MadameNoire Featured Video

A few years ago, I was at a local hair school and flat out told the receptionist (loud enough for everyone to hear) that I would wait all day if it meant waiting on a black girl to do my hair. It was not my proudest moment, but I admit I have a serious complex when it comes to letting women who are not black style my hair.

I’ve been that way ever since “the hair incident”. It happened when I was seven years old. I had a thick mane that reached the middle of my back. My mom would braid my hair, put it in ponytails and press it with a hot comb, but her hard work rarely lasted past recess as I had dreams back then of being the first girl in the NFL and used touch football games with the boys on the playground to practice. I was a roughhouser, but I wanted my hair straight. Looking for an easier way to manage my hair, my mom let her white friend Christina – who was a licensed cosmetologist and had been doing my hair for the past year and a half – put in a relaxer.

I remember sitting under the dryer that fateful day and I reached up to feel the top of my hair. It was rock hard as though she had smoothed a thick layer of ProStyles black hair gel from my roots to my ends. I tipped the hooded dryer up and whispered to my mom, “My hair feels hard.” Overhearing, Christina replied, “It shouldn’t feel hard.”

I don’t remember much else after that, but my mom says, later she was combing my hair and immediately noticed it was falling out in chunks. In addition, I was completely bald around the edges.  My mom says my hair felt hard and jagged and she had never seen anything like it. She asked her friend what happened and Christina said she “got a hold of a bad perm”. She hypothesized that maybe the “Super” was in the “Regular” container. All I know is, I haven’t seen Christina since.

Not wanting to go completely bald at any point, a new (black) hairstylist helped me transition. She eventually cut off the scraggly, damaged, ends when my new growth finally reached my shoulders about a year later. By the time I was in 5th grade, the remnants of the relaxer that destroyed my hair were gone, but the memory of the white woman who did it was not and I swore my allegiance to black hairstylists from then on.

Lately though I’ve been wondering if this stance has any merit. There are scores of black women who will tell you about the time a relaxer damaged their hair — and that relaxer was applied by a black woman. In my case, I assume my stylist didn’t have any experience applying chemicals to black hair, (how else would she have accidentally applied a Super?) but does that mean all white women don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to black hair?

One day, probably fifteen years after the hair incident, I let a white girl wash and flat iron my hair.  My roots weren’t completely dry when she flat ironed my hair, so, of course, about 30 minutes after leaving the salon it was like I never went.

I had the same experience with a girl whose nationality I cannot pinpoint. Then, I had a great experience with a white beautician in a Walmart salon. I initially refused to let her do my hair, but she told me a license is a license and promised that she could straighten anyone’s hair. Reluctant but desperate, I let her give it a try. She washed; deep conditioned, blow-dried and flat-ironed my hair in 60 minutes flat. I was impressed, but I am still not totally convinced.

My instant reflex is to firmly decline when a white girl (or someone who isn’t black) offers to do my hair. I know that it was only one serious incident and others have had poor results from black cosmetologists as well, but I just cannot sit comfortably when the person doing my hair isn’t a black female. Is this a form of discrimination or just common sense? All black hair isn’t created equal and I know that just because a person is black doesn’t mean she knows what she is doing with my hair in particular; but I am about one thousand times more willing to try my luck with a black hairstylist than a non-black hairstylist. If it helps, I don’t let men do my hair either.

What do you think? Do you let people of other nationalities do your hair?

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

More on Madame Noire!

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN