Why I Finally Let Someone Else Touch My Afro-Textured Hair
I'll be the first to admit I have plenty of unfounded fears. My fear of going to the hairdresser is as real as my claustrophobia. I know that there's a 100 percent chance of me being trapped underground on a crowded train, but the fear that I'll be trampled on in a riot underground and never get out is pretty far-fetched. I also know that the likelihood that all my hair will fall out is just as high when I'm doing it as when a professional does, and that the fear that letting a stranger touch my it will lead to immediate, permanent baldness is, for lack of a better word, crazy. Yet, many people with afro-textured hair share my concern when it comes to anyone else's hands getting all up in their curls.
I've had my hair for over 30 years. We've been burned by hot combs and relaxers together. We've been shamed by people who didn't understand its texture. My relationship with my hair has had its ups and downs, so to keep us both happy now, I've avoided letting anyone put anything in it besides a loose French braid — a French braid that's execution I completely micromanaged.
I knew I would have to enter a salon at some point and not just for a cut, but to confirm my hair and scalp were healthy. Destiny must have heard my need for hair-validation because I was invited to Ouidad Salon in NYC to have my hair styled with their newly launched kinky-curl products. As soon as I walked into the salon, I immediately had cold feet, but there was no turning around. The next hour was spent in a flurry of my emotions while a kind and talented hair stylist soothed my fears and my curls.
If you, too, have been having hesitations about letting someone else do your 'do, here are some steps you can take to make your first salon visit go smoothly.
1. Stay Informed About The Process
My wariness of products (I went through a long relaxer phase) is the main thing that's kept me from getting back in the chair for several years. However, my hair fear is 1. made up and 2. a thing that many people with afro-textured hair work through on a daily basis. Our curls' fragile texture and density makes us prone to breakage, excessive dryness, and frankly, too many bad hair days. It never dawned on me to ask about ingredients and see the package details in my previous salon experiences. Fortunately, this experience had a different twist: A chemist was on-site to openly share the ingredients with me. I felt in the loop about what was happening in the sink and it definitely eased my nerves.
2. Keep An Open Mind... And Open Eyes
My distrust of hairdressers kept my mind closed to trying anything new at appointment; I needed to start small and build up. But while I was getting a simple wash-n-go I was mesmerized by the natural curls all around me being blown out completely straight or wet, and stunned by the afro-textured hair tucked confidently underneath hairdryers. Since my experience hadn't reached the terrifying climax I assumed it would, I found myself dreaming of letting them trim my hair and the healthy bounce a fresh cut would give my curls.
3. Leave Your Hair Baggage in the Past
I imagine that the worst thing that can happen if I let anyone style my hair is that all of my hair will fall out, mostly because, thanks to a bad relaxer, it's happened before. Now that I've fallen in love with my hair, it would hurt even more than the first time. Of course, that fear is mostly just crazy, and getting in the chair requires you to check any similar baggage at the door. I was at a very successful and capable salon and ended up enjoying the experience when I put a little trust in my stylist.
4. Speak Up For Your Hair
Since I was starting small by getting a wash-n-go, I assumed my hair would be a tangled mess by the time I made my commute back to Brooklyn. I know my hair hates to be wet and I know that my hair can handle very low heat. I let my stylist know that my hair had a major shrinkage problem and would angrily twist into dreads if it was left wet. So we worked around the issue by having me go under the hair dryer at low heat. My stylist was a pro, but only I could know the horrors that would ensue if my hair was left wet. If your strands have a similar quirk, don't keep quiet about it.
5. This Is The Most Appropriate Time To Talk About Your Hair
Well, IMO, there is no bad time to talk hair. Now that I've realized my afro-textured hair isn't unkept, ghetto, or unprofessional (as many people in my past would have had me believe) I'll dish about my beautiful curls to anyone. Chatting about my hair with my stylist gave me some great detangling tips that I hadn't tried before and my stylist let me know that my hair was strong and healthy (as if I had any doubt). Even if you're obsessed with taking care of your hair, chances are you'll learn something new by having a lengthy conversation with a pro.
6. Write Down Your Products
My stylist wrote down every single product and tool she used on my hair for me to use for later use. This is a key step to a positive salon experience: Not only will you be able to recreate the style, but product-junkies can benefit from narrowing down products that work and products that make their hair coarse or brittle. Ouidad studios writes down your hair prescription for you to take with you, but wherever you go, make sure you get a list of what's on top of your head. And enjoy your fresh curls, girl.