Although natural hairstyling was not at all a part of the curriculum, I got into natural hairstyling when I was in barber school. I would say the more compelling reason, however, was starting to question why I chemicalized my hair at all, and concluding that I did so to conform to a European standard of beauty.
Renee Prophet ,
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your salon and the services you offer?
Greetings! My name is Renee Prophet and I've been a loctician, natural stylist, and barber since 2000. My salon is called Naturalcentric Hair Salon, which is located in Largo, MD in the DC metropolitan area. My salon offers services for women, men and children with locs, loose naturals, barber cuts, and those transitioning to natural hair.
Why, when and how did you get into natural hairstyling?
Although natural hairstyling was not at all a part of the curriculum, I got into natural hairstyling when I was in barber school. I wore my hair relaxed but primarily in braids at the time, and decided to wear my hair natural as I was tired of the maintenance required for relaxed hair. I would say the more compelling reason, however, was starting to question why I chemicalized my hair at all, and concluding that I did so to conform to a European standard of beauty. This was long before "curly puddings" and YouTube tutorials existed so I was seriously winging it! I decided that even though I didn't know how I'd wear my hair, I was determined to be more authentic and appreciative of my ancestry, and I in turn became more health conscious and interested in a holistic lifestyle. My experience was so powerful and positive that I wanted to help others do the same, and decided to seek formal training in natural hairstyling to add to my hairstyling repertoire.
What is so special or different about African hair?
What's special and different about African hair is the tight spiral formation of the individual hair strands and its extreme uniqueness and versatility, which lends it to manipulation into countless hairstyles! It shares the same spiral seen in many things in nature, like strands of DNA, and is vastly different from the hair of people of other ethnicities—many people are amazed at how many styling possibilities this hair type can provide.
What can a person expect when coming to your salon the first time?
A new client coming to my salon can expect a consultation, usually done separately from a hair service. This is done so that the particulars of the clients' wants and needs can be addressed, as well as any questions or concerns. We have found that this is the best way to ensure that clients get a customized hair service that suits their individual head of hair, taste, and lifestyle. For example, some clients may sweat profusely during their workouts and require styles that can withstand a lot of moisture. We've also had clients who have had thinning from years of relaxers who may need styles that camouflage certain areas. We also need to know about any allergies, and a client's preferences in terms of looks, whether they prefer their hair up or down, conservative or cutting edge, etc.
Do you have and offer a signature style?
I would say our signature styles are: lochawks, mohawks, and trend cuts.
You know it seems that when women stop perming they stop visiting salons. The main reasons we get from the board are lack of support for transitioners, they can take care of their hair themselves because the majority of stylists are incompetent when it comes to natural hair. Why do you think women stop visiting salons and what do you say about the reasons?
It seems to me that some women stop patronizing hair salons once they go natural because of the treatment many have gotten from unscrupulous hairstylists (hairstylists who are not trained in natural hair but claim that they are). I have heard from many clients that once they told their former hairstylist they wanted to go natural, they were either actively discouraged or were pressured into pressing or flat ironing their hair. There are many stylists who will be honest and refer clients to natural stylists, but like any industry, many who are not. I have seen stylists who were clearly not trained in natural hair, literally bring their clients to tears ripping through the clients' hair with the wrong combs and products. Some hairstylists believe that hair must be straightened to be beautiful, whereas others believe that the clients' texture is already beautiful and should be left intact. When natural or transitioning, it is imperative that a natural stylist is sought out—one with the latter philosophy. Requesting a natural style from someone untrained in that area is a little like requesting health food at a bakery--you can state what you want but chances are you'll end up with a cupcake. Don't end up with a cupcake, get a natural stylist!
Our visitors keep asking us where the good natural hair salons are. We have an index but they don’t know how to select one. So can you please tell us this; how can we ordinary people distinguish the good salons from the bad ones?
A good salon will offer a consultation because they are absolutely essential to provide a personalized service and make appropriate suggestions. Also, a good salon will show styles to clients to visually convey possible options. Of course, the salon should be clean and the staff and stylists should also be polite, and knowledgeable.
In your opinion, what question(s) does a customer need to ask a hairdresser before she allows the hairdresser to style her?
I think a client should ask a prospective hairstylist what styles and treatments they would recommend and why, what products they use, and to see some of their work. If there is something that is not understood, the client should definitely ask for clarification.
What would you say to people who say that natural hair care salons are just too expensive?
If someone thinks that natural hair care salons are too expensive, they should ask for "budget friendly" styles and/or how they can space their appointments out to the intervals they feel comfortable with. My salon, and some others, offer classes to help clients style their hair at home as well.
Which hair care services would you say should people absolutely not cut back on, even in economic challenging times?
Clients should not cut back on good conditioning treatments, and proper loc maintenance on some kind of schedule. Conditioning is the foundation of good hair care and loc maintenance helps keep the integrity of locs, not just make the roots look nice.
If a prospective client is embarrassed by their hair condition, they should ask for a private consultation and hair service. It usually costs a little more but most salons provide this option.
In your opinion, what should a customer share about his/her hair when seeking hair care services?
First time clients should definitely share their styling preferences, as well as looks that they specifically dislike. They should share any hair or scalp issue they have or have had, especially hair loss/thinning, scalp infections/abrasions or inflammation and any concerns they might have. They should also share any allergies, sensitivities, or reactions they've had in the past.
What can we clients do to prevent a gone-wrong hairdo?
While no salon can guarantee that a client will not be disappointed with some aspect of their hair service, as mentioned before, a consultation is key to heading off misunderstandings. A client should bring a picture with them or choose a style from a styling book in the salon instead of trying to verbally convey what they are looking for. It also helps to ask questions about the desired style (cost, time required, and how long it can be kept, for instance), and if the stylist thinks it would be a good fit.
The service industry is quite demanding and in all honesty, some of us customers do have behavioral problems. So can you give us a few behavior tips and describe your ideal customer?
There are times when salons are victimized by clients behaving badly, but the reverse is also true. Salons generally do prefer that clients keep or give appropriate notice of appointment changes, to disclose upfront anything that will affect their service like specific time or monetary constraints, and avoid bringing guests to their appointment. Salons do prefer clients who are realistic about the time and effort required for their requested services, and willing to try new things from time to time.
What is absolutely intolerable or your worst customer?
As with most professional establishments, we strive to be professional, courteous, and respectful with our clients. We do of course, expect the same from our clients and will not tolerate abuse. Everyone wants to be treated with respect.
You have been in business for a few years now. Can you tell us what makes your salon or services so distinctively special? What are the reasons why clients keep returning?
I think that clients return because we are absolutely committed to quality and offer much more than just hair services. Our commitment to quality is reflected in our products, atmosphere, hair services, and even topics of conversation. Our clients know that with each visit we strive for their hair to look, feel, and smell good, and have style longevity. In addition to that, we promote and encourage the exchange of information about related products and services that could be helpful. A client could leave after any given visit with their hair looking spectacular, an awesome pair of earrings, a recommendation for a good chiropractor, and a smoothie recipe!
What is your goal as a person, hairstylist or salon owner?
Many of the goals that I have span across the personal and professional realms. I truly desire to promote the natural beauty, and upliftment of people of African descent. I am truly touched when I get a call back from a client saying that they love their hair, not just as a testament to my styling skills, but because I feel that I've helped someone truly love their authentic self. I absolutely love what I do and give thanks for a profession where I can positively impact people's lives on so many levels.
Natural hair seems quite hip right now. Locs are everywhere; it looks like the afro is back. Do you think it’s just a fashion phase? That this will pass just like the afro in the 60’s and as soon as the fashion is over we will all go back and straighten our hair again or do we really begin to embrace our natural hair?
There are a lot of people who are going natural because they think it's trendy, but many people are natural because they are truly tired of the damage and constant maintenance of straightened hair. They are tired of being scared of rain and humidity, perpetual breakage, "sleeping pretty", hair loss, and the inability to workout, swim or even have a good vacation. I think that natural hair is here to stay, and the styles will change with the times, as I have observed over the years. Puffy, big hair is "in" now but maybe a more subdued natural style will be fashionable shortly. There are so many options, who knows where natural hair will go next?
Do you offer children services? If yes can you please tell us more?
We do offer services for children age 7 and older. Cornrows, twists, bantu knots, locs, and lots of combinations are available for our youngest naturals.
And your motto is?
Our motto is "All hair is good hair." If you have hair on your head it is, indeed, good!
To see more natural hairstyles of Natural Centric Hair Salon see our Hair Salon Directory