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I was introduced to Dominican salons approximately two years ago while in Silver Spring, Maryland. I ventured into Mary's Stylists with no appointment and really no expectations. I left with a head full of bouncy hair and self-confidence. I usually play my own stylist but when I do put my hair in the care of professionals I head primarily to Dominican salons.
So what's the difference between African American salons and Dominican salons?
I was raised in black salons and I have my good stories – and my bad. The one defining difference between the two is how your hair is managed and what you pay at the end of the visit. For example, when I visit traditional black salons I usually get a wash, wrap and bumped curl on my ends. The process is quite simple and my hair is usually treated with products such as Dudley's, Mizani or Paul Mitchell. A heavy oil such as Kemi is applied to my hair at the end to soften the curl and I always get a coat of Finisheen to keep my tresses glossy as I walk out the door. Does this sound familiar?
Now onto the Dominican salon. If you're smart you will arrive early because most have a walk-in policy and we all know that Friday and Saturdays are busy. It's like hitting the mall on Black Friday. When you arrive there's a whole process – much like ordering from the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. You nod at the person behind the front desk to be sure they've acknowledged you, you take a seat and you wait for someone to come by and get you.
You're usually greeted by a person who takes you to the back and sits you down – very little speaking is done. Your hair is washed with products usually with no labels. I've since discovered that some salons use products by Salerm, Lacio Lacio and Alfaparf. Unfortunately, you won't find these labels at your local beauty supply store. Yet, I've managed to find one online store that carries most of their products (click on 'Beauty and Health' then 'Hair Care').
Once you're washed and conditioned then comes the rollerset. This is where it gets tricky. You're usually spoken to for the first time and asked which color rollers you want. I go with the medium size rollers (gray) so that I have some curl to my hair. Once you're rolled up under the hood dryer you go. Depending on the length of your hair you could be under for one hour or nearly two. The heat is so strong and powerful and yet I've sat under the dryer for ninety minutes.
Once you're dry, it's time for the infamous blowout.
The rollers are removed and out comes the round brush and blow dryer. This is the process I've been unable to duplicate at home. The stylist is literally using the roundbrush and the heat from the dryer to straighten your roots and bend your ends. Each section of the hair is treated until your entire head is done. For me, the latter takes approximately twenty minutes and if you're tender-headed I suggest you grab some aspirin. During my visit, I winced in pain every time the dryer came near my scalp but wouldn't you know it I couldn't get over the results once she was done. My hair is usually coarse and rarely holds a curl but she managed to do in one day what I had been trying to do my whole life and I had the nerve to gasp when she said I had to pay $40. The amazing part is that the curls lasted two weeks (yes, I had the nerve to test this) and dare I say it, I didn't wrap my hair not one night.
So, if my story hasn't scared you I've got a great link to a database with Dominican salons across the U.S. put together by a DS fan. She's adding to the list so you may want to bookmark it in case you don't see a salon in your city just yet.
I'd like to hear your experiences with Dominican salons – both good and bad. Some of you have already posted your thoughts in the Hair Talk board.