A good stylist won't just put the conditioner on your hair - they make it go in
This is that step we mentioned in Part One. If a stylist doesn't do at least some version of this, there is pretty much no point using her services on natural hair. She just doesn't get it.
The conditioning step is the foundation of your hairstyle. It determines how moisturised, how flexible, how detangled, how shiny, how smooth, how soft, how strong, how manageable your hair is going to be during the process and for the next few days.
If you get it right, you can get a full, healthy 'fro, a bouncy twistout, natural definition that pops or a mirror-shiny blowout. Whatever your style, all roads lead back to the conditioner you used and how you used it.
Dominican hairdressers are the masters of getting conditioners to 'penetrate' your hair (they call it 'coger al pelo'). This is oh-so-crucial for getting properly moisturised hair that won't break from you so much as touching it.
If you're spending good money on good conditioners (to use DIY at home or in the salon), you need to know how to work them in to get the full impact and your money's worth.
This is why Dominican stylists spend so much time applying the conditioner. They section the hair really well and then methodically work at getting the conditioner to adhere properly to the hair.
You can tell when it's in by the way your hair transforms: the combination of powerful treatments and the right process means that your texture changes before your eyes. It starts to look how properly moisturised hair is supposed to look.
Once you can get your hair to that level, it's pretty easy to grow your hair long. No matter what your hair type.
Even if your stylist isn't Dominican, at the very least you can expect them to section your hair first to apply the conditioning treatment. Then, they can use a seamless comb, brush and/or some skilled raking and smoothing to help it into your hair.
And they'll give it time to work on your hair, too - no instant rinsing.
Good stylists don't work at crazy speed
Quality takes time, people. Some stylists can naturally work faster than others, true. Speed braiding is a real thing. And when it comes to blowouts, if a stylist has used powerful, professional level conditioners, then the brush is going to be able to sail through your hair.
Using the best treatments works out better for both the stylist and your hair, because they're designed to get your hair much smoother, softer and conditioned, with less effort than ordinary treatments. And that helps speed up the overall styling process.
But some things take time regardless. If your hair needs detangling, you don't want the hairdresser that drags a comb down your strands at breakneck speed. And nobody wants to get stuck with the stylist that barely gets at your scalp when they're washing it, or can't be bothered to rinse all the shampoo out of your hair.
If you walk into a salon and see a stylist frantically yanking her customer's hair every which way trying to beat the clock, or over at the sink doing the 30-second wash, turn on your heel and thank your lucky stars it's not you in the chair.
A good hairdresser is good to your scalp
Good hairdressers don't yank on your hair with the comb. The braids are never too tight, the rollers never feel like your hair is rising up off your scalp. And like we mentioned in the point above: they take their time washing your scalp to get it extra clean. You might even get a free massage thrown in.
Dominican stylists in particular - as well as being fanatical about getting the hair and scalp super clean (if it's not, it majorly affects the flow and straightness of the famous Dominican Blowout) - like to keep the scalp super-healthy.
If you visit a Dominican salon, don't be surprised if a stylist breaks open an ampolla and massages the entire contents into your scalp without rinsing it out - most are designed to stay on your scalp to provide nourishing, soothing or growth benefits.
Don't be afraid to be a spy. You can't know any of the above for sure if you haven't seen it with your own eyes or at least a video or step-by-step photos of the stylist at work. If you can't get those visuals, or a solid, detailed word-of-mouth rec, then book a consult, go in and speak to them... and then stick around to watch them at work.
Try to watch one head from start to finish or glimpse parts of the process on different clients' getting their hair done at once. It's a time investment, but it's worth it. You're about to entrust your crown and glory to this person. So you have to make sure they know what they're doing and that they'll do right by you and your hair.
By the way, if you're in London and looking for a good hairdresser in this city, check out our upcoming article on salons that do natural hair in London. We've rounded up a list of good hairstylists for natural hair based on people whose work we have actually seen and believed for ourselves.
Some names you may know, some names you need to know - those are the hidden gems in the capital that we talked about at the start of the post. So stay tuned.
DHA Hair Care Experts
Afro Hair Show 2012
Dominican Hair Alliance
Dominican Hair Republic