Boston Hair Salons Throughout the city, across Cultures

Though something as familiar and common as hair may not warrant much attention, finding a stylist that can properly work on all textures and all ethnicities, is unusual.

The neighborhoods of Boston and the Greater Boston area are home to over 4 million residents, all from different backgrounds and cultures.

The city’s population is predominantly white, at 53.9%, with the black/African American population at 24.4%, followed by Hispanics/Latinos and Asians, accounting for the remaining demographics within Boston, according to the most recent data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While it may not occur to most, each hair type requires special attention and skill, with which all stylists are not always trained.

Hair Texture Chart

Teda DeRosa, owner of Ebony and Ivory Hair Studio in Stoneham, Mass., said, “The texture is the difference between all hair types. We only had straight haired mannequins, so we only learned on straight hair. I had to learn how to translate that over to textured hair.”

"The texture is the difference between all hair types.” -Teda DeRosa

Each neighborhood has a specific demographic, which the community tends to cater to.

This becomes problematic when minorities within the neighborhood are not provided with enough resources to meet their needs.

Map of White Population in Boston
Map of Black Population in Boston
Map of Hispanic/Latino Population in Boston
Map of Asian Population in Boston

For example, the demographics differ dramatically when comparing the neighborhoods of Back Bay and Chinatown, or Roxbury and Cambridge.

Chimene Ngnintoundem, Owner of Hair by Chimene, Stoneham, Mass.

Chimene Ngnintoundem, owner of Hair by Chimene in Stoneham, Mass., said that the difference in clientele ranges based on the neighborhood. "Sometimes, depending on the area where you are, there are not many black or white people living in that area, so there’s no need for [those] salons to be in that specific area. Then people suffer. And it goes both ways," said Ngnintoundem.

“Everything goes by zip code." - Chimene Ngnintoundem

Women across all races and ethnicities visit salons and stylists regularly, but are not always left with a feeling of satisfaction or confidence when the stylist does not know how to fittingly work with their texture or hair type. “Hair is hair. You just have to be able to work with all different textures, and the only way you can know about the textures is to become familiar with them and not be scared of them,” said Ngnintoundem.

Women across all races and ethnicities visit salons and stylists regularly, but are not always left with a feeling of satisfaction or confidence when the stylist does not know how to fittingly work with their texture or hair type.

"Hair is hair. You just have to be able to work with all different textures." - Ngnintoundem

While it is possible to find a stylist who caters to a specific hair type or ethnicity, it is often very difficult and inconvenient. “The inner city has a lot of Hispanic salons, a lot of African American salons, Caucasian salons and Asian salons,” said DeRosa. “When you step out of the city, it usually focuses on the demographic that’s there, and usually it’s caucasian,” she said.

Websites and online reviews do not provide or specify this type of information, so more often than not the process defaults to trial and error. Clients, often times, find stylists through word of mouth and through personal experience. Nicole Hardmon has been DeRosa’s client for about 15 years. “When I was younger, my mom would bring me to family members’ houses and they would do my hair. But she started to ask around, and we found Teda. We have been going to her ever since,” said Hardmon.

Nicole Hardmon, Long-time Client, Ebony and Ivory Hair Studios
Experienced and practicing stylists do not believe that they were given the necessary tools and training to learn how to cater to all of these differing hair types.

“Beauty schools do not always give you all of the tools necessary to be able to serve each and every type of hair,” said Ngnintoundem. The majority of beauty schools allow for stylists to experiment and observe on traditionally straight hair.

“There are so many mixed cultures, that the hair textures are constantly crossing over, and stylists should be able to do everybody’s hair,” said DeRosa. “But we have to go out of our way to learn to work with different hair types. In school, they touch on it, but it is very minimal.”

Without diversity and range of textures during experiential learning and training, stylists are apprehensive about working on different clientele.

Not only does this make it difficult for clients to find a suitable stylist, but it negatively impacts the stylists’ business and versatility. “It’s important to learn to do all textures, because as a stylist, you’ll be more versatile and make a lot more money,” said DeRosa.

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