even so much as an introduction.

Me: “Hi, uh…do you do twists?”

Hairstylist: *still feeling my hair* “I mostly do maintainance. Do you want to start locs or something?”

“No, I just want to get twists.”

Oh, no. I don’t do those from the beginning, I can help you maintain them though.”

All three experiences ended the same – with me leaving dejectedly, unlikely to return.

So right now I’m 0 for 3 in the informal poll of hair salons I’ve conducted around downtown Chicago. And I’m curious about what one reader who e mailed me referred to as “the natural hair tax.” From my experiences, I’m left with questions.


Why do salons charge so much more for natural hairstyles than chemical or heat styled hairstyles?

Is it possible to find a nice salon that does twists and other natural hairstyles for less than $100?

Or am I being unrealistic, you get what you pay for and that’s that?

I’ve still got many, many salons to explore here in Chicago. Ideally I want to find a salon I’d be proud to feature and review here on Afrobella, a hair salon and a hairdresser I’d be happy to refer to as “mine.” For now, the quest continues on.

Have you had similar natural hair experiences, in your quest for a hair salon? If you’ve got any Chicago recommendations please let me know!

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