Over the past 20 years, Dominican salons have grown to be both an important and controversial faction in the hair industry.
Run predominantly by stylists from the Dominican Republic and of Dominican descent, these salons are known for their roller sets and blowouts to create sleek, straight styles in about an hour for about $20.
Because of their inexpensive and efficient process that has the ability to produce bone straight strands from the kinkiest of hair (and all other textures), Dominican salons often find themselves under fire for luring clients away from African American-owned salons. There's also a great deal of controversy about whether or not the Dominican blowout process is harmful to healthy hair.
An Insider Experience
A recent visit to several of these salons in New York City — the Mecca of Dominican Salons — provided an insightful opportunity to speak with clients and stylists, as well give me some as first-hand experience.
"I only allow Dominicans to do my hair," explained Beverly, a client at a salon located in Harlem, as she sat beneath a hooded dryer with a head full of multi-colored rollers. "They give the customer what they want!"
Other ladies nodded their heads in agreement, as they, too, sat beneath dryers with their roller arrangements. I watched as stylists set and finished client's hair with assembly-line precision. Beverly's roller set and blow out, it turns out, would only cost her $17 and take 45 minutes.
The speed and price tag of Dominican salons' services beg the question: how do they do it? I asked a stylist who was in the midst of detangling a client's hair before rolling, but due to a language barrier, I didn't completely grasp the specifics. Spanish is still the dominant language in many Dominican salons.
At a different salon, I approached another stylist to figure out the secret of the Dominican blowout. This time, with the aid of an 11-year old translator, I gained some more clarity on the simple, yet effective, process: wash, condition, detangle, roller set, blow dry. As I stood there watching the stylists work their magic and wondering what this process would do to my hair, I decided that I would just have to sit in the chair and find out for myself.
A couple hours later, I had sleek, shiny hair that was blowing in the wind, and had learned something about the process: there's lots of heat.
Spanish to English Translation
- Desenredante – Detangler
- Anti-crespo – Anti-Frizz
- Alisador – Relaxer
- Anticaida – Hair Loss
- Aceites – Oils
- Blowers – Blow Dryers
- Secadores – Hood Dryer
- Cepillo – Brush
- Peine – Comb
- Rolos – Rollers
- Planchita – Flat Iron
- Proteccion de calor – Heat Protectant
- Yo quiero/yo no quiero – I want/ I do not want
- Rizos – Curls
- Cabello – Hair
- Por favor usa/no usa ______ - Please use/do not use_______
- Menos/Mas calor – Less/More Heat
While my personal experience did result in some heat damage and a necessary hair cut, I'm convinced that, with the proper preparation and communication, Dominican salons can provide quality and safe services for curlies to get a straight fix at an extremely affordable rate.
Here are my tips and a little vocabulary lesson on how to get a curl-safe, Dominican blowout.
- Prepare your hair. Deep condition before you go in order to make sure that your hair is as healthy and as moisturized as possible.
- Do your research. Shop around. Ask a friend, check a few places out before deciding which salon will be best for you.
- Bring your own product. If you have your favorite products, bring them, and ask the stylists to use them on you! This way you can be sure that you know your hair works well with what they are applying. Good things to bring are conditioners, with lots of slip, and a heat protectant such as Carol's Daughter Macadamia Heat Protectant or Elucence Shining Spray.
- Learn to talk shop. Use the words to the right to help you explain what you want, and what you definitely don't.
- Bring your curls back. Without the use of chemicals, the Dominican blowout is only temporary. When you're ready to bring your curls back, focus on deep conditioning and moisturizing.
Believe it or not, not all blowouts, like the Dominican and Brazilian, are focused on creating straight hair. You can also blowout your natural curls to give your Afro some height!
Would I do it again? Not a chance. And not just because I had to chop off 10 inches of my hair that wouldn't re-curl, but because almost immediately after the blow out was finished, I missed my curls. I didn't recognize myself, and I felt like I had lost a part of what makes me unique, a part of my identity.
Sure, it was a hard way to learn that I prefer my hair in its shrunken, coily glory, but I now have a rocking haircut! That said, the beauty of curls is that they are versatile enough to be straightened, and with the proper preparation and communication, Dominican salons are a great resource for those who want to get their straight fix on the cheap.
So, my experience turned out to be a personal discovery, but the real question is, would you do it?