By CARA HUNT
A hairdresser is part fairy godmother, part therapist, and part soul sister. After all, a certain magic happens when a woman walks into a salon for her appointment looking slightly worse for wear, only to emerge some time later looking fabulous and feeling like a new person.
Hair salons are a special place; advice is given and shared, jokes are made and concerns discussed - all as hair is washed, treated, curled, dyed, sewn-in, braided and utterly transformed.
But what goes into selecting the perfect hairdresser who will be responsible for all this? For many women choosing a hairstylist and/or salon they can stay loyal to is an almost spiritual journey.
"I have to say that I don't let anyone and everyone near my head, especially when it comes to cutting and perming my hair," Jenna, a lawyer by profession, told Tribune Woman.
"Not all hairdressers are created equal. Some people, even if they have the training, are just not good listeners; they do what they do want to do, what is easy for them or what they want, not what the customer wants. But it's my hair and it's my money and I don't accept that. I pay you to do what I want my hair to look like. I know what makes me feel attractive."
Meanwhile, writer Michelle said that convenience and feeling that special connection with a stylist is most important to her.
"I would say that the biggest deciding factor for me is what I want done and when I need it done," she told Tribune Woman.
"I have four places I go to. I am not picky about who does my hair - once I know it will be nice - but I hate spending unnecessary time in the salon. I don't do the walk-in, wait all day and hope to be served before night. I only go to people who take me by appointment. My hair is natural and so many of the styles I get done already take several hours, so adding hours wait time is not going to happen. I have two braiders I go to - one if I want braids or Afro kinky, and one if I want twists or other natural styles. Both of these ladies work out of their homes, and when you are in someone's chair for that long it is important that you feel comfortable around them. Both of these ladies have become my friends. We can laugh and hang out all day long and have a great time. I have binge-watched entire seasons of shows while getting my hair done; carry snacks and my Kindle, take naps - it's a whole day's activity."
"When I don't want braids or twists, I have two salons I go to and how I decide between those two usually based on who can fit me in and how much I want to splurge, because one is significantly more expensive than the other. I go to them when I want a quick fix and don't have all day, like if I am going out that evening or want like my ends trimmed or a treatment. I have to admit, getting my hair braided is just hanging out with a friend, but nothing beats going to a proper salon and feeling pampered. What I also love about my hair appointment time is that I can sit and basically do nothing, but I am still being productive - making myself beautiful."
Banker Crystal agreed that having a back-up is essential.
"I have two stylists that I trust, because you always need a trustworthy option if you can't get an appointment. I have a through the week person and a weekend person, depending on when I need to make the appointment, and they are both competent and actually know each other and trust each other as well. In fact, my weekend stylist was the one who hooked me up with the other one when she was going on vacation, which I really appreciated," said Crystal.
Cynthia, an accountant, said she is extremely picky about who she lets touch her hair and said she only "cheats" on her main stylist if she wants something simple done.
"I go to my friend Apryl. If you want a quick wash, you can go to whomever, I guess. But if you have someone who you have been with for years, you know that they will treat you right," she said.
"For example, last year I was going to Paradise Plates and the electricity went out. Half of my hair was fixed and the other half was not. Because I am such good friends with my hairdresser, we went to her house, where she had a generator, and she was able to finish my hair. Now, if I had gone to just any old Joe Blow, clearly they would not just be inviting me over to their house so they could finish my hair. So I think the relationship you have with your hairdresser is very important, and it pays to go to the same person on a consistent basis."
Meanwhile, Leslie noted that she has been going to the same stylist for the past 15 years, ever since she was a teenager. It means a lot to have the history with her stylist Shanique, the chef said.
"She has done my hair for all of my special milestones - my prom, my graduation, family events, birthdays, before vacation, everything. And when I had a traumatic break-up she convinced me to go with a cut and colour I never thought would work. That style did so much for my confidence it led me to meet my new husband, and of course Shanique did my wedding hair. We are so in sync, I literally just show up, sit in the chair and let her do whatever she wants," said Leslie.
Attorney Alexis agreed with the notion of only letting one person touch her hair.
"I have been burned, literally, too many times, by going to ghetto crazy people that destroyed my hair. I have many horror stories - my hair dropping because they left perm in; asking for a particular cut or colour and the end result looks nothing like what I wanted," she said.
"When I found the lady who does my hair now, it was honestly like a miracle from heaven. She convinced me to do a big chop because my hair was so damaged, and then she methodically set about restoring it. She is a hair doctor more than a stylist, so every visit she treated and nurtured my hair and now it is healthy, because as they say, she has growing hands. I don't go to anyone else, period. If you see me with a ponytail or bun, you know it's because she is away or I couldn't get to her."