The Dominican salon has been touted as a center of female socialization. Ginetta Candelario’s Black Behind the Ears even makes the case that the salons bring empowerment to Latinas and African-American women. “If, as some feminist scholars and activists have argued, for white women in the United States the beauty shop and beauty culture have been manifestations of misogyny and vehicles for patriarchal oppression, for Latina and African American women who belong to racially and economically marginalized groups, the ability to invest in self-care and self-beautification is an expression of a sense of entitlement to economic, emotional, and social well-being and an effort at its attainment.”
Despite reaching a cult status even outside of our community, the Dominican salon is also highly criticized for peddling an ideal of pin-straight hair. Last week, a woman from Georgia claims to have seen the obsession with straight hair firsthand. She visited Lucy’s Dominican Hair Salon in Marietta for a blow out – a three-step process that consists of shampooing, conditioning, and blow drying. According to Fusion, a week later, she couldn’t style her hair into twists. When she called the salon to complain, they reportedly told her that chemical relaxer had been added to the shampoo. After three years of wearing her hair naturally, she says she now has “thin and stringy” hair and accuses the salon of using a harsh chemical without her permission.
As Fusion points out, “using any amount of relaxer isn’t something that you do casually. The active ingredients in most relaxers are alkaline chemicals like lye or ammonium sulfite that have a pH somewhere between 10 and 14. The caustic properties of these substances break down hair’s protein structure, resulting looser, straighter curls.”
The woman’s identity has not yet been confirmed, and Lucy’s Dominican Salon says using relaxers goes against their policy. On May 22, Lucy’s said that with more than 10 years of experience, they know fully well how damaging a relaxing product can be. They also implied they are not tied to Lizbeth’s, the second salon that the post named.
People have come forward on both sides. Some have advised the unidentified woman to take legal action. Others, like Dawn Petersen, have also accused the salon of using relaxers. Dawn claims that her hair has not returned to its naturally curly state since a March visit. On the other hand, there are also people who say that frequenting the salon has kept their natural hair healthy. None of the other accusations predate May. (Check out the entire review section here, where you’ll see people debate on whether or not shampoos and relaxers can be combined, and the owner’s daughter come to the defense of the salon.)
Whether or not Lucy’s used a relaxer, it’s important to note that this is something people have accused salons of doing for years. Online, there are plenty of forums dedicated to helping women repair their natural hair after stylists have secretly added relaxers. In 2011, Black Girl Long Hair raised the question about stylists adding relaxers to conditioners, and in the comment section, a few pointed the finger at Dominican salons.