Hair Wars: Black Salons Are Feeling The Heat Of The Dominican Blowout

- By Bossip Staff Categories: For Discussion, For the Ladies, For Your Information

"Annie Lee's Black Salon Art "Burn You Baby?"

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece about the competition black hair salons are experiencing from Dominican salons.

Armed with a blow dryer and brush, deft wrist action and shrewd promotional tactics, immigrants from the Dominican Republic are snipping away market share from African-American stylists whose mastery of black women’s hair ensured for generations that their customers wouldn’t, or couldn’t, leave them. Promises of seemingly healthier hair, swifter service and far lower prices are wooing away a growing number of black women.

The defections have infuriated African-American stylists who insist that their methods are safe and that they are more highly trained than the Dominicans are. “It’s hard enough in these times, but they are undercutting our prices, even passing out fliers to our own clients,” complains Atlanta hairdresser Jannifer Jackson, whose cancellations and no-shows began piling up once a Dominican salon opened about a mile away last summer.

Many traditional black stylists accuse Dominicans of misrepresenting their services as “natural” because nearly all Dominican salons perform relaxer touch-ups. Traditionalists say the “Dominican blowout” technique can cause severe hair breakage. Both sorts of stylists wash, set hair in rollers and seat customers under big dryers.

African-American stylists typically use a curling iron to unfurl the hair, while Dominicans use a two-handed method of unraveling the strands with a round brush, followed by a blow dryer in the other hand to smooth the curl to a straight finish. Dominicans do so by pulling from the hair root, often forcefully. That, along with applying the second round of intense heat, leads to breakage, say black stylists and some customers.

Dominican stylists deny the accusations. The majority of Dominicans are themselves black, and like African-Americans, they developed their skills by styling their own hair. “We have stylists—black stylists—all the time calling and asking to come and train with us,” boasts Alfredo Rhoden, co-owner of Dominican Hair Salon by Massiel in suburban Atlanta.

The financial impact of the Dominican incursion on black American salons is hard to gauge. Sales volume isn’t tracked by the race or ethnicity of salon owners. But industry experts, salon owners and stylists say the impact is indisputable. A fixture in New York City since the 1980s, Dominicans now are rapidly expanding to other U.S. cities.

New Jersey stylist and barber Gina Brydie formed the National Black Cosmetology Association last year to help salon owners strengthen their businesses against the recession and the increasing Dominican competition.

“We have Asians coming in with the beauty supplies and Dominicans coming in and taking over our industry,” says Ms. Brydie, 39 years old and 20 years in the business. Salons and barber shops are a proud touchstone for blacks in part because they were among the earliest black-owned businesses, providing one of few paths to economic advancement after slavery. By the early 1900s, black entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker had become a self-made millionaire by making hair and beauty products for blacks.

Now, rather than trying to beat the Dominicans, some African-American business owners are joining them. Jennifer Drew started in 2007 to help Dominican salons market to blacks after she switched to the blowout and saw curiosity budding among black women.

The database has grown to include several hundred Dominican salons, from Sun Valley, Calif., to Chicago to Boston. Almost all opened in the past five years, Ms. Drew says. It includes 80 salons in metropolitan Washington, 95 in Georgia, 15 in Charlotte, N.C., and seven in Houston.

Read the full story HERE

We can see why the black hair care providers are up in arms about losing customers, especially in this economy, but at the same time the competition is GREAT for the clients. It’s hard walking in a black salon without losing your purse — so it’s good to know there is a less expensive alternative. Plus, we’ve experienced how much faster you can get in and out of a Dominican salon. At the same time, is there anything that can compare to that old familiar feeling of slipping into the chair of the stylist who has been doing your hair for years? The community feel of a black salon is another bonus that can’t be matched elsewhere.

Have you abandoned your regular stylist for a Dominican spot? Do you think that the Dominican blowout is less damaging than a curling iron or flat iron? Please discuss!

Art Credit: Annie Lee


  • Hannibal


  • shoeless joe jackson


  • Somali Ninga

    Blacks need to step their game! You let asians take over YOUR hair industry and now Dominicans are cashing in on it too. The only people black salons should blame is themselves!

  • rainbone

    S e e k i n g A f f l u e n t c O m is a place for like-minded people who understand that intelligence, success and drive are key elements to attraction.

  • Alicia

    i definatly prefer Dominican Salons and my hair has grown so much and is si long and healthy since i switch!!!!

  • ReALiSt AKA ReALeSt (FoXy BrOwN's TiDdYS nEeDs A rEaLiTy ShOw)

    Black people stay losing – at this rate; we’ll become irrelevant in the next 50yrs…

  • chocolatedeluxe1

    I agree with Alicia my hair is much longer and heathier since I have been going to the Dominican salon. Also It is cheaper the black salon would charge $60-80 the Dominicans charge $25-35.

  • shawamar

    This is just another way of creating division amongst our people (and alot of you cannot wait to help out). Dominicans ar emostly black and mostly have the same texture hair as Blacks and so they do their own hair the way they see fit. If a black woman wants their hair done that way and they like it, whats the damn problem?? Is there a need to attack another style, maybe black salons should try it, that is if they really are worried about losing business. This is BUSINESS, you must do whatever you need to do to stay afloat. The major difference is that Asians proactively wanted to take over the hair product business and did so, I dont see dominicans actively trying to market to black women, they just have a different technique and use it on dominican women, if black women want it that way they now have an option. We really need to stop letting this BS come between us.


    Who cares about this crap,

    Most black men go to black barbers anyway, this is for you females.

  • http://BOSSIP neva

    What? No one wears weave. I have heard nothing about weaves and extentions. How many people go and get their real hair done. If so isn’t it in a short style that I would think the D’s have not mastered yet. I agree get in where you fit in. If you can knock a buissiness out the box, it is what it is step your game up.

  • Dominican Mami

    Dominican stylists know about better treatments and use better methods 2 promote healthy hair. I’ve been to a black salon and they fried my hair! They didn’t even do the rollers right…it was a horrible experience. Dominican help ur hair grow longer, mine is down my back. Longer than the average. I have friends with “good hair” that’s hair doesn’t look as think or long as mine. Ur ends do get damaged easier if ur relaxing and applying heat to ur hair, but that’s nothing that can’t be solved with a little trim. This is why black girls love Dominican stylists, we make their hair grow longer….and that’s what they all want. To get off the weave and wigs!

  • drenk

    capitalism turned to seem like ethnic conflict, well done WSJ, keep dividing and conquering

  • Reallythough

    Really though??? Most Dominicans are black and from personal experience my hair has never been more healthy.

  • NipTuck

    There’s nothing wrong with a little competition. If the black salons were smart, they’d get education on this new technique and offer it in their shops. As long as it’s not going to do any damage to my hair I’d try it.

  • LaDanseuse

    Both are damaging to kinky/curly or relaxed hair. I’ve found that my hair is significantly healthier and longer since I stopped going to black & dominican salons. I only go every 4 months for a touch up. Take care of yo hair, ladies! Neither the blacks nor the dominicans will sit and cry with you when you come to terms with a potentially receding hairline!

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