If you’re a naturalista who frequents Dominican salons, you may have heard rumors about stylists secretly adding relaxers to their products. Whether you’re a first-timer or a regular at the salon, it can be difficult to know if your hair is in good hands. In this blog post, we’ll look into the allegations in greater detail and discuss how you can defend your natural hair.
What is a Dominican hair salon compared to regular salons? A Dominican hair salon specializes in Dominican hair care techniques and hairdos, including the renowned Dominican Blowout. Even the thickest, kinkiest, curliest hair can be transformed — using these methods — into voluminous, bouncy, soft strands. So how do stylists achieve this famous technique?
To get your hair incredibly straight, the stylist will use a round brush and a blow dryer set to high heat. Minimal passes with the flat iron will be required later, so the straighter your hair is during this process, the easier it will be. It might smoke during this lengthy process. With a flat iron, the hair is further straightened.
The “doobie” process is another way hairdressers carry out this procedure. The “doobie” method of straightening hair (a shortened version of its original name, “tubi”) has effects that are quite similar to those of a chemical relaxer. The term “tubi” refers to wrapping hair in lush, bouncy tubes. Instead of using chemical straighteners, many African-American women prefer to use the Dominican “doobie” to straighten their hair. After the wash and deep condition, there is a roller set (on huge rollers.) They use little to no setting lotion to roller set your hair, then they place you in front of a very hot, very thorough drier and let your hair air dry fully. It’s a good idea to bring a good book or binge-watch a few episodes of a show as you will spend quite some time under the dryer. When your hair is completely dry, the Dominicans use a hand dryer and a round brush to gently curl it while blow-drying it out. Even while it may seem like a lot of heat styling, it is nothing compared to the heat of a curling iron. You are left with bouncy, lustrous, gorgeous-looking hair after using the roller brush technique, and the greatest part is that the entire procedure will only cost you $35 or more, depending on the length of your hair. Due to the diversity of hair textures among Dominicans, no head of hair is excessively kinky, straight, limp, or fine.
Now for clients that chose to use relaxers, this is a way to extend one’s perm without having to get them so close together and reduce the number of chemicals placed in their hair. However, with the big natural hair acceptance movement that has been bold and proud in the last decade, a lot of African-American/Black women have opted out of relaxers and floss their beautiful natural hair in all its glory. Natural hair can require a lot of maintenance but it is so healthy for your hair.
However, if you have chosen to wear your hair naturally, have never gotten a perm, or have stopped receiving perms, you would be quite angry to learn that relaxer chemicals were secretly added to your hair, erasing years of good hair maintenance, or damaging your hair further. Unfortunately, this is a common tale that many customers—including one of my sisters and perhaps even myself—who visited a salon in the Dominican Republic have encountered.
In 2022, My sister left the salon with her hair of course looking flawless in true Dominican styling format; however, something didn’t feel right even though she looked right. My older sister, Shaneen — known for speaking her mind, her fashion sense, her beautiful hairstyles, being ride or die for her family, and, in her most recent years, a wonderful, loving mother and business owner — remembers that day like it was yesterday. Hair trauma usually sticks with you. She said, “My hair felt like I had wax on it the day I left the salon.” She couldn’t quite pinpoint what was wrong but knew something was off, in addition to her hair no longer curling like it did before and discovering split ends when she washed and did her own hair. Shaneen didn’t know if it was just her and she was tripping, so since she and I always talk about hair care, of course, she sent before and after Dominican salon visit pictures to me and our other sisters as well. It wasn’t until she went to another stylist that they told her that her hair was damaged from her texturizer or perm. Well, Shaneen was quite confused. Perm? There’s no perm in her hair. So, after going over what’s been going on with her hair — her last “professional” hair stylist appointment — this stylist broke it to her; that it was known that Dominican stylists sometimes sneak in a little bit of chemicals in the shampoo to assist with their famous “straightening/blow-out” process. You can imagine my sister was very angry and upset about this unethical damaging process that was done to her hair. Now her ends had to have more cut off, to cut off the damage and nourish her hair back to being as healthy as it was before. This stylist was now working on correcting and strengthening her hair bonds.
Unfortunately, my sister’s story is not isolated. After hearing my sister’s story, it led me to do my famous Google research, and I was astonished at how often this is done. Pretty popular that customers leave feeling and looking good, but days later or when it was time to wash their hair, hair refuses to get a curl, let alone curl with a curling iron. This happened to a Georgia woman back in 2016. When she called the salon about what was going on with her hair, they informed her that a chemical relaxer had been added to the shampoo without her knowledge. Most relaxers have alkaline substances with a pH range of 10 to 14 as their active components, such as lye or ammonium sulfite. These compounds’ acidic characteristics damage the protein structure of hair, resulting in looser, straighter curls. When a relaxer is applied for too long, it can cause skin rashes and badly damaged hair. The salon representative further explained that it was standard practice to mix a small relaxer into the shampoo used for people with natural hair and that it wasn’t a cause for concern. Blogger Charles Pulliam-Moore tried to reach out to the salon for their version, however, he was told that the business was not currently commenting on the story.
Let’s take a look at some quotes from several customers who unknowingly shared the same experiences.
Username, u/KarmaPolice973, shared her story on Reddit stating, “I’ve been natural for over 9 years. I recently relocated from NYC to Tampa, Florida a month ago. I frequented Dominican salons in NYC and never had an issue. I like the roller method they use as I feel it retains moisture in my hair more. I went to a Dominican salon in Tampa and without my knowledge, the stylist put perm in my hair. I asked her if she put perm in my hair once I saw my hair was straight after she toweled dried and she said that she didn’t and laughed it off as if I was asking an absurd question. She 100 percent put perm in my hair and my scalp is still tingling from it two weeks after.” And “Update: after researching and speaking to black stylists near me, stylists at Dominican hair salons putting perm in shampoos or conditioners is a “trick” they use to make our hair more manageable (I have/had really kinky 4a/4b hair).” And she later concluded “The most infuriating part of this is that stylist was most likely motivated by racist and anti-black sentiments that kinky hair is ugly. She most likely assumed that this is what I wanted because kinky hair is regarded as ugly in DR. I LOVE my kinky hair. This was a hard lesson learned.” Karma. (2021). https://www.reddit.com/r/BlackHair/comments/lz8x78/stylist_at_dominican_hair_salon_used_texturizer/. Retrieved March 19, 2023.
Back in 2011, username, Cherokee-n-Black on a long hair care forum posted “I caught up with a Dominican friend of mine yesterday. She is all natural (beautiful curly hair) and we were discussing my natural hair journey. Her curl pattern is a lot looser, but still afro-textured, so we were trading tips and stories, when she told me that at my wedding she was transitioning. I thought she was already natural and she told me no, that her stylist had–without telling her–mixed a relaxer into her deep conditioner.
The stylist only came clean when my friend started asking about some treatment that was incompatible with relaxed hair. This was someone she really trusted and had never before had reason to question anything she was doing to her hair. When she read the riot act to her stylist, the stylist defended herself by saying a lot of Dominican Salons do this and it’s really just like a texturizer and the hair is still curly, but goes straight a lot easier.
I had a ton of breakage when I was going to a Dominican salon, but I attributed it to cheap shampoo and excessive heat. But one thing I noticed is that any time I got a DC, they always shampooed it out of my hair. I’m now wondering if that is because they were mixing relaxer in with it. When I told my friend this, she said her stylist did the same thing. So, just beware. I don’ think it’s everywhere, but given how down they can be on the “pelo malo,” keep an eagle eye out for what they put in your hair–or bring your own!” Cherokee-n-Black. (2011, June 26). https://longhaircareforum.com/threads/watch-out-for-this-dominican-salons.553699/. Retrieved March 19, 2023, from https://longhaircareforum.com/threads/watch-out-for-this-dominican-salons.553699/.
These are just a few online quotes from different forums where others chimed in with similar experiences. There are even online TikTok videos discussing or making humorous videos about these allegations.
Check them out here: https://www.tiktok.com/discover/dominicans-putting-relaxer-in-shampoo
Now while these are just a few similar stories, we want to be clear, not all Dominican Salons are treated the same. I have sisters and friends who have successfully had blowout styles at Dominican salons in New York and Baltimore. I have had a couple in Virginia and Los Angeles, with no issues. It could be argued that my postpartum alopecia began a month after visiting a Virginia Dominican salon but I can’t prove that since I had more than damage to my ends; my hair fell out in patches, so it could have been a mix or a coincidence. So while all Dominican Salons aren’t the same, here are a few signs to watch out for to ensure stylists aren’t sneaking chemicals into your hair:
- The stylists stirred the mixture by shaking the bottle (remember it separates)
- A Powerful odor of ammonia (alkaline chemicals smell strong and burning to the nostrils, Acidic chemicals smell like rotten eggs)
- Shampoo with insufficient lather
- The scalp could burn due to applying the product to the hair and scalp. (When using chemicals, that is referred to as Irritation.)
- Because their skin might also become irritated, the person doing the service is wearing gloves or putting them on; this is not typical just for a shampoo and condition. Skin irritation/inflammation is referred to as Irritant Contact Dermatitis or ICD.
- And if you did not catch it before, then afterward you may notice your hair pattern is different, not curling the same, damaged ends, or a burning scalp sensation.
Sneaking chemicals in one’s hair is never acceptable. We haven’t even begun to touch on the cancer cases that have come forward due to relaxers, we will save that for another post.
Now with these cases, am I implying that every Dominican hair stylist is dishonest and terrible? Of course not, but what I’m trying to say is that if you’re going to a salon, select one that has a good reputation and won’t do things like mix relaxer into a conditioner treatment. Read reviews, check out their social media. Although other hair professionals have warned that some Dominican salon stylists are relaxing their clients’ hair by blending chemicals in the shampoo or passing it off as deep conditioner, any type of stylist can be guilty of improper hair care! My beautiful queens, please take caution on who you let handle your hair because that is your crown to floss loud and proud. The last thing you want is to find your hair coming out in lumps when you go to wash and brush it. Many clients from other places have recounted comparable tales, and a few indications that you might have fallen victim to this deceit include a burning scalp, hair damage, changes in texture, and changes in hair pattern. If you suspect anything in the salon, don’t be afraid to speak up! Yes, some stylists have a tendency to think of themselves as flawless and that receiving advice and questions is offensive; however, it is your hair and well-earned money being spent; you have the right to speak up and ask questions! Keep rocking your flawless crowns, queens!
If you or someone you know has been affected by a Dominican Salon sneaking perms, relaxers, or texturizers in your hair, report them to the better business bureau and sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/diane-black-stop-dominican-salons-from-putting-chemicals-into-the-shampoo-and-straightening-afro-hair?recruiter=1301871551&recruited_by_id=604b1750-c76d-11ed-969c-61372a553a0c&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&share_bandit_exp=initial-17885979-en-US