Two years ago I was one year natural and in desperate need of a trim. After sifting through hundreds of Yelp! Reviews to find a new stylist, I finally landed on a salon that catered to relaxed and natural black hair. I scheduled my appointment, and in an effort to calm my new-stylist anxieties, made sure that I was with a stylist that was well versed in natural hair care.
The next day I arrived at the salon. My stylist led me over to the washbowl and proceeded to shampoo and condition my hair. I noticed that she was muttering beneath her breath and shaking her head with a look of frustration scrawled across her face. She then attempted to pull a comb through my coils in an effort to detangle my hair. Unsuccessful, she stopped and looked me straight in the eye. “You know, if I had hair like you I would definitely get a relaxer,” she said with an exasperated sigh.
My eyes welled up with tears. My mind vacillated between anger and shock. I thought of getting up and walking out of the salon with a towel still wrapped around my shoulders. But, something inside me told me to stay and talk with her to understand what would prompt such a statement rather than leaving a wake of bitterness and frustration in my path.
Slowly, I drew in a deep breath and set my mind to talking through the situation.
“Well, I actually had a relaxer for about 15 years and it’s easier for me to care for and wear my hair natural,” I explained.
“I don’t have the patience for it,” she snapped in response.
“I didn’t think I did either — and TRUST, I am the most impatient person in the world — but I took time, and I found the tools and products that work best for me. Can I show you?”
With dripping wet hair, I reached into my bag and pulled out my favorite detangling comb and conditioner. (I find that it’s often helpful to bring your own products and tools when trying out a new stylist and this time, my forward thinking was really paying off!) I proceeded to show her how I applied the conditioner and worked the comb from the tips of my hair upward to the roots.
“It’s about going slowly and taking small sections,” I demonstrated before passing the comb back to her so she could finish herself.
Her tone softened as she continued, “I just want my hair to be as easy as possible. I don’t have a lot of time to work with it. That’s why I wear braids.”
“Which is absolutely understandable,” I confirmed. “And the thing about natural hair is that it’s not for everybody. You just have to figure out what works best for YOU.”
The rest of the appointment flew by as we chatted about natural hair care tips, techniques and products while she clipped my ends to perfection. By the time I left, I had received heaps of compliments from not just the stylists themselves, but the other clients in the shop. Going natural has taught me a lot about patience — patience to find products, to learn how to work with my texture and surprisingly, how to be patient with others. What had started out as tense situation that day in the salon had turned into an educational experience for everyone involved.
Cassidy Blackwell is the founder of Natural Selection, a blog that chronicles the global culture of natural hair. Blackwell is an avid traveler and regularly hosts events celebrating and educating the natural hair community. Follow her on Twitter at @naturalsblog.