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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

Me, before the blowout, on the left.

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.

  1. Prepare your hair. Deep condition before you go in order to make sure that your hair is as healthy and as moisturized as possible.
  2. Do your research. Shop around. Ask a friend, check a few places out before deciding which salon will be best for you.
  3. 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.
  4. Learn to talk shop. Use the words to the right to help you explain what you want, and what you definitely don't.
  1. 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.

Natural Blowouts

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!

Final thoughts

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?

 

0 Comments
I think the experience with "Dominican blowouts" depends on the texture and health of the hair. I have tight, fine curls and I get a Dominican blow out, or a wash & set, once every couple of months. I'd rather deal with a lot of heat every once in awhile than chemicals. It's not something I'd do every week but when I do get it, I'm happy with the results. Shiny, soft, and long.
I used to go weekly when I lived in NY and when I was relaxed. Now that I'm natural (2 years) I wouldn't go for them to blow it out but I'd go for the roller set. They can roller set some hair!!!! That would be straight enough for me and then I could wrap it or whatever to maintain the style.
I have heard that Dominicans can straighten out your hair very well, the problem is the way they do it will start to rip your edges out over time. they arent as caring and delicate as they shoul be with your curly hair. I work in a salon, people have left our salon with beautiful hair to begin seeing the dominican "assembly line" and they always return with so little hair. very sparse edges and im not saying this will happen upon your firdt few visits. you may be able to go for months, but you will notice the change. i wouldnt suggest dominican salons to anyone. (also the dominican salon is full of UNlicensed workers. they may be doing your hair but dont understand how these chemicals are working for example if they are doing your color, they may mix and match products to save money. i think in some they use colesterol as conditioner which does not condition your hair it coats it leaving your locks unable to breathe. im not suggesting they all run this way im just suggesting you be careful and aware of what they are putting on/in your hair.
I'm also Dominican and feel bad you had a horrible experience with your hair. Just an FYI with Dominican salons (at least the majority) is that you have to let them get to know your hair. They have some of the best products and with proper communication they can fix fried hair so that cuts are not needed.. But you do need proper communication. They have the best deep conditioners, mostierizers, shampoos, rinse, etc. I am saying this out of experience. Both my niece (who's half Dominican and half black) and myself tortured and fried our hairs. We went to a Dominican salon to cut it all off and the lady refused with the promise to bring it back to life. After a few visits once a week with deep conditioning and some before and after heat products my hair was beautiful, healthy, and much longer. I just went natural, but my niece did a little longer than a year ago. She still visits said salon, where they have gotten to know her hair very well. She only goes once a month and her fried, very short hair is now all natural, healthy, and with a length past her shoulders when straight. Her hair is now 3c/4a and gorgeous. She is who inspired me to embrace my curls and go natural. So moral to my story, lol... Is yes, some of them can work miracles, but you do have to go to the same one so that they can learn or get to know your hair. In most salons you do pay a little extra for the deep conditioning, but it's worth it. Not sure what's in it and they do bring it from Dominican republic, but what ever is in it has done wonders in a lot of hair I've seen. ~ Jen
@loveofwonder--- I got ten inches cut off because they wouldn't re-curl. Totally fried to the root. but I love my new cut!!
I really should have taken this article as a sign... *sigh* I went and got my hair blown out last week and my poor strands are FRIED. I'm trying not to freak out too badly but the damage is extensive and after two years I am back at square one. Beware people!
Sorry. Not feeling the hair style. Looks like Marcia Brady with that part down the middle.
I used to get my hair blown out every 2 weeks without fail. It took a couple of months for my curls to bounce back in their full splendor (and 2 haircuts). I got a devachan hair cut, but I didn't like it. Within an hour of leaving the salon, where they did not adhere to my specific request, it frizzed up. Take me to a good old Dominican salon any time for a fraction of the price and better service.
I"ve been getting my hair cut at Dominican salons since I was 5. (I am Dominican, born and raised in NYC). Since my hair has always been long, it takes me 3-5 hours, and $25 worth to straighten it doing a roller set. At least 2 hours to dry under a dryer. To the author: why did you need to chop off 10 inches of hair?
Would I do it? Although I remember well how it felt to just get my hair "done", no. It took me a long time to make peace with my natural curls--to let go of the old ideas that straight hair is "good" hair. Not to mention the damaged caused by all the heat used.

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