by Makeda Vaughn
It’s summertime! With the warm weather and high humidity comes the desire to take a “break” from manipulating one’s hair. This is usually the cause for the surge in braided hairstyles on African-American women. I recently got my hair styled in box braids and the experience was less than stellar. Maybe it was because of mercury retrograde. Ha! Regardless of the reason, I came up with some tips that can help others avoid a bad experience when finding a new braiding shop and preparing for braids.
1. RESEARCH! – Outside of personal referrals for braiding shops, Yelp and Google will be your guide to finding a good shop. Spend time reading clients’ reviews and view pictures on finished work. People usually put forth their best work on their social media pages, but if you can find real testimonials you’ll know what to expect from their service.
2. Call Ahead – Call ahead to ask about the prices, payment, if hair is included in price, and the name of the top braiders. It’s good to have an idea beforehand of the best braiders. I suggest that you also ask for the name of the owner. Know who the owner is so that you can express concerns or positive feedback on experience. While on the phone ask about their first time customer deals and specials.
3. Swing by the Shop – Not everyone will have time for this one but if you do, stop by the shop in advance. I truly advise this if it is your first time using the salon. This will give you the opportunity to meet the people including the good braiders and the owner. If you can, look at the stylists’ work via the pictures they have available. Once you have an idea of what they can do, lock in a time with a specific stylist. Ask any other questions about price and time during this visit.
4. Make Weekday Appointments – This won’t be something everyone can pull off but if you can, go during the week. The wait time isn’t as long and the owner is most likely present at the shop. I emphasize the owner’s presence because you’re more likely to have stylists on their best behavior when the owner is present. Some shops also have deals for weekday appointments.
5. Prep your Hair – Have your hair washed, conditioned, and detangled before your arrival to the salon. This can speed up the process with your hair ready for braiding. Not all salons include hair wash with prices. Plus, if you’re particular about other people detangling your hair, like me, make it easy for the stylist to get started by prepping before arrival.
6. Bring Extra Cash – Be prepared for any extras. Whether it’s an additional product purchase or style add-ons, bring extra cash to cover any incidentals that could take place. Most braiding shops preferred method of payment is cash.
7. Bring Pictures – Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are great resources for ideas to share with the stylist about the type of braids you want. Make sure you have a picture that accurately portrays the size of braids, length of braids and color (if applicable). It’s better to have a visual representation of your vision versus verbally explaining it. Have two or three pictures for examples.
8. Be CLEAR – Even if you researched, called ahead, brought pictures, you need to communicate clearly to the assigned stylist about what you’re expecting. Not only that, be sure you two are clear on price. Unclear communication is a disaster waiting to happen. Ask if the stylist has done the style you want before. If she hasn’t, ask for a stylist who has. Point blank and period. This isn’t time for training.
9. Bring Snacks and Entertainment – Whether it’s the wait time to be seen or the actual hairstyle, you may spend hours at the shop. Bring your own snacks so you don’t have to leave the shop and possibly lose your spot in line. Also bring a book or your tablet for entertainment. Just in case you’re not interested in what’s provided for entertainment in the shop, bring your own form of entertainment to pass the time.
10. Double Check Final Look – Do NOT leave the salon without thoroughly examining your style. This was my mistake. Your style can look great in the front and bad at a different angle. Take the time to check your hairstyle. If it’s not what you wanted, address it at that time. It’s better to address it at that moment so it can be fixed. Remember, you’re paying a good amount of money for this hairstyle.
Searching for a new salon can be stressful when you’re new to a city or changing stylists. If you go into the search prepared, your experience will be much better than going on a whim. If you had a tragic hair braiding story, please share your story and tips in the comment section.
Makeda Vaughn is a blogger and regular contributor to For Harriet. You can find her on her website SkinnyGotCurves.com. She can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.