Sunday, March 4, 2012

Help! I need to find an Amazing "Healthy Hair" Stylist

I received a really great question not too long ago from a reader who contacted me inquiring about a serous subject matter. You see, she's on a mission to find a suitable stylist. One she can entrust the care of her hair. My heart goes out to her because I remember the days of going from salon to salon disappointed from my experiences. Worst of all, my hair suffered while I was going through this dreaded trial and error period.

Although I don't have dedicated stylist, I will never forget my experience I had recently while visiting the Prive Salon for my MicroMist treatment. While there, I had the pleasure of having my hair done by Marie. By far, my experience with her was thee best I've ever had with a stylist. If I were one of those people who regularly visited a stylist, Marie would definitely the chosen one. And because of this, I will use Marie as archetype of what you should be looking for in a stylist that will move you forward in your hair journey.

Again, let me reiterate that I've visited many salons in my day. Some of the most memorable (and dreadful) memories I have include:
  • One stylist postponed rinsing out my relaxer even when I repeatedly told her the my scalp was burning. When she finally did rinse out, she proceeded to use her long acrylic fingernails (not her finger tips) to scratch the relaxer out of my hair as she rinsed. I'd never experienced so much pain in my life. Even though I was a first time client, I silently asked myself what I could have done to make this woman hate me so much.
  • After chatting it up with a woman who had mid back length hair at the Dominican salon. I learned that she made special requests to her stylist with regards to how they rolled her hair so that less heat was required to create the finished product. When I asked my stylist to use this technique on my hair, she looked me in the eye and flat out said "NO" without so much as an explanation and proceeded to do what she wanted with my hair.
  • One time, I visited a salon asking for my bangs and my ends trimmed. Knowing there was risk of this stylist over-trimming, I came with a picture in hand of the results I wanted. Needless to say, she kept me out of the mirror the entire time and, hours later, I walked out of the salon with a bob cut and super short bangs (which looked nothing like the picture I showed her).
  • There was a stylist who was so ruff with my hair during the blow dry, that she literally caught my earring during one of her strokes with the hair brush, causing my earring to fly across the salon. Honestly, when she showed me the mirror at the end of the blow, I was in shock that I still had hair on my head.
  • One stylist finished my blow out and as I stood up to leave the seat, she quickly whipped out the scissors and began cutting. By the time I noticed and said something, she was already doing her thing. She then proceeded to tell me to "shhhhhh" as I expressed discontent for what she had done.
These were my worst accounts but there were many more mediocre experiences that really turned me off to salons and stylists in general. Needless to say, these scenarios were exactly why I decided to self-manage my healthy hair journey. But one thing I can give credit for is although the process these stylists used were some of the most unhealthy one could imagine, the end results were pretty much always on point. Even the lady who tried to claw my scalp off gave me nice flowing hair that lasted for weeks.

So what's a girl to do? On one hand, I want gorgeous looking hair. One the other hand, I want healthy, thick, long hair. I can say from experience that my hair never flourished while under the care of a stylist. My length retention was almost non-existent and thickness was something I could only dream about. So is there a way to merge healthy hair with great looking results that only a stylist could create? Yes. But you have to find the right person. So let's talk about what the right person could look like by using my experience with Marie as an example.

Marie listened:
One thing I made sure I did before I made my appointment with Marie was to meet her for a brief conversation. I showed up randomly yet she still took the time to chat with me about my hair. I talked about what I wanted and what I didn't want. What my hair liked and what it hated. And all Marie did was listen. When I finally stopped talking, she reassured me that my hair's concerns were her priority. From that very moment, I knew I had found the one.

Marie was flexible:
During my initial conversation with Marie, I made a host of "demands" that were meant to save both my hair and her time. For instance, stylists tend to wash my hair by massaging it vigorously like in an Herbal Essence commercial. Little do they know that doing so creates tangles that are almost impossible to manage. So I let Marie know that I would be washing my hair at home first and all I'd need her to do was deep condition and style. She was open to everything I suggested and gladly accommodated my numerous special requests. At one point during my blow out, I was uncomfortable with the brush she was using. I politely told her that I didn't like the brush and she immediately started using another tool after asking for my o.k. first. Needless to say, Marie's blow out was the most gentle I had ever experienced. Even at 5 months post, she still didn't feel the need to use excessive force with my hair.

Marie cared:
Seriously, I've never had anyone apply conditioner to my hair like Marie did. She parted my hair in tiny sections (like I do at home) and applied $60.00 Kerastase Conditioner like it was a cheapie pre-poo product. She didn't care that my hair would take up most of her day, she didn't care that she probably applied an entire jar's worth of product on my hair. SHE ONLY CARED ABOUT THE HEALTH OF MY HAIR. Just thinking about it almost brings tears to my eyes. This woman was so self less in her actions that I couldn't believe what I was experiencing. Other stylists would put some conditioner in their palms, rub between their hands and run their hands through my hair. This woman was willing to handle my texlaxed hair at 5 months post like it wasn't nothin'. I love her for that.

So maybe your stylist doesn't currently take the time to apply conditioner evenly throughout the hair, a sign of a great stylist is someone who is willing to do so if you request it.

Marie was knowledgeable:
Even though I gave tons of input both before and during the process, Marie was still able to teach this old dog a few new tricks when she showed me how to create straighter results at home even when I'm knee deep in a relaxer stretch. The difference between the good stylists I came in contact with and the horrible ones were obvious. The good ones talked about healthy hair. Aside from Marie, I could think of one other stylist that enjoyed visiting.Both of them shared their love for healthy hair as a premise for doing what they do. When you visit a new salon, listen to his/her conversation. Really listen and discern what they are saying. All stylist will use the words "healthy hair" in their vocabulary but do they mean "healthy looking hair", or hair that is truly healthy and thriving. If a stylist talks about healthy hair, ask them how they go about achieving it. You'll know because you may hear them say things that are familiar to you from reading hair blogs and forums. A knowledgeable stylist should be aware of natural products, minimizing heat, etc. The stylist should understand when the hair needs moisture or when it requires protein. You shouldn't need a deep protein treatment every single week. That may be a sign that your stylist might be a one trick pony. A good stylist should try to analyze your hair and use the treatment option that works best for your current situation.

Marie listened (and didn't judge):
I put listening down twice because of how important it is. Looking back at the examples above of bad stylists, one thing they all had in common was they didn't listen. Another reason why I didn't like going to the salon was because I was always judged on how long I waited to get a touch up or how thick my hair was or whatever. With Marie, I walked in with inches of virgin new growth, texlaxed hair, and relaxed ends. Although she made a comment about the textures, she didn't try to get me to go natural, or convince me to relax all of my hair bone straight to make it easier. She just worked her magic, with what I had, and made it all work out.

When she finally finished her masterpiece, the moment I had been dreading had finally arrived. That awkward moment when the stylist finishes her work and feels compelled to cut off inches of my hair. I knew that I would have to face this moment with Marie and I honestly didn't know how it would go. On the one hand, I was dead set against having a trim, on the other, I knew my ends weren't in the best of shape and a slight trim was exactly what I needed. Although I didn't want to, Marie assured me that she would trim only the minimal amount and held the mirror in a way where I could see exactly what was going on. Although I knew she wanted to take off a little more, in true Marie fashion, she restrained herself and only trimmed the bare minimum which made us both happy.

I'm sharing this experience so hopefully you will get to know the traits that great "healthy hair" stylists share. If I moved to another state and had to find someone like Marie all over again, the one thing I would do differently would be to have that initial conversation with each stylist before I schedule my appointment so I get a better understanding of his/her philosophy on hair care and their definition of healthy hair and how to create it. Are they willing to listen to me and work with, not against me, to further my hair journey? Is their advice sound and does it makes sense? Are they willing to invest their time to create amazing results? If the answer to these questions is yes, then congratulations you may have found your very own "Marie."

  1. Can you recommend any stylist in DC. I'm getting married in June and need someone.

  2. Hi MJB,
    First off, congrats on your upcoming wedding!, Unfortunately, I don't know anyone in DC, but in the meantime, my advice would be to ask everyone you know for suggestions and start getting to know thoses stylists (even check out some of their work if you have time). At the same time, I would focus on the health of my hair so by June the stylist would have strong, healthy hair to work with.

  3. MJB: I am in DC and I go to a Dominican Stylist just for my relaxers every 11 weeks. I have used her for about 5 years and highly recommend her. However, make sure no matter who you go to you do the best at taking ownership for your hair. My stylist does an excellent relaxer/touch up, but she is not very knowledgeable about all the ins and outs of healthy haircare like I am...I am constantly on blogs and learning more than she can possibly learn and I work with her to get the results I need and want. I come to her with my hair in great shape and I make sure she doesn't do harm. lol! I also don't want to pay half my mortgage...which a lot of DC stylists charge that are "healthy hair" stylists. Let me know if you want her information and I can also send you the more expensive DC black healthy hair salons that my friends go to. Good luck!

  4. Love this post! I'm new in my hhj and its been rough. I find it difficult to express my concerns to stylist, but this is a good guide to start. Thanks, this is much needed as I search for my 'Marie'!

  5. Hey, thanks for sharing this very helpful post! I've been also looking for a good hair stylist yet I don't know the exact specifications I am looking for. Thanks a lot! ab circle pro reviews

  6. MJB-Ms. Kibibbi uses a stylist named Reniece. I believe she is in the DC/Maryland area and comes highly recommended. Check out her website:
    Although it says that she specializes in weaves, she does touch ups as well.

    One tip that I learned when searching for a healthy hair stylist is to not limit your options based on race. Most AA use AA stylists and don't consider anything else. Before I started doing my own hair, I went to a Caucasian male and he was AMAZING and very knowledgeable. I just wanted to put it out there that race should not be a factor in choosing a good, healthy-hair focused stylist. HHJ everyone!