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I try to be loyal to one hair salon. I really do. But that loyalty is sometimes usurped by my need to save money or save time. As a result, sometimes I just have to get my hair done somewhere. Anywhere.

Have you ever been in that situation before? You agreed to a date in a few hours, but your stylist doesn’t take walk-ins? Or you’re over your budget for the month, so you only have a few dollars to spare to get your hair straightened?  Or you can’t imagine leaving the office before six and really need a stylist who will fit you in at 7pm?

I’ve been in these situations and more, so though I have my stylist that is my go-to-girl, I also have a few seemingly unorthodox places I hit in cases of emergency.

The first place I tell anyone to go when they need their hair washed and straightened, at the last minute, in a timely fashion?  Walmart. I know it sounds crazy, but the Smart Styles salons located in Walmart are clutch. The Walmart near my house is staffed by mostly white women and I only allow black women to do my hair, but one day I was in a pinch. I had just taken out my sew-in and my hair was inexcusable. I couldn’t find a comb to fit my blow-dryer so I stopped by the Walmart hoping the black stylist was working that day. No such luck, but a white hairstylist convinced me she could do my hair. She washed, deep conditioned, dried and got my half-natural/half-relaxed hair bone straight in 60 minutes flat. The cost? Twenty-four dollars.

The second place I recommend is the hair salon in a local mall. Most malls have them and if you go to a mall in a black area, it’s likely the salon is staffed with black stylists. This is the case in my city. I don’t go to this particular mall very often because it’s not in a great part of town, but the hair salon inside is excellent. They take walk-ins and they’re open when the mall is open — seven days a week. Their prices are affordable and consistent (none of that arbitrary charging for length). Granted, some malls don’t have salons, but an attached department store might, such as JCPenney.

Another new option that has been popping up in cities everywhere is Salon Lofts – individual suites where professional hair stylists, massage therapists, skin care & nail specialists run their own unique beauty salons. I’ve only been to one once when my stylist was transitioning to a new salon, but basically you’re free to come in the Lofts and walk around until you find the stylist you’re looking for. When I was looking for my stylist, several other beauticians offered to do my hair. The prices are all over the place depending on who the stylist is, but there is a big variety and many of the stylists have been doing hair for years.

Finally, when you’re short on cash and just want someone to straighten your hair so you don’t have to, I recommend a local hair school. I normally ask for someone who is about to graduate and I’ve never had a bad experience. Because it’s a school, the students are heavily supervised by the teachers and they make sure you’re satisfied with the service. They don’t offer hair services every day, so I recommend calling or looking online before going. Some people balk at the thought of letting a student do their hair, but it beats letting someone’s unlicensed cousin KeKe do you hair in her kitchen without a mirror in sight as she argues on the phone with her boyfriend and her pets or children run through your legs.

These are just a few of the options I’ve explored when needing my hair styled at the last minute. I only let my regular beautician trim my hair or apply chemicals (when I was still getting relaxers), but I’ve definitely had a good experience when just needing to get my hair “salon straight” or curled in a hurry.

One of these days, I’ll learn how to get the same results at home.

Where are some places you’ve gotten your hair done at the last minute? Are you loyal to one beautician/salon or do you go to wherever/whoever is open?

*Photo courtesy of

Alissa is a freelance writer living in Columbus, OH. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog: This Cannot Be My Life

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