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Curly Nikki

The Natural Hair Tax

By January 27th, 202143 Comments

The Natural Hair Tax

Being Taxed for Having Natural Hair
by Miko Franklin

If you are among the growing number of status quo altering females with natural hair like I am, then you might recognize what a challenge it is to find a great stylist. Finding a good stylist is inherently difficult; finding one who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg is another challenge.

There seems to be a trend in stylists taking advantage of women with natural hair by tacking on additional fees. I’d assumed that it was something that shops here-and-there were doing, but realized that this is a much bigger practice when one of my favorite beauty service providers, Ulta, began charging an extra $10. Their $10 fee is on the low-end; I’ve seen shops charge as much as $25 extra to wash and blow dry natural hair.

This practice seems to be unethical, and is offensive, at the very least. Here’s why:

I think it’s safe to assume that the extra charge is to compensate stylists for the extra work that they think they may have to do. While I understand this, it’s an unfair assumption. If you’re natural, then you know that “natural” hair can range from loose waves that are nearly straight to tightly coiled hair. Regardless of texture, a stylist does not truly know whether it will require extra work or not prior to doing the hair, just because the person is natural. Personally, I know that my hair is very easy to manage because it is in a much healthier state now that I am natural, than it was when I had a perm. No more navigating through split ends and trying to manage a tangled mess of new growth and permed ends. On the flip side, I know people with relaxed hair that is thick and requires extra work. Are they charged extra? No!

In addition, charging extra for natural hair begs the question: What is considered natural hair? Are these additional charges only tacked on for women of color, a.k.a. black women? If so—and I am sure this is the case—that is grossly unfair. There are women of other races and ethnicities whose hair textures are just as diverse as our hair. Why are we penalized, while they are not? Are we being “punished” for having curly and kinky hair? Salons will assure you that this is not the case, but it sure looks that way.

From a business owner’s perspective, assessing such a charge is a slippery slope and raises many questions. After how many inches of new growth or months of going without a relaxer constitutes being natural? How tight should the curl pattern be before determining that the additional charge should be assessed? How can clients with natural hair all be boxed into one group?

Finally, asking natural clients to pay extra is like asking clients to pay extra for doing what stylists are supposed to do anyway: make your hair look good. There are no extra steps involved—just as with relaxed hair, our hair must be washed, combed out and then blown out.

It’s a shame that stylists are able to get away with this robbery. Next time your stylist asks you to pay extra, ask why.

Weigh in divas! Have you been taxed?

This post originally appeared on Associated Content.

Republished with permission.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Based on many of the comments it seems most people are assuming that because a person goes to a salon they don't know how to do their own hair or that going to the salon is a regular occurrence… False. Sometimes people just want to be pampered or come in for professionally styled/trimmed hair. For those people I say take the "L" (the lose) and pay the extra money or opt out and take your business elsewhere. For people that want simple things like professional trims blow your hair out and straighten it yourself before you go to the salon which shouldn't be more than $20. I live in DC and if I can get a trim for $20 I'm sure it's cheaper most other places. Be honest with yourselves! It is a lot more work and time doing natural hair and not just because of the texture. We naturals are very gentle with our hair and if you want your stylist to do the same then of course it's going to take them longer to condition, detangle, blowout, flatiron, or style your hair compared to the chemically treated customers. Time is money and salons are a business.

    Though natural hair is becoming more popular it is not the norm and that's just the reality. Why would someone set up a business model to account for natural hair when that kind of business is probably less than 2% of their revenue? Charging regular repeated customers higher prices in the event a natural walks through their doors just to evenly distribute cost…..uhhhhh no. I'm not going to get up in arms because they charge more I'm just going to pay it or come up with a solution that will drive the cost down. The same with natural salons that cater specifically to natural hair. I'm sure the products that they use are more expensive and have a shorter shelf life. If these salons are taking care of naturals properly and with care then IT'S GOING TO TAKE LONGER, which means FEWER CUSTOMERS and LESS MONEY if they decided to charge at the same rates as salons not geared towards natural hair. Nobody is trying to discriminate they're trying to make a profit.

    Until natural hair is the norm, any woman going natural is purposely separating herself from the mainstream and many of us like the attention we get… be real! So you can't get mad if a stylist is noticing both you and your hair for being different and charging accordingly. You can't compare black natural hair to Asian or Caucasian natural hair and talk about "if they don't get charged extra for their natural hair then we shouldn't either" STOP THE MADNESS. The structure of our hair is entirely different and because of that requires different, more pure products which are more expensive and we also have to take more time on our hair to prevent and reduce breakage. Gone ahead and use the sulfate and harsh silicone leaden products they do and high levels of heat and harsh chemical and see if you hair fairs as well as theirs. =/ Don't play your entire life with this silly argument.

  • Anonymous says:

    Karissa where in the ATL was that salon..Im in the ATL and im looking for a place to go, yours sounds GREAT!!!! Whats the name?

  • Anonymous says:

    Of course this is discriminatory and outright ridiculous. And the best way to stop it is to REFUSE TO PAY EXTRA (and make sure the offending salon knows why). Now of course this may mean you'll have to not only learn how to take care of your own hair, but you'll also have to make the time to do so. However, the bonus is that YOU will know what's best for your hair. By the time you do find out about a salon/stylist with good service AND a fair pay scale, you will also be in a better position to assess her ability to care for your precious locks.

  • Tamikca Renee says:

    I hear what your saying..however please don't say all stylist because I'm a stylist and refuse to charge my natural girls extra because they choose to go natural. However if the hair is past the shoulders I will charge extra. It takes more time and product so it is only fair that we be compensated accordingly.

  • Anonymous says:

    Now I guess it just depends on how good the person is and such and if their extra gentle. I'm very tender headed and real finicky about certain things, and nope I don't tip either when I used to go to the salon. Also I will be like if you put somebody on to do my hair because you aren't here and come into the salon 3o to 40 minutes late, while I came on time. You better believe that I will give the money that you were to have received to the girl that you got doing my hair now. I'm like don't get an altitude with me, just be on time for my hair… and it wasn't a problem with the money again.

  • Anonymous says:

    last year I was 6 months post relaxer when I decided to transition I went to a Dominican salon they didn't know to do so they charged me $65 for natural hair they told me this after they shampooed my hair, I walked out of the salon with wet hair…

  • Channing says:

    First of all, naturals rarely go to salons as it is, and if i knew I was being charged more just because my hair is curly, I'd opt elsewhere it's not hurting my bottom line.

    Second, this is completely 'unethical and offensive' because if we're going to get truly technical here, natural hair is hair that has not been altered to change it's texture, so on that note, if a white woman with naturally brown straight hair comes in does she get charged, what about an indian woman with non-processed thick long hair? is there a natural tax on her too? or men, mot of their hair is in it's natural state so…?

    I know that's splitting hair [no pun] but still…

    I think it does alienate us and discourae others from going natural [which im sure is the point] but hey, if this isn't motivation to learn how to care for and style your own hair, I don't know what is, it's a much better investment anyway.

    But like i said if they want to drive away business then by all means be my guest, I stopped going to salons long ago and my hair has thanked me 10 times over for it

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, blowing-out my hair is a huge job. I wouldn't care pay more for it because it takes the time of at least 3 clients. I'd rather the stylist did a nice job without pressure.

  • Anonymous says:

    when I permed my hair, I was charged extra for the length. I used to get around it by putting my hair in a bun and ask for pricing before I take my hair out. now that I am natural, I wouldn't try it. I would need to know that they can do my hair first.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well during my time of having my locs on my hair, I was never taxed during my visits to the beauty salon. I paid $40.00 for my twists, and if color was added then it was an extra 15.00 dollars added. If I had my hair set with rollers, and washed, and retwisted it was a total of $60.00. I'm located in the Savannah,GA area so you have to shop around and get you a good person, but I definitely wouldn't recommend any Real True African Women Salons to do it they charge over $300.00 for locs and braids to be put into the hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    we should stop going to salons and just learn how to tkcr of our hair..there are many resources out there..they just want to discourage us from being natural

  • npmoore04 says:

    I am gonna have to disagree with the statement about people with perms not being charged extra. Because when I was permed (almost ten years ago) my hair has always been arm pit length or longer. I always got charged extra for any style because of the Length of my hair and not the texture. If it was a straw set or just a flat iron and go. I would get oh it's 60 for her someone with shoulder length hair but it would be $120 for you because your hair is so long. So what do I have to cut my hair to save money? Being natural now I would only choose to go to my old stylist from a press and a trim has a treat and pampering and i only would do this about once a year so i would mind paying the extra.

  • Aishah says:

    Obviously most of these salons need to take some more business courses b/c standard practice in other fields is to factor in the extra time you spend on some clients into your prices so that everyone will be charged the same price. When you start charging people more for the same service you inevitable alienate some clients. It's just not a good business model.

    I'm from Philly and I was appalled at what the "natural" salons charge for two strand twists. I paid $90 for two strand twists! And granted it took like 4 hours, but that was because she was running her mouth and was obviously not one of the more experienced stylists in the salon. And they are VERY reluctant to tell you a price up front. I guess they figure if it takes longer they should charge more. But maybe if you actually knew what you were doing it wouldn't take so long!

    And when I was getting my natural hair pressed out it took just as long as it did when I got the same style on relaxed hair (my hairdresser never taxed me). It's disgraceful. But I'll definitely check out the Aveda salons. Thanks Dana!

  • Anonymous says:

    Total crap! Everyone wants to charge extra but will youbcharge me less if I have short fine hair??? Too many industries are getting away with this thye of stuff…airlines are tryinf to charge more if you weigh a certain amount, but will you charge me less if I weigh less??? It all balances out at the end. I think that is horrible business practices and should not be supported. That is a form of discrimination!

  • Anonymous says:

    I am so glad to see this post. I thought I was going crazy. I went to my first "natural" salon because I had been transitioning for about five months. It was a pleasant experience, but I honestly feel that I overpaid for the services I received. With what they charge for a steam treatment, the hair steamer I just purchased will pay for itself. Honestly, I think the only reason for me to go to a salon is to get my hair trimmed…and I am debating on letting a good friend do that.

  • Kearea' says:

    wow this is unethical. like you stated, natural hair ranges in thickness and curl pattern, so they are simply assuming that all natural hair requires more work. i have not been to a salon since i went natural, i am too afraid of heat damage. i didnt even think that i may be paying more than other customers. ulta has great coupons but i feel they (in my area) do not cater much to woc. they dont even sell the darker shade drugstore foundations and do not have a diverse staff either

  • Slinkyhead says:

    Hey f.y.i. this is probably illegal but at JC Penney they charge black people more money. Period. Regardless of whether they are permed or natural.

  • Lori says:

    I want to add that many salon chains, i.e. Regis, SuperCuts, MasterCuts, Fantastic Sams (all of which I've been to for haircuts when I had my hair short) had prices listed and hair services for LONG hair, period, were always more. So I don't think that charging more for kinky-curly hair is that much different, as long as the extra charge is equitable to the long hair charges.

  • Anonymous says:

    How about the natural hair salons that require a non-refundable deposit to schedule an appointment and/or charge a fee for a missed appointment?

  • Anonymous says:

    Although my stylist doesn't apply an additional charge I know many stylists who do. i've attributed the additional charge to the rising number in woman embracing natural hair causing a decline in revenue for stylists whom previously profited from ridiculous charges for relaxers.

  • Ruby Louise says:

    YES it is truly sad that there is an extra charge to do hair…wtf
    I stopped going to the hair dresser 7yrs ago. Relaxer or not many stylist are into getting you in the chair and out ASAP and charge you an arm and a leg. Its hard to find a good CARING stylist when my hair was relaxed.

    So I do it myself thanks to CN and youtube 🙂

  • Maria says:

    I have waist length natural, coarse 3C hair. I have LOOOOTS of hair so I honestly don't mind paying an extra $10-$20, especially since I only go to the salon maybe 2x a year if even that. What I don't like, however, is the grunting, mumbling, sighing, and huffin & puffin I get when I go to the salon. I only went once this year and the woman said to me "you have ALOT of hair" but she didn't say it in a nice way. I just do it at home and save the money. I enjoy doing my own hair anyway. I don't need some stylist sending her bad vibes onto my noggin.

  • Anonymous says:

    In my opinion these are just people trying to make a quick buck due to a label "natural hair". They want to make it seem like only a special kind of person or skill can do this kind of hair.It's probably better to wash and condition your own hair at home if you are not getting it flat-ironed or blow dried afterwards. This "tax" is the stylist trying to compensate for their time because curly, kinky or coily hair takes more time to detangle. Of course it's unfair for those whose hair is wavy or almost straight but this is business, people want to cash in. Only go to the salon for twists, braids or cornrows. Better yet get a friend to do them for you or take time to learn.

  • curlynattie10 says:

    I live in Philadelphia and when I was transitioning, I went to a salon that work with products that were organic and straightened your hair without chemicals, however, I was told that the more 'new growth' or natural hair that I had, the more the stylist would charge to work with my hair.

    Also, I tried to go to salons that work with natural hair and the prices were still expensive. I have about 4 inches of natural hair and I was told for a head full of coils that it would charge $85 and they would only last a month. When I relaxed, the stylist charged me $65 and at least the perm would last 6 weeks and I can maintain it.

    I kinda decided to learn to do my own hair because I can't afford the upkeep of salons, I am even taking a natural hair care class so I can do it myself.

  • Anonymous says:

    Karissa, I am in the ATL area, what is the name of the salon? Sounds like you have found a keeper!

  • Karissa says:

    I have a found a salon close to me that specializes in natural hair and their prices are great. I paid $30 for a wash and press, 35 for a trim and $30+ for flat twist styles and the like. They also do relaxers and weaves but for the most part, they try to encourage people not to use relaxers. And the best part…all of the staff are natural!
    Here in Atlanta, that salon is a rarity because all of the other salons I've seen charged just for "consultations" and products before they even style your hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    I think the reason they charge extra is because they do not know how to do natural hair, I am not saying that to put anyone down heck I didnt know how to take care of my hair in its natural state. I didnt have a clue so I researched on line and the rest is history.I had to stop going to the lady that did my hair when I was relaxed because once I became natural(which she helped me do)shereally didnt know what to do with it. She was used to working with chemicals.when she shamppoed my hair it became a tangled mess and then she would pile it on top of my head and comb it out with a rattail comb!I had broken hairs everywhere that I thought was frizz lol. Anyway I just dont think to many know how to take care of our hair.I donnot go to the salon I have learned how to take care of my hair and I love this site and follow it regularly.!somebody needs to open up a school and train stylist on how to take care of natural hair seriously!

  • Anonymous says:

    Can anyone make a referral for a good, not trying to exploit you, teaching you about your hair as we go natural catering salon in Southern California?


  • Anonymous says:

    My stylist doesn't do that and she promotes natural hair. I don't go to her very often just because she is into straightening, but she only charges $40 for a wash, condition and style- relaxed or not. Maybe that's just Ohio though.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with many of you above. Which is why I do not go to the salon anymore. During the very few times my hair was flat ironed….I did it myself. I refuse to pay just as much for a press and style, as I would a relaxer. It is a shame that most (not all) stylist are ignorant of how to handle natural hair.

  • Dana says:

    I just got about 4-5 inches of permed ends cut of my transitioning hair on Tuesday. I was charged only 30 dollars at a Jean Madeline/Aveda salon that I went too. 30 dollars is what I would've paid when my hair was permed had I went to the neighborhood salon that i've went to for years. When I was just getting a wash, blow dry, and curl.

    My stylist @ Aveda did a detox, damage remedy shampoo & conditioner on my hair… Then she styled it… All at $30 bucks… I thought that was cheap! If you've been to an Aveda salon before you know that everyone including the shampoo girls are trained stylist. I lucked out and found a black stylist were I am. Which isn't normal. But anyway, I thought this was great.

    Now on the flip side…

    I've researched natural salons in Philly and most of them are expensive. Ranging from 55 dollars and up for just a shampoo & style as they call it. Some salons itemize different styles and add additional pricing to that.. Like $25 extra for two stranded twist.

    This is a PERFECT example of this article too… and from what I've experienced the stylist in some salons only specialize in locs… and still aren't good at working with natural hair… Or they get bad attitudes once you start asking questions… Like Hello!!!! I'm about to pay 75 dollars to get my hair done, I can ask all the questions that I want! Shoot!! Just the worst attitudes ever sometimes…

    But anyway… I have seen it… I know it exist, and I think it's unfair.

  • naturallyu says:

    My sil is a stylist and charges more for natural hair. She said it is "easier" to do relaxed hair and doesn't take as long detangling. I think it discourages people from going natural and the additional fees are outrageous. You are not using any of their chemicals or neutralizing shampoos therefore I do not see why you should have to pay additional just because your hair isn't processed.

  • Anonymous says:

    I went to a salon and got the infamous length check and of course when they saw that my hair was long and without a perm all of a sudden my price went up by $20. Fortunately they had not started my hair so I just put back up and politely said thank you and left. That's not the bad part….the part that ticked me off is as I was walking out I could hear one of them say "hmph I don't know what she was expecting with all that hair". Of course I never went back but it feels like stylists are trying to force us into a box and then penalizing us because THEY aren't trained to do ALL types of hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    That's so sad that they try to overcharge like that! My stylist charges $25 for a wash, $30 if you want a deep conditioner or hot oil treatment, and $45 if you want it straightened with the flat-ironed. I know for a fact that she charges between $60 & $80 for a perm and then $50 dollars for a wash and set on permed hair. Geeez…I couldn't make it in NY 😉 ~Ms. Lisa

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow. This post is so on point. The salon I used to frequent during my transition started out by remarking that I needed a relaxer when they started to see my new growth (I think I was 6, 7 months post relaxer the first time). Gradually, they began to increase the charge for my wash and sets. As my hair grew longer, I began to resent certain washers who weren't kind to my hair, but in Dominican salons you don't really have a choice of who to go to, even tho there were others there I would have much rather preferred.

    After noticing a few women would come in with their hair already washed and just get it set, for a reduced fee, I tried it as well, in part to protect my hair and also to see if I could avoid the "natural tax." No luck, my washer (the mean one) charged me anyway, and when rinsing the conditioner out of my hair was actually trying to muss it up as if it to prove a point!

    I love the blow outs I get there, but honestly, after dealing with that, I've decided not to return, which is sad. I'll do a silk wrap next time I need a trim. It's so unfair because I know my hair isn't necessairly more work than others with relaxed hair. It's discrimination!

  • HisBeauty says:

    It's absolutely absurd, and exactly the reason I stopped going to the salon completely.

    The last time I went, my already expensive wash and set (normally $35)was almost $60. An extra $10 because my hair had grown to bra-strap length (I was asked to take my hair down and they did a length check before I was ushered to the wash area…totally ridic). An additional $10 because I didn't have a relaxer…was this a punishment for not traumatizing my hair. This was the first time they charged extra for natural hair, crazy because I haven't had a perm since 2005.

    I think this is totally unfair, and I've since invested in products to do my own hair and I'm much happier with it's health.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was once charged $130 for a $65 press and curl. My hair is natural, and bsl, and apparently "untrained" according to the stylist. -________-

  • Anonymous says:

    When I used to get a "press and curl" at my local salon it cost me $40-$45 and maybe an extra $10 for a deep/hot oil treatment and trim. Women with relaxed hair were also charged about the same amount.
    Now that I've been looking for a natural hair salon I see that most of them charge upward of $100 just to wash, condition and style. That is sooooo ridiculous!!! So because my hair is not relaxed or naturally straight I have to pay twice as much?!?!
    As happy as i am that there are salons catering to natural hair I think the fact that they charge so much is still kind a of slap in the face to black women who are natural and may even discourage other women from going natural. The price tag simply says to me "Your hair is a burden".

  • Anonymous says:

    I have not been to a salon since I've been natural. However, I did go with a couple of natural girlfriends to a "Natural Hair Expo" type of thiing that was being held in my city. All it turned out to be was a class for salon owner/stylist watching a licensed natural hairstylist style natural hair on models. All the while she was styling, she talked about the different ways you can charge extra for natural hairstyles to compensate for "your time". She strongly encouraged the participants to be more active in offering natural hair services because there is a lot of money to be made there. Well of course, if you are charging all these extras just because the customer's hair is natural. I feel like it doesn't take any more "time" than a relaxed person's hair to wash and style. Of course we expect to pay more when getting elaborate braids and twists. We paid more as relaxed heads getting braids and twist extensions. But to have our hair washed and styled, cut, or colored should not come with a natural hair tax. It only confirmed that I will not be going to a salon anytime soon!—-Tawanna D.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have been taxed I went to a salon for a color, the woman told me it would be 60 dollars color plus styling. While coloring my hair she tells me its gonna be 80 because i have a lot of hair and its natural so it was harder to manage and if I want to style its gonna be at least 20 more. Needless to say after the color I left the salon my hair still wet.

  • Anonymous says:

    Of course! How about natural products. I know they may cost a little more to make and not necessary for everyone to buy, but places charge $30+ for products aimed at natural hair. But I digress. …

    I agree with above comment. Some stylist feel if we aren't getting relaxers then they will make up for it by saying "It takes longer to do natural hair"…aka give me more money.

  • Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful says:

    I agree with this absurdity.

    There are shops here in NY that charge a ridiculous amount of money for hairstyles that are commonly done in salons. But because they promise to give you natural hair the finest hair care they justify themselves with that philosophy.

    It is very true that not all natural hair requires extra work in the same way not all relaxed hair is easy to style. For the most part, I think what happens is often, their lack of knowledge in dealing with natural hair presents a challenge. I've never been to cosmetology school, but I don't remember my aunt–who is a licensed hair stylist–ever having a training head that had natural hair. She always trained and practiced on straight thin hair dolls. With the lack of educational knowledge, stylist are overwhelmed with the texture and they approach a natural head with the same methods as straight relaxed hair. They also expect styles to look similar.

    I went into a salon asking for flat twists and the stylist told me it would not look good on my hair because my hair was natural and she refused to do it.

    Now there are some very valid points hidden in this ill stated comment. To say it wont look good on my hair is ignorant. What she should have said is "It won't look like the model in the picture" and to this I agree. However any style would look good on me so she needed to check herself!

  • Ariel says:

    It kind of makes me think they are trying to make up for what they would be making if we paid them to apply a relaxer or touch-up.

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