Khalea Underwood, beauty editor at The Zoe Report, feels the same. Her grandmother was a hairstylist, so she views time in the chair as her safe space, but as someone with “coil-y and fragile” hair, she frequently feels anything but. “Most stylists don’t know how to do my hair, and I feel like I’m a part of some weird science experiment or class demonstration in those instances,” she says. “I’ve had experiences where I’ve been told flat out that I’d be charged extra because my hair is ‘thick’—coded language for natural and unmanageable in their eyes. But more often than not, it’s the body language and inquisitive stares that makes me feel out of place.”
While many salons will charge additional fees for longer lengths, density is a somewhat murkier classification. Someone with fine hair could have what constitutes “a lot” of hair, but as Underwood’s concern raises, they might not be charged a fee like someone with kinky coils would because of the unfair perception that black hair is “unruly.” “We should be able to go to any salon and get quality treatment at fair price points without feeling ostracized for our textures,” says Underwood. “I shouldn’t be penalized for my natural hair texture. It’s not like I can help it.”
As is usually the case with viral tweets like Rae’s, Aveda reps reached out almost immediately to have a conversation and try to reconcile the situation. And Rae says she’s been happy with her interactions with the company so far. “They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure my local situation was handled, rectified, and refunded,” she says. Aveda also provided Glamour with the following statement: “At Aveda we are committed to inclusively delivering the very best in service, embracing all hair types. We in no way condone or tolerate discriminatory behavior or profiling policies of any kind. We are deeply apologetic for this situation as it is not in line with our values. We value consumer feedback and are working with our independently owned salons to prevent this from happening again.”
Still, Rae’s aware the company’s responses, as good as they’ve been, are just that for the time being: responses. “I’m waiting to make sure they follow through with their promises—that it’s not just lip service,” she says.
In the meantime, she hopes a couple of things come out of her situation. First, a greater examination of the policies at all salons—Aveda or otherwise—regardless of who they cater to. “My hope is that salons pay more attention to ensuring customers feel seen, heard, known, and included in the conversation, and that they also feel respected,” she says.
Second, she hopes it’ll shed light on the fact that women who are born with naturally curly hair are not an inconvenience. “I want this to change the language around folks of color’s hair, period,” she says. Lastly, she’s hopeful it’ll push salons that style all hair types to engage in diversity training and educate stylists on cultural awareness and sensitivities. “If they’re trying to serve natural clients, then they really need to do the due diligence and train their front desk girls, their stylists, their managers, to really serve the client that they say they’re serving in the most excellent way,” says Rae. “Regardless of their nationality, anyone who steps in the salon should be treated fairly by all staff.”
At the very least, awareness and education around natural curls does seem to be getting better, some report. Keryce Chelsi Henry, freelance content director, says she’s been up-charged at salons before, but thanks to the natural-hair movement, her experience has drastically improved. “Back then, having curly or kinky hair was widely seen as something to be fixed, so to speak,” says Henry. “I had fewer negative experiences during the years my hair was relaxed and have none now that stylists know more about textured hair.”
Not only that, women with natural hair know more, including how to style their hair on their own. Which has allowed a lot of women of color to ditch the salon altogether and the uncomfortable experiences that sometimes come along with them. Jessica Cruel, deputy beauty director at Refinery29, says she started avoiding the salon around 11 years ago after she went natural. “I’ve had too many bad experiences to count: heat damage, jacked-up haircuts, and horrible balayage attempts,” she says. “Now I do my hair at home—even trims.”