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.