Almost two years ago, I wrote Your Hair Dresser is Not Your Friend to illustrate the fact that when it comes to natural hair, you cannot expect to turn to a professional and get advice, support or a general listening ear:
“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”.
Two years later, this is still true. The horror stories continue. I hear countless tales of people going to salons and being expected to hand over their hard-earned money and then having their hair mistreated. It’s like some of the stylists are offended that they have to ‘deal’ with this natural hair ‘mess’. Now to a certain extent, there was nowhere one could learn about haircare and hair styling until recently. There are now two training institutes in Lusaka that teach hairdressing and cosmetology, one public and one private. These are fairly new establishments.
|I recall arguing with the stylist at the salon to get this style done the way I wanted it.|
Your average hair dresser in an African salon, learned at home or on the job. The owner is usually a business-savvy woman with some money to spend or with a sense of stye/fashion. A a hair salon/boutique etc, is a natural investment. When hiring, they look for people who know how to braid/style, are reliable and available, reasonably personable and willing to work hard. I doubt many proprietors would be able to send their staff to be properly trained at one of the colleges for fear their investment would go toward them setting up their own salons.
So, as I wrote in the first article, I don’t blame them for not being trained (not yet), but with so much free information out there in blogs and on YouTube and in the plethora of books on black haircare and styling, there is no excuse for the misinformation and rigidity regarding black haircare. That’s before we get to the continuing prejudice against natural hair. I should note that this prejudice is not a Zambian thing at all, it is a worldwide phenomena.
The rigidity and lack of investment in knowledge extends to use of products and tools, haircare and styling techniques and methods as well as actual hair styles. This is why so many women have lost their hairlines because of having wigs glued onto their skin, ripping out the hair from the roots. Many have suffered permanent damage/hair loss as a result. The practice of braiding so tightly that bumps/sores appear is considered a good thing – the tighter the better. My hairline was ripped out last year because even though I had said I didn’t want any extensions or wool braided into my hair, because I couldn’t see what the stylist was doing behind me, she added sewing cotton to the mini cornrows. I had no idea she had done this until taking them down. The cotton just ripped out a line of the hair as it was tightly wound into the fine hair strands.
So, if you are on a healthy hair journey and with your thirst for knowledge, have taken time to amass information where you can find it, don’t expect to find that support from your local hairdresser. From my own and the many people that call and write to me’s experience, s/he will ensure you walk out of their establishment with a fabulous looking hair style, but chances are that s/he doesn’t know the first thing about healthy haircare. When your hair starts falling out or if it isn’t growing, they probably won’t be able to tell you anything about why this is so.
I should take a minute to also talk about demand. Without demand, there will be no supply. We demand hair that will last for 4 months because we want to forget about it and then wonder why it fell out or isn’t growing. Out of sight, out of mind works in the reverse too. If you forget about your hair, your hair will forget about you. This is different from the natural hair advice to leave your hair alone if you want it to grow. We are in the habit of wanting quick fixes. This is why people write to me asking for a product that will make their hair grow. They never ask what it is they could be doing that could be causing their hair to fall out or not grow. I don’t recall anyone telling me their regimen and then asking what they can do differently. As I mentioned in another post:
“Everyone’s hair grows, which is why people with relaxed hair have to retouch it every few weeks. Natural or relaxed, if your hair does not look any longer after 3 months, it means there is something you are doing that is causing your hair to break off — hence failure to retain the hair’s growth.” Masuka M.
This is why I encourage people to do their own hair as much as possible. Partly because the salon likely won’t do it properly, but because it is important to get to know the hair on your own head and the only way to do this is if you spend time with it. If you never wash or style your own hair EVER, then there is no way you will know the first thing about it, or what it likes and doesn’t like. It really is a relationship that must be nurtured. And like any relationship, the key is quality time. When you know your own hair, on the occasions when you do go to the salon, usually for braiding, then you can exert more control. Even if you are fortunate enough to have found a great hairdresser, you need to invest time and effort in being your own first port of call for expert opinion.
What I am trying to say is that you should not vest all your confidence in someone else. The reason we have so many hair issues, is because we are so quick to hand over the responsibility to someone else – we take the easy way out. This is why the natural community has evolved into a largely DIY community. In the absence of professional help, we had to teach ourselves and each other because the salon world was so very far behind us. And they still have a long way to catch up.
Before I sign out, I have to say that a few weeks after writing the first article in 2011, I made a new friend. Actually, she became my friend later as I came to trust her and appreciate that she not only wanted to help me but went out of her way to learn about how she could help me more effectively. Equally important, is that she also invested in tools and products that would work specifically for me and my natural hair. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about my hair dresser. Those who follow ZedHair on Facebook are aware that I do mention her on occasion and I almost always refer people to go and get a consultation.
So, watch this space, because this article does have a sequel – Meet My Friend the Hair Dresser.