I don’t know if you’ve been reading my blog for a long time or not so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but back in 2006 I wrote a post titled Hairdresser Horrors. It was an Ask Afrobella response to a reader who was lamenting the state of hair salons, in terms of price and professionalism. In that post I went on to detail the history of my hairdressers past. You can click here to read the whole thing – IMHO it’s one of my best written posts and someday when I write a book, that post will make it in there. I thought about that post for the first time in years, as I read the comments on Camille Reed’s guest post, 5 Hair Blogger Falsehoods Debunked by a Professional Cosmetologist.
I’ll be honest, I was kinda surprised by the comments on that post. Some were appreciative. Some were angry. Some were eloquently expressed. Some came in, guns blazing with that CAPS LOCK key firmly clicked the whole time. Some were people who – according to their IP addresses – had never even visited my blog before, but despite that fact they felt the need to tell me, “don’t write these kinds of posts anymore.”
Because of the comments and the blog posts written in response to that post, I have come to see Camille’s post as necessary. It was like ripping off a plaster from a wound and realizing the wound didn’t need the plaster, what it needed was fresh air to help it heal. We’re airing out the wound. And in doing so, we have the power to heal the wound that’s scarred the relationship between DIY natural hair and the stylists who actually are trained and studied, professional experts in caring for our hair.
**image of hairstylist via Shutterstock
So many of the responses were full of outrage and offense, and that let me know that some readers took that post really personally. I’d like to extend an olive branch because it was not Camille nor my intent to offend, and the response made me wonder why people seemed to be so put off by this particular post. I’ve had people tell me it was about the tone of the article, as if it were intended to talk down to the reader. But when I read it and edited it, I didn’t see it that way at all. I saw it as Camille Reed speaking to what she’s seen in her chair from clients who have shown signs of hair damage based on what they’ve read online. She is definitely not the only professional stylist I’ve interviewed who’s spoken to me about their concerns and experiences here. She’s just the first to share it in written form on this blog.
If you’ve developed and learned methods that work for you, that’s great! I’ve got my methods I’ve learned online too! So why take offense at professional information? It’ll either work for you, or not. You might learn something, or you might not. Why then assume that a licensed professional with so many years in the business has “no idea what they’re talking about”, or is just “worried about losing money”? I see that as projecting. That’s making an assumption based on your own interactions and experience. And it comes from having been hurt and angered by hairdressers in your past.
I get it. I’ve also been hurt by hairdressers in my past. I look back on my history of hairdressers from Trinidad to America and realized that I’ve had no shortage of bad experiences that made me want to run away from the salon.
Let me tell you who hurt ME and who kept me from wanting to go back to the stylist’s chair.
— The stylists who relaxed my hair without any kind of protective base. For years I thought it was supposed to burn like fire and my scalp was supposed to be all scabbed up after relaxers. Seriously. I could never stand the sting and the scabs. In my heart I knew there had to be a better way but I was young enough not to know how to speak out about it.
— The stylists for whom time wasn’t an issue. How many hours of my life have I spent sitting and waiting at salons in my life? TOO MANY. I especially remember a stylist in my teens who smoked and gossiped and you could easily spend 5 hours there – 3.5 of those hours spent waiting, 1.5 spent on actually doing your hair. It was so extra and so unnecessary.
— The stylist who made an offhand and under-breath, offensive remark about my natural hair, suggesting I use chicken grease to style my hair. Oh yes. That happened.
— The stylists who have changed their prices from what was listed, based on my texture of hair. That’s happened too.
— As I disclosed in Hairdresser Horrors, I came to realize one of my longest and most beloved hairstylists was – sad to admit — essentially a functional cocaine addict, and despite his talent as a stylist and his bubbly and loving personality, he did make terrible decisions that put himself and all of his clients in danger. It was sad and it was tough to witness and experience.
— The stylist who relaxed and colored and relaxed and colored and relaxed and colored my hair to the point where it was so damaged I had to essentially do a big chop for my fried, damaged beyond repair hair (see above).
— The many, many stylists through the years who quite simply gave me That Look as I walked in the salon door. You know the look. The look that lets you know they’ve judged your hair and they know it’s gonna be a lot of work for them and they probably are hoping you don’t wind up sitting in their chair. That look.
I’ve been offended, I’ve been hurt, and I’ve LITERALLY been burned before. But did those experiences scare me out of the stylist chair forever? No. Because I recognize that there are unprofessionals and hacks in every industry, and there are also true professionals out there who know what they’re doing better than I do.
Clearly I’m not a licensed and experienced cosmetologist or trichologist who can say that I’ve touched many heads of hair besides my own and can speak with knowledge about what works for everyone. I can’t say that I’ve truly studied and practiced hair science in any kind of meaningful way. I’ve figured out what works for me based on what I’ve read and what I’ve tried. That is awesome and I’m proud and happy to be part of the natural hair community. I’m proud of the fact that we share so much with each other, through forums, through blogs, through YouTube and Pinterest and Instagram and social media in general. I have learned so, so much from the online natural hair movement and I’m grateful for all of it. But does that knowledge mean that I would dismiss tidbits of knowledge from a professional? No. Although I have learned what my hair likes and what works for me, I know I can always learn something new about styling or caring for my hair.
So I told you who hurt me. I’ll also tell you who HELPED me. Because I’ve learned a lot while sitting in the stylist’s chair, too.
– I’ve learned not to scratch my scalp and to use the pads of my fingers when I shampoo. I used to be a scalp-scratcher, and I loved that feeling. But I realized I was injuring my scalp in tender places, and visiting a professional stylist showed me that gently using the pads of my fingers is way better.
— I’ve learned how to give my natural hair lift when it gets flat on top – using a rat tail comb (see last week’s Umberto experience post)
— I’ve learned that I still love hair color but it is better for me to let a professional handle that for me
— I’ve learned that I do need a shape and to regularly trim my hair so that it has the look I desire. I like my natural hair with volume at the top. I keep it more or less the same length because that is how I think my hair looks best. I’ve had some incredible haircuts that have shown me the look I want for my hair.
— I’ve learned the value of listening and communicating. There’s something beautiful about sitting with a professional and discussing your hair concerns, and having those questions answered. There’s something so awesome about coming to a stylist with a photo or an idea of a style you’re unable to execute yourself, and watching it come to life. I love those moments.
I’m gonna keep watching YouTube videos, and reading forums, and trying new products based on reviews I’ve met online. I’m also gonna keep going to stylists when I feel the need to, and I’m always gonna keep my mind and my ears and my eyes open for new products, tips, and advice for taking care of my crowning glory, where ever it comes from.
I shared my hairdresser horrors. Now please feel free to share yours! Have you ever had an experience that made you not want to go back to a salon ever again? Tell me about it! And tell me the good stories, too!