Dominican Hair Salons in Alexandria VA

I've spent the past four years at school in Washington and I have yet to find two essentials: a church and a hair salon.

Stephanie Johnson, CEO of the Hair Care Co., at work in her salon in Camp Springs, Md. (Evy Mages/For The Washington Post)

At home, I knew of about four salons that could provide me with an adequate ’do for about $50. There just has to be some mysterious place here where I can get an affordable press ’n curl with lots of volume. There just has to be.

I spent the first few weeks making note of all of the hair salons I passed on a daily basis, and noticed something that really confused me: women flouncing out of the beauty shop with hair stiff under heavy amounts of spritz and/or grease. I was so used to seeing women leave the salon with bouncy hair.

I didn’t get it until I washed my hair here for the first time. Hate to say it, but the water felt different to me — harsher. I found myself using more and more conditioner to try to keep my hair feeling healthy. I asked other girls I knew whether they experienced the same thing, and they all had. I figured some women tried to combat the effects by using a little extra grease, but I knew I’d look crazy if I did it.

That’s when I started searching “African American hair salons DC” on Google and Yelp. I found a few leads, but in the end I was always disappointed. Either they charged too much, or I was not happy with the way my hair looked afterward.

One place was close to campus, cost-efficient, and had received rave reviews from girls I knew whose hair always looked nice. When I sat down in the chair, the stylist immediately asked me where I went to school. After I told him, he smirked, rolled his eyes and said, “Then, you want your hair to blow in the breeze. Not too much grease, right?”

I looked past all of the judgmental snark, nodded and smiled. Maybe I’d found just what I was looking for ... but even after that little discussion, he still made me look like I’d coated my hair with Vasoline. It was stick-straight, with no type of body. I didn’t complain right away because my hair is usually too straight the first day it’s done. A few days later, my hair had a little more bounce, but it still didn’t look its best.

I thought I’d found hair nirvana when I came across a Yelp profile for a swanky spot on U Street. It was supposed to provide a standard press ’n curl for about $60! I eagerly made my appointment.

The big day came. I walked in the salon, and there was a white girl working at the front desk. That’s just not something I was used to seeing at black salons. I started to look around, and noticed that most of the stylists were also white. I felt like I was in some alternate universe, and consulted the Yelp page on my phone to make sure I had the right place.

I went to the back to meet my stylist, an Asian woman with a cute, short haircut. She must have noticed the dumbfounded look on my face, because she quickly explained that she specialized in black hair.

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