Is The “Natural Hair Tax” A Form Of Discrimination?
Have you noticed that stylists are charging more for natural hair? I have, but not until two months ago. A few days after Christmas, I strolled my happy behind into the Dominican salon that I had been a regular at for close to a year but when I went to the front desk to check in, things went a little differently this time. You see, I’m a natural who straightens her hair quite frequently. But for the past few months or so, I became concerned about the possible damage the constant straightening is doing to my hair. So I started wearing it straight for two weeks out of the month and in a natural style for the other half of the month. Back in December when I went to the salon, my hair happened to be in a natural style and it was a problem. They tried to charge me an extra $25.00 to wash, roller set and blow out the same hair that they did a couple of weeks before for half of that price. I quickly jumped on Twitter to voice my frustrations and within minutes, my boss, who is a new natural, confirmed that I’m not alone.
I never returned to that salon. But over the weekend, I tried my luck with another salon back in my hometown. I had been a customer at this spot for years, and I was sure that my girls wouldn’t pull any funny business. After all, they know me and my momma. Girl, bye! As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a huge sign that informed customers that they would be charged more for natural hair. As I stated, I’ve been natural for years and this salon has never charged me extra but Saturday, I was informed that if I wanted my hair done, I would be charged double the price that someone with relaxed hair was paying. I quickly turned around and proceeded to walk out of the salon. The woman at the front desk chased me down and told me that she would give me a “discount” this time.
“How is this a discount if it’s more than you charged me the last time I was here to get the same exact thing done?” I questioned.
After this experience, I went home and did some research and apparently, the “natural hair tax” is a thing. And after reading articles published by The Cut, Afrobella and Curly Nikki, I quickly realized that Dominican stylists aren’t the only guilty ones. While I had already encountered my share of black stylists who wanted to charge an arm and a leg to press or style my hair, I quickly realized that white stylists have also jumped on this trend. Afrobella recalls one experience:
I walk into a beautiful, brightly colored, black owned salon. Some of the stylists have natural hair done up in intricate styles. The walls are adorned with African-inspired art. I feel like I’m in the right place. I look at the price list — relaxers cost $65. Hair color starts at $45. Rates for natural hair all begin at $100. And there’s an asterisk after that last zero.
It literally feels like I’m being slapped in the face when I walk into a salon and I’m told that I will be charged more because of my race and hair texture. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my hair going forward, but I have to admit that I’m feeling pretty defeated right now. My day-to-day life is pretty demanding and on the weekends, I don’t have much time or energy to be fighting with stylists about unfair pricing or dealing with the anxiety that comes with testing out a new stylist every other week.
Have you experienced the “natural hair tax”? Have you just surrendered? If not, how do you get around it?