Thanks to a now industry-wide call to action against the marginalization of afro hair, words like “coily”, “kinky” and “afro” are now the mainstays of autocorrect in my work. of beauty writer. The ever-changing conversations about how to take care of Afro hair at home have been the ones I have enthusiastically participated in, writing and offering advice from the wealth of knowledge I have gained somewhere in between. experimenting with teen bangs and watching countless hair tutorials online. Styling aside, my laissez-faire attitude to the health of my hair – in part due to the fact that as I grew older my hair was often described as “stubborn but soft” – allowed me to ‘take a comfortable, step-by-step approach to my hair. care routine, which since I was 16 had one major constant: I have never set foot in a salon. But after a year of containment full of microfiber turbans and articles on innovative measures currently being taken by hairdressers and afro specialists, I realized that my own return to a salon was long overdue.
It would be easy to attribute my break in salon hair care to a terrible chemical burn incident, or even growing up in a wasteland of Afro hair (a less insulting description used to excuse the lack of trained hairdressers at all. hair types). However, over the past year or so, I have found that the root cause of my salon avoidance is a bit more complex.
Afro hair care at home had become more than just a form of experimentation for me and more of a way to exercise strict control over my hair and, in a way, my life. Instead of my at-home hair care approach giving me “freedom”, it helped cement three strict versions of myself: the one who wears braids (especially summer in a jet black shade that allowed me to have fun but secretly keep control); the one who wears fringed wigs (which was an excuse so I didn’t have to face my inner frustration that growing up in a predominantly white area left me ignorant of the language of lace fronts); and finally, the one with my blow-dried hair in a bun (which I did out of fear of damage and with constant guilt for the curls for not wearing it in its most natural state).
Image source: Ata-Owaji Victor
This control, aided by YouTube and the online natural hair community, allowed the emergence of bad hair habits sanctioned by my belief that “it’s just hair, it’s going to grow back, I’m not one of those black girls. who temporarily cry broken locks. ”Even when I finally weaned myself from chemically taming my hair and manipulating it to the point of breaking it, it didn’t change my attitude to being in control of my hair.
A year of countless deep conditioning treatments on Zoom calls later, and I have finally reached a point of frustration with the repetitive nature of my restrictive hair routine. It took me a few uncomfortable self-discovery sessions, which included debating shaving everything and having conversations with African American women around me, before I started to recognize that control – control of my hair. , strict control over every bit – had been the driving force behind my almost seven-year salon dead end.
I undertook my reunification with the salons using the “community phone” method, previously used by my mother to sniff out new braiders that could style my hair before the start of the school year, and a friend quickly directed me to Zateesha Barbour dressing table. The drastic leap from my position at home to sitting, Afro out, in front of Barbour – who has worked with people like Jorja Smith and on campaigns for Estée Lauder – was a far cry from the bustling salons of my childhood. The trendy loft salon, which Barbour later explained was home to a collective of independent stylists, initially did nothing to calm my racing spirit over the intimacy of the event, amplified by a decrease in one year of human contact thanks to COVID-19.
Image source: Ata-Owaji Victor
Nonetheless, whether it was Barbour’s ease and confidence in his afro hair expertise, or my knowledge that I could always change it up when I got home (which I admitted to him), and soon the date started to feel less of a chore. According to Barbour, the benefits of the appointment for my hair were so much more than just a new bang.
“The biggest benefit of regular dates for people with afro-textured hair is certainly the care of the scalp, because it’s really important and often overlooked; another benefit is the care of the hair in general,” a- she declared. “I say hair care because while the style looks cute, people necessarily stop caring if you handle it in a way that causes more damage. Sometimes a professional is needed for a gentle reminder of. do not do it.” Barbour recommended making an appointment “every 8-10 weeks” to regularly cut your hair and make sure the products and treatments actually work for you, a message that was music to my ears – and a relief for my cluttered bathroom cupboards.
Thanks to Barbour’s careful consultation, we were able to discuss the condition of my hair, his professional opinion on treatment masks and the co-wash (15-20 min for the latter, avoid for the former), alongside more complex subjects like myths so a lot of people have afro hair, including me. Despite his years of nastiness, Barbour explained that the heat (in moderation) is not my enemy and that co-washing, a beloved mainstay of the online natural community, could actually be the source of problems with scalp related to the accumulation of products. The biggest shock, however, came after his confident assurance that no, despite the feeling of a hair mask all day, it “can only penetrate so far into each layer of hair”, so wearing it for 20 minutes is. more than enough. We touched on the hair color, which Barbour described as her “favorite thing to do with clients because the main thing is to make sure the hair is healthy before”, and she also provided me with new aftermarket care information for transitional hair, natural fros, and even chemically straightened ends.
Image source: Ata-Owaji Victor
Before the date, I had talked at length with friends about how I wanted this to be a fresh start away from my restrictive hair position – a new hair color, or maybe just highlights, and a coiled cut. However, sitting in the chair, letting slip my demand for a straight silk press coupled with my initial horror of the idea of an off-center separation, I realized that even attempting to give up years of control in one appointment was just as restrictive. The freedom to discuss my worries and concerns with someone other than my internal voice was both a welcome relief and a reminder of the benefits (beyond eliminating split ends) that a visit to the salon.
As with most things in the upbeat (but sometimes hesitant) gaze of the beauty industry after 2020, our conversation quickly turned to Barbour’s awareness, accessibility and belief “that the government should make obligatory the study of all types of hair. , so that anyone can walk into any salon and have a service done, ”and we shared the passion for black women and people with Afro hair to feel safe, proud and also heard. hanging out in the living room didn’t magically wipe out years of my control issues in one fell swoop, and I didn’t walk away with a coiled afro with scattered highlights – but this first iteration, under the capable hands of Barbour, is one who could never have made it home alone by the bathroom sink.