Talking About Afro Hair With Leillah Of No Scrunchie

"I would love for afro hair to be mainstream... That is the dream. But until that day comes, we have to make sure that the ‘specialist’ afro salons step up their game." - Leillah Sekalalah
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May 20, 2013
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If you've found 'The One' - by which I mean a hairdresser who really gets you and your hair - I envy you. I've never managed it, instead flitting from salon to salon, stylist to stylist, invariably disappointed with the results which take weeks, if not months to grow out. These days I go to Hair By Fairy, pay £15 and get a basic, standard no-fuss trim, which hardly rocks my world but doesn't throw me into a pit of despair either.

Finding a good salon is tough, and as Christina wrote so eloquently here, finding a decent salon that caters for afro hair can be even harder, depending on where you live. That's why Leillah Sekalalah founded NoScrunchie, a website devoted to creating a comprehensive database of the best hairdressers for afro hair.

But first, why that name? Imagine feeling happy with your hair every single day. That's what 'No Scrunchie' stands for - having such amazing hair that you never have to scrape it up out of the way - ahhh, the holy grail! This is what finding the right salon and stylist could mean. I asked Leillah about her hopes for the site, her own best and worst salon experiences and her favourite products...

"We soft launched NoScrunchie in November 2012, went live with all the features in January 2013 and the number of reviews is growing daily. We believe that the more the reviews a salon gets, the higher the chances of getting an accurate picture of it. A lot of the readers want to see more reviews but we can only take that one step at a time as the reviews need to come from them. We do hear a lot of salon horror stories at parties now as well."

"I think that London is pretty well served by all ranges of salons at the moment but there is a market for salons that have great service and that are reasonably priced. I know that there are great salons in Milton Keynes as well, not very many but good quality. There are areas like Brighton though where we get queries all the time from people asking if there are any good salons that anyone knows, so if you do, please share."

But what makes a salon really stand out? "The stylist has to be good at what they do. Not at everything. I am not after a jack of all trades, I am after a stylist who can weave or braid, or relax. I understand that it may not be the same person.

The next rule is customer service. This is everything from the stylist respecting your time (so you don’t spend all day in there) to refraining from eating or using the phone while they do their hair. And many other small things that add up like clean bathrooms or clean equipment. (Doesn’t seem like too much to ask.)"

"I change my hair a lot. I change the style at least once a month. It is my easiest accessory to work with so from coloring to long weaves, short weaves, cornrows or braids. My dream would be to have a nice Halle Berry cut but the maintenance would be difficult and obviously I do not look anything like her so probably not a genius idea."

And what about 'hair icons'? "Kelly Rowland. She always has amazing hair. If I was younger, I would say Rihanna. (I think I am too old to shave the sides of my head now.)"

There's been some debate about whether wearing their hair in a natural style can affect black women's career prospects and I really wanted to get the 'NoScrunchie' take on the issue: "We have heard a lot about this and blogged about it recently and the views seem quite split. We have found that it is much less of a problem in London due to the multicultural nature of the city. Interestingly we have found that dreadlocks are also never viewed as an issue."

"It also seems to be more of a problem within the black community as we spoke to a few white males in recruitment and they had no idea what the difference was between natural and relaxed hair so they could not possibly have a negative opinion. The quote that we loved best was from the WOW festival though where Funmi Fetto, acting beauty editor from Tatler magazine said, ‘Just be so damn good at what you do that nobody cares about your hair!’"

Let's talk disastrous salon experiences - ever had any? "Yes. I went to a salon to relax my hair and after the relaxer was on my hair, they informed me that the pipes had frozen and they had to wash my hair with ice cold water. The water was so cold that I cried. The person washing my hair couldn’t keep her hands in it for too long (even though she had gloves) and so my hair got burnt. I got home and my husband asked if I had been to a barbeque. My hair smelled that burnt!"

"The last salon I went to, the hairdressers bullied a lady until she cried. All because she changed her mind halfway through about what she wanted. I hated that so much."

Your top products for afro hair? "I like the relaxer products range from Mizani and for styling in between relaxers, I love the S Curl activator. It moisturizes like nothing else."

"I would love for afro hair to be mainstream. I would love to be able to walk into any salon and get my hair done, to open a magazine and find a piece on afro hair. That is the dream. But until that day comes, we have to make sure that the ‘specialist’ afro salons step up their game."

If you've got a favourite salon add it to the database at noscrunchie.com or tell us about it in the comments below!