Whether you've been natural forever or a few weeks, looking for a salon that caters to your hair can be complex. I’ve heard far too many horror stories about curly girls feeling less-than-satisfied with their in-chair experience — hence the boom in DIY treatments. However, the myth that naturals can handle their hair sans stylist isn’t completely true either.
“Everyone can benefit from having a professional check on their hair periodically,” explains Noel New York Salon & Boutique owner and master stylist, Noel Reid-Killings. “While naturalistas typically opt to do a lot of at-home maintenance — and get their advice from YouTubers, it's almost impossible to offer accurate (and customized) hair care advice through a computer screen.”
But beyond trial-and-error, how can you ensure you leave your appointment with a smile instead of tears? We spoke to a few lauded experts to break down their best tips for you to put into practice ASAP. “Wearing your hair natural is beautiful and a badge of honor,” says co-owner of Nappstar Natural Hair Salon, Annette Roche. “Do your due diligence when choosing the best salon for you — your hair deserves it!”
Curly girls, it’s time to rejoice. Here are six key tips to finding your perfect salon match.
Rule No. 1: Take reviews with a grain of salt.
If you’re new to the natural scene, receiving a referral isn’t that simple. So, oftentimes we default to Google. "Yelp can be great when customers write thorough reviews, but often we hear customers say that it's hard to find the information they really need, or they're not sure if they can trust the reviewer,” explains co-founders of Swivel Beauty, Jihan Thompson and Jennifer Lambert. Hence, their innovative app to help women of color with all hair textures seamlessly book an appointment. “[On [the app] ](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/swivel-beauty/id1114706145?mt=8) you'll not only get the reviewer's hair type, but you'll know which stylist she saw for which service, and how long she had to wait,” they explain.
“If all the reviews are negative I say trust it!” shares celebrity master stylist and owner of her namesake salon, Tracy Riggs. “If you see 2 bad reviews out of 100, put them down as an option. Read the all of the response — if it seems like a misunderstanding, give the salon a try via consultation and see what you think.”
Rule No. 2: Ask the salon what types of products they’ll be using on your hair.
“You can tell a lot about a salon just by the brands they stock,” says the self-proclaimed ‘Curl Doctor’ Shai Amiel of Capella Salon. By doing a little research on the front end, you can learn more about the product collection and make an educated guess if this is the right salon for you.
“You want to make sure they aren't using product with certain ingredients that are not suitable for your hair type, which can harm your hair and prevent growth,” adds Annette who works with Franchesca Ramsey. “And, they shouldn't hesitate to tell you,” she adds.
Rule No. 3: Meet your stylist in advance.
Before you step into the salon, Tracy recommends visiting the salon’s website to read stylist bios if available. “By doing this, you can learn about what kinds of services each stylist is passion about, the years of experience they have, and which courses/certifications they’ve taken to master their technique.” Another tip? Spend some time in the waiting area after your consultation to check out some finished looks leaving the salon.
“Picking the right stylist often comes down to specialty, especially for chemical or cutting services. Not everyone at every salon is good at everything — and that's okay,” share Jihan and Jennifer. “[Before you undergo a service], find out if a salon has a dedicated colorist or someone who is known for doing killer cuts. Or, if your primary concern is budget, you might want to book a junior stylist. At a good salon, they're still super talented, but usually easier on the wallet.”
Rule No. 4: Cut and color with caution.
According to Shai (who works with Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg and Skai Jackson) cutting curly hair should only be done in its natural state. Remember, all textured and curly hair is not coiled the same all over, so if you cut wet you may risk having an uneven result.
“We wear our hair curly and that’s why we should cut and color it curly,” he says. “It doesn’t make sense to blow-dry the hair straight (which causes more split ends) in order for us to trim the ends.” His take is to avoid the time-consuming step, since it adds more strain to already fragile hair.
Coloring curly hair should have the same approach. “Make sure your stylists has experience with hair texture like yours before you let them apply color to it,” she adds. “Curly hair responds differently to color because aggressive coloring can also remove the curl pattern, leaving hair lifeless and frail.”
Rule No. 5: Don't skimp.
“For the most part, you get what you pay for! If the price is too good to be true, it usually is,” shares Noel. “And think about it — do you really want your hair to be an area in which you skimp?”
Beyond the price of payment, Noel also suggests factoring in if the salon emphasizes education and hair health. “Stylists that have established themselves as experts in the field are going to have prices that correlate, but you should look at reputable salons in your area to get an idea of the average price.”
Another deal breaker? A salon should also value your time and treat you like the valuable client that you are! “Keep a special eye out for salons that go above and beyond in client service; you're more likely to see that attention to detail translate into excellent services,” she explains.
Rule No. 6: Anticipate feedback (and take it!).
Communication is key with your future stylist. “You've got to be clear about your long-term hair goals, not just how you want to look when you walk out of the salon,” share Jihan and Jennifer. “If you like to rock your natural curls or kinks, make sure you let your stylist know before you get started so that he or she can take that into consideration and take extra care to use the right heat protectant products and limit the heat.”
“A trained professional on natural hair taking care of your hair will give you the proper shape to your natural hair so that it compliments your facial features,” explains Tracy, who works with Erykah Badu and Jazmine Sullivan. “[Even though] it's fun doing your hair at home i.e. trying new styles and caring for your hair, get the advice of a professional because ultimately they care about your hair just as much as you do.”
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.
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