Cost-cutting with your natural hair

Pam Grier

Pam Grier

As a Southern black woman in Brooklyn, I’ve noticed that far more black women around here wear their hair natural than where I’m from (most black women chemically straighten their hair). I’ve gone natural most of my life, so I know too well how expensive getting un-relaxed hair done can be: upward of $100 for a full wash, set and style, compared to $30 for a woman who uses relaxer. When I moved here, I assumed the popularity of going natural in Brooklyn would translate to more reasonable prices. I was wrong—it doesn’t. But I have found a few ways to cut costs with my hair-care… and even afford the occasional salon-pampering (hint: discount to come).

Mirelle Liong-A-Kong, the Brooklyn-based author of Going Natural and administrator of Going-Natural.com suggests meeting your stylist halfway, as many natural salons charge separately for each service. “Braids and extensions may take five hours (to apply). Show up with your hair washed and clean, and bring your own products with you.” Karama Brown, author of the blog SavvyBrown.com, also advises trimming your own hair prior to a salon visit. One simple way for women to do this is to separate the hair into two-strand twists, cutting the ends while in this style.

But if you’re still unable (or stubbornly unwilling) to afford that salon visit, Brown has some suggestions for how the natural woman on a budget can wear her hair simply for an entire week:

1) “Wear your hair in a puff,” says Brown. “I wrote an article on how to wash and dry your hair in one hour. The key is a big ole shammy I got at AutoZone for $4. What’s the difference between the thing guys use to dry their cars and the microfiber hair towel I saw at Bed Bath & Beyond for $22? The difference is $18.” After washing and drying, she ties her hair back with the cut leg of a stocking.

2) Wear twist-outs: This is a famously simple protective style. When the hair is wet, put your hair into two-strand twists with a little natural gel. Let dry, then undo the next day for a crinkly, wavy look. The longer you let your twists dry, the more defined with twist-out will be.

3) After the initial definition of the loose twist-out wears off, pull the hair back into a puff or bun, again using the stocking leg. Brown recommends applying a little castor oil or Get Set hair jelly (2 oz. jar for $5), tying the hair back, and shaking it out.

This author's natural 'frohawk.

All natural.

4) Stop trying to make your hair look like someone else’s. Don’t fight it or buy unnecessary products that tout their ability to make kinky hair curly. Embrace your own texture and work with it, using as few ingredients as possible.

Why are natural-hair salons so expensive? Natural strands are less porous and can have a bad reaction to cheaper products with chemical additives. So, salons catering to natural hair spend more money on natural products. And the more women who shun chemical straightening (in Brooklyn, especially), the more who use natural ingredients in their everyday lives and choose like-minded salons. “Natural is trendy,” says Yendys Nefer-Atum, proprietor of The Cowrie Shell Center, a natural hair salon in Bed-Stuy that specializes in locs.

But, high-price aside, everyone needs that salon-special treatment every so often. So here’s a little something to help with that: For the month of July, The Cowrie Shell Center is offering a 30 percent discount to Brokelyn readers for all natural hair services. Just mention this article when making your appointment.

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