In most instances in our lives, we turn to professionals for expert advice and guidance. We value their experience, their skills, their knowledge, their training and at times their passion for their vocation. This applies to doctors, lawyers (if you can trust them), mechanics, bankers (sometimes), cooks, bakers, grocers. BUT, in my humble experience, this does not usually apply to hairdressers. Let me clarify myself, before I am attacked with blow dryers and scissors.
In my country, Zambia, after older women, the most opposition you get about going natural is from hairdressers. I don’t know why this is and where it came from, but I think it partly has to do with the absence of good quality training in this profession. Most salons are owned and staffed by people who learned on the job, have a good business sense or an eye for style, but not necessarily have had training in cosmetology, hair care, hair treatment or hair styling.
However, the main challenge I have with hairdressers is their rigidity. Way back when I was relaxed about ten years ago, I remember going into a salon and asking for a hair style to be done. The girl doing my hair looked at me strangely and said she didn’t know what I was talking about and there was no such hair style. This was back in the 1990s, in the Hair That Talks era (who remembers that Dark & Lovely campaign?). Anyway, after much complaining on her part, she agreed to proceed with my style and later sheepishly admitted it turned out well.
Fast forward to last year and I have trawled YouTube videos, read natural hair books and decided I want to twist my hair. As someone who can barely plait my own vikutis (small braids women and girls plait at night to stretch and protect the hair at night), I knew I needed to go to the salon. The stylist refused to twist it saying it could only be braided as it was too short. Their reasoning was that it would unravel. Now, there are techniques to this that they obviously did not know and so I will not blame them too much for their ignorance.
Another natural haired friend went to a salon to have her hair steamed and she too was refused service. The reason: Natural hair doesn’t need to be treated. For what? The very idea was ridiculous to all the girls who worked their and some of the other customers. My friend left in frustration.
|Wide tooth afro pick/comb|
|Narrow tooth comb|
Whenever I go to the salon, in Zambia, I always comb my own hair. Why? because they insist on using a fine toothed comb (for relaxed hair) to comb my kinky hair. No matter how many times I object or complain, the concept that you are breaking my hair and it needs to be detangled is foreign. Hence, I carry my own wide tooth comb in my bag. I am sure readers from other countries (especially the more developed ones), find this whole idea strange, but this is what I have experienced regularly and I hear the same stories from other women too.
So, what am I trying to share with you here? My point is that with natural hair, you may be your best teacher and your best adviser. Do not rely on professional help or advice from those that should know, but in fact do not. You shouldn’t take my word for it either. What is important is to know what is best for you.
This is why many naturals know and understand their hair much better than when it was relaxed. Having natural hair forces you to get up close and personal with your hair on a one on one basis. More on getting to know your hair in upcoming posts.
Pictures from: http://britishbeautyblagger.files.wordpress.com and http://cdn1.iofferphoto.com
I wouldn't agree more on what you have said about hair dressers in Zambia. In future, maybe there will be more naturals in Lusaka for you to open a hair salon dedicated to naturals.
It's so true! The looks of horror I received when I told the hairdresser I was chopping off my relaxed hair to go natural "Why" they screamed, and the next statement was, "but you're not in school" hehehe.
Ah the narrow tooth comb, they insist on using it because my hair is 'tangled'. No it is just natural. Its weird that hairdressers look at my natural hair as something foreign when it is the same thing that springs from their heads
As someone with locs I can relate to what you just said. Hair stylists need to be able to look at a photo and figure out what to do. Unfortunately in Zambia most cant. I have gone to salons that say they specialize in locs and still end up styling my own hair at the salon. When I try to explain what needs to be done I get that "impossible look" That is why every so often it seems every woman has the same style, if it is the rihanna style in go to a kitchen party every woman will have the same cut. Its almost like the stylists force us to have the same hairstyle but when you think about it, not all styles fit all women. The shape of someones face dictates the style. Glad you wrote this article hope it will empower more women to know that they have the power at the salon not the stylist.
Thanks Munya. It really is a challenge to our stylists to be creative. However, my (trusted) hairdresser also mentioned that one of her frustrations is that women don't want to experiment. She would love to try different styles, but most turn down her suggestions to go with the norm. I would guess that when the new style becomes popular, the same person will want to do the style later. So, it seems we will always require Trendsetters on both sides of the salon chair. Like you have also said, the skill we seem to lack is knowing what works for different hair types, face shapes, life styles etc.
well I can't say much about my experience as a natural in Zambia but last year I came to china for school and decided to go natural, everyone told me the idea is absurd and even some of my friends who support me do not agree completley with my decision. 3 months ago i locked my hair and i get many compliments for my hair but one of my Zambian friends once said natural hair is ok in china but when you go back home you cant get a job. Its nice to see blogs like yours and learn that there are zambians who are natural and loving it because i am
Thank you. It really encourages us to find people are reading this blog all over the world. Congratulations on taking the brave step to go natural, especially in the face of such opposition. Sadly, you will always have such people around and it is something we must all live with. It is true to say that years ago, having locs could have prejudiced employers against you, but not any more. All the best with school.
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I visited home (in Zambia) a few months afer chopping my hair. My experience was very similar to yours. I didn’t care who objected to the way I wanted my hair washed, deep conditioned etc. After all, I was paying for the services. I was fortunate the proprietor of some really nice salon was Congolese and she personally attended to my hair after her employees expressed ignorance on what to do. She was super gentle. She threaded my hair like it used to be done in the 70s, much to the disapproval of everyone who was present. I cared less!!