We can and we should raise the bar for atmosphere and customer service in African Braiding Salons.  For years, I owned a day spa that provided clients with massage, skin care, manicures, and pedicures.   My sisters came out and supported my business especially after discovering it was a black-owned establishment.  However our primary demographic was middle-class white women.  I held my company to a high standard of expectations in all aspects.  At the spa, I owned quality was infused in the products we carried and used, our amenities, all the way down to our phone etiquette.  My staff had a protocol for everything. Yet, when I go to treat myself to a hair appointment, I am often disappointed with the treatment.

crochet braids
Playing on Snapchat after crochet install

The search for a hair stylist

Finding a hair salon that caters to ethnic hair in Madison, WI is a challenge within itself.  I have fallen for a stylist in the past only to have them move out of town or stop doing hair altogether.  Then it is back to the drawing board, vetting a new stylist to take care of my hair. Since I’ve gone natural my dependence on professional styling has decreased dramatically, I don’t need a relaxer every six weeks.  Still, a girl wants to feel good, to be styled and educated on the latest hair trends. The days of sitting in a salon that is overbooked, setting under the hood dryer indefinitely while the stylist crams in another client, or deep breathing while a chemical burns my scalp are dead and gone.

As a professional in wellness, what I have found is that the clients in a spa atmosphere are loyal to the spa.  They want the experience it can offer, the location and the amenities provided. They may find a connection to the therapist or technician they see but they are willing to try other staff if need be. With hairstylist, clients are loyal to the stylist themselves and will move to a new location if needed to ensure they maintain the look they are accustomed to.

crochet braids
So full after install before cutting it!

Natural hair requires fewer salon visits

My current regimen is to have my hair blown out, silk pressed or straighten one to three times per year when I need a trim.  I have yet to try a Deva cut, where the hair is cut wet in its naturally curly state, but I do want to try that method.  Our partners at ShearDeva provide that service.  Aside from these trim visits my only other reason to have my hair professionally styled is for color or extensions.  When it comes to color, I would consider the volume of clients seeing that stylist for color treatments.  Serenity Salon and Spa works with all hair types and does a significant amount of color treatments.

When a black hairstylist lightened my hair and it came out brassy orange, Darcy at Serenity fixed that for me.  Toning it to a more realistic match for my skin tone.  Black-owned salons may not be the best fit for color treatments if that isn’t a service they perform often.    While we have different textures in our hair, an expert on coloring is a scientist at work. You want to see someone who knows the outcome of the color they are applying.  Would you be willing to see a stylist that is white and specializes in color over a stylist that works exclusively with curly, coily or kinky hair?   Giana had her hair smoothed out at Serenity after a deep conditioning treatment earlier this year.  This was her first professional blow out and she loved it.  Read about it here.  What is the most important aspect of your salon experience?

African Braiding Salons

Hair salons that specialize in natural hair, relaxers, and colors typically don’t do extensions.  They can make a bigger profit from turning their chair more frequently.  Consider the fact that a hair weave application will take four to five hours and produces $150-$200 service fee.  Color and cut appointment can be done within an hour for $130 it is easy math to calculate which service route makes sense and makes the most money.

New Turbans from Swurly are in stock

When it comes to vacation hair I enjoy taking a break and protective styles such as crochet braids are perfect for that.  I’ve been hesitant to write about my experience at African Braiding Salons in Madison.   I believe in uplifting other female owned and minority-owned businesses.  At the same time, this is my platform and I want to write authentically about my experiences.  Hair Braiding is a technique that does not require licensing.  Hair Braiding is not typically performed by a professionally trained hairstylist.  In fact, many braiders operate out of their homes with no cosmetology license.  Still, I believe these services could be elevated and provided in a manner that allows clients to feel pampered.

Super Stretchy Scrunchies to pineapple and bun the hair from Swurly

The unfinished business of African Hair Braiding Salons

It is unfortunate that I have yet to experience a positive braiding session.  Although it appeared that this “salon” had an actual facility,  I arrived and it was a pseudo salon set up in a basement.  I noticed it hadn’t been vacuumed and strings of hair were littered throughout the salon’s seating area.  The braider did not clean the brushes and combs between patrons and her chair manner was quite awful.  The salon’s bathroom is not even stocked with hand towels or paper towels for you to dry your hands after using the restroom.

Half of the area is sectioned off with playroom equipment for the owner’s child to stay occupied during your appointment.  If the braider’s child needs tending to, the appointment will be stopped at any time making it impossible to predict how long you will be there.  Look I’m all for family-friendly businesses but when I’m conducting business with a client for Swurly, I’m not taking my kids to the meeting.

My last visit to the braiding salon for my vacation hair install was two weeks after my blow out at Divine Transformations.  I asked the braider to gently detangle my hair from the ends to the root.  She proceeded to do the opposite and I requested again that she properly my hair, only to have her offer me the comb to do it myself.  Mounted on the wall was a big screen TV, unfortunately, the programs selected are not catered to the client.  I brought a book and zoned out.  Hoping the time would fly by and I could leave.  Additionally, the braider asked on this visit to split the hair strands and hand them to the braider, I declined that offer.  I am not here to do my own hair!

Hairstylist Opportunity

I have returned to this “salon” after subpar visits in the past because my options are severely limited.  I dream about a hairstylist opening a braiding salon to cater to women that want protective styles without sacrificing a good experience.  It should feel like a treat and not a sentence.  These are the lengthiest services you can get.  Having them in an uncomfortable, unclean and non-catering atmosphere is dreadful. The technique is a specialty and I’ve received compliment after compliment on the style.  After the install, no styling or shaping was done.  I had to get two haircuts to reduce the massive hair put in.  First with Brynn at Studio 100 and the second hair cut at Serenity Salon.  You can purchase extensions like this from Savanna Beauty.

After a cut at Serenity Salon and Day Spa

Salons I love:

If you are in the Madison Area and are looking for a black-owned salon, I recommend Divine Transformations 608-209-8819 or Fringe Salon.  Both have excellent customer services, stay on time with appointments and offer a relaxing atmosphere.  If you are looking for a salon that caters to all hair types our partners at Serenity Salon and Spa and ShearDeva Salon can handle textured hair but also cater to a variety of clients with all hair types.  Leave us a comment on your experience with hair braiders.  Drop a salon you would recommend that gives ladies the experience they deserve when treating themselves to a salon visit.