Nadra Smiley, the Executive Director of Evolving Textures & Natural Look Academy, shares her thoughts about the issues surrounding natural hair care and costs.
I have welcomed the invitation to regulate the industry as it encourages natural hair care practitioners to constantly update their skills and business practices, which is good for them, their clients and ultimately to our extended community as a business model.
There aren’t that many stylists out there who can cut curly hair (whether they admit that or not is another thing, entirely). Most of us have our own horror stories as evidence of this, whether it’s a botched haircut, a too-tight style, or just the general sense that the stylist really had no clue what they were doing - we have all been there, or we know someone who has. Finding a salon with a curly specialist taking residence ends up being a big challenge for many curlies, but once they find they are faced with another challenge: the fact that curly hair cuts will set you back a pretty penny.
Nadra Smiley, the Executive Director of Evolving Textures & Natural Look Academy, graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the issues surrounding natural hair care and costs. Her passion for the topic is evident.
"Natural styles have come a long way from the intimate expression of cultural affection and utility between black women and men. Today, it's a business that allows black people to pursue their entrepreneurial passions in a most authentic manner. As a business, contemporary natural hair care providers have invested many dollars and hours in their education. Increasingly, states have sought to regulate this home-grown industry, and with that comes the responsibility for industry standard-bearers to exercise thought-leadership on everything from sanitation to protective techniques. I have welcomed the invitation to regulate the industry as it encourages natural hair care practitioners to constantly update their skills and business practices, which is good for them, their clients and ultimately to our extended community as a business model.
Why are curly haircuts so expensive? Why do salons charge so much to style natural hair?
An article on the blog Klassy Kinks recently gave a voice to frustrations that many naturals feel when trying to find a local stylist who is competent enough to handle and style their hair and the cost, "There is no reason someone should be paying twice as much for double-strand twists than a flat iron. Heck, at some braiding places, getting braids or twists installed with extensions (which is much more time and labor intensive) costs less than getting braids or twists installed without extensions! This is very much the case here in Harlem, where I reside, and it makes absolutely no sense."
In the comment section, a handful of stylists responded to defend the reasons behind their pricing structure. Klassy Kinks went on to publish a follow-up article in which stylists explained their pricing.
The factors that stylists take into consideration when setting their prices include, but are not limited to:
- cost of training
- rental cost
- cost of products
Training and certification
Most cosmetology schools still do not provide textured hair training as part of the base curriculum. They teach students how to relax it and how to blow it out, but not how to work worth it. Aspiring textured hair specialists make an additional investment for this training, licensing, and certification, and therefore, it is understandable that these costs factor into the cost for their services. Some stylists may also increase their service fees after a new certification is added to their resume.
The time spent on a head of hair depends on many things such as density, length and curl pattern so again it is understandable that this should factor into pricing. However, this alone does not account for the price differences for natural hair styles and natural haircuts that require the same amount of time spent in the stylist’s chair as straight hairstyles.
Many naturals believe that having curly hair is just an excuse for stylists to charge more. If we both spend an hour getting a haircut, but you are a type 3 natural and I am a type 4 natural, should I be charged more? If yes, how much more? Would the difference be comparable to that of cutting type 2 and 3 hair? There’s an obvious gray area which lends itself to the controversial nature of the topic.
There is a cost associated with the rental of the salon which must be factored into the overall cost of service. This should be the same regardless of the type of hair being styled.
Yes, stylists need to purchase the equipment that they use in the practicing their trade, but is there really a difference between the equipment you need for straight hair and curly hair? If you can think of a piece of equipment that is used exclusively on curly hair, then do let me know.
All things considered...
Some stylists will charge someone with natural hair more for two hours of their time than they charge someone with relaxed hair. It’s the same booth rental cost, tools, and length of time spent, so why the big difference in price? Even if a stylist seeks out supplemental training in the styling of curly hair after getting their license, does this warrant price differences that are two to three times more? For sure, stylists should be paid what their service deserves. They have bills just like we do, but in my personal opinion there seems to be something amiss in the cost structure at some salons and it’s not fair that wearing your natural texture makes you a target for overpricing, be it for a haircut or a wash and blow dry. It seems that this is a view held by other naturals as textured hair care has largely been taken into DIY territory.
Michelle Breyer, NaturallyCurly Co-Founder, is passionate about the topic of the shortage of textured hair experts, she recently wrote "Yes, we have plenty of amazing products for curls, coils and waves. Yes, we're seeing celebrities and models wearing gorgeous natural styles. But in 2016, most stylists still don't know how to work with texture. In fact cosmetology schools still don't teach their students about how to work with texture. You heard me right. Stylists can leave school without knowing how to work with the hair that more than 60 percent of the population is born with. That's not to say that there aren't stylists versed in working with curls and coils. In fact, there are a growing number of texture experts." Finding a stylist is still a major challenge for many women and men with textured hair, and finding one who is affordable is an added barrier.