Marketplace: How Instagram Revolutionized Black Hairstylists & Salons

The most popular photo-sharing app changed hairstylists to the beauty industry forever – for the most part. Black women still go to hair salons but there has been a rise in the last decade and generation of at-home or office space hairstylists. These group of beauticians can be found on Instagram. The platform has been a great marketing tool for the entire field of cosmetology, like nails, lashes, and skin care. But this culture of business has disrupted mutualism between consumer and merchant.

It is difficult to find Black hairstylists, up-to-date with the latest trends, as less are operating in physical salons. A new risk to this path is meeting the stylist for the first time at the appointment. This creates an isolated exchange with only a client and stylist in a limited social atmosphere. As many commonly state in their social bios or requirements, “NO extra people or kids!” which can cause wonder.

Stylists tend to post their work on clients more than themselves online. If the page does not have a personal account linked, one may have to plunge down a rabbit hole to find a visual of the hands behind the hair. Otherwise, an online reputation will have to suffice for any safety concerns.

As with new processes come new hurdles. The cost of hairstyles have nearly tripled in price. At most, box braids were once $120 in the early 2010s. Now that style can run to $300+ which can fluctuate depending on length and custom color. Prior to the appointment, hair must be washed and blown-out. If not, expect to pay more or receive a cancellation altogether.

Before cornrows were called “straight backs”, hair didn’t need to be straightened to be braided. That defeats the purpose of the style. Braids are easily sculpted on natural Black hair because the curly and coiled texture allows the braid to hold. That’s dramatically changed. Oftentimes hair must now be blown-out, straight, to achieve certain looks. Usually for sleek edges that some of our hair does not naturally do.

Hairstylists can now make a fee for anything. Additional charges can range from 15-minute late fees to extra costs for natural hair, thick hair, “short” hair, or no hair (alopecia). All of which are uncontrollable conditions that should not be subjected to higher or lower value. Truly skilled hairdressers can adjust to different hair types without increasing the price.

But before any action takes place, a non-refundable deposit must be paid to the stylist before you see them. You better hope they don’t cancel your appointment for any unrelated reason…because they can.

Instagram flipped the hustle. Hairstylists no longer have to provide adequate customer care to build a client base. Instead social media does all of that heavy lifting. Consumers constantly look for trendy hairdressers because they cannot be easily found through a Google search. Even celebrities flock to the app for recommendations from fans and followers. The grind for clients has gotten easier and many do not have, nor need, licenses to cater to an audience craving the latest hairstyle.

One social app drastically altered an entire profession. Aside from its use as the new hair directory, a culture has developed that devalues the place of customers in an intimate exchange. People meet in salons to do hair, but also a communion takes place. An array of women speak to each other on trivial or trending topics, street sellers breeze through the shop with food, purses, belts, or DVDs (which are no longer common) for sale, and a lot of laughter happens. Hairstylists can now remove themselves from a physical and public marketplace. Instead each can individually build a standalone business.

Imagine if grocery stores didn’t exist to unite most food goods? You would have to go to the orange shop to get oranges. Then the banana shop to get bananas.

As stylists continue to separate from salons and raise costs on every service, where do customers receive an experience that equates to the price? On the consumer end, people must arrive with their hair pre-done based on the stylist’s conditions. Then receive the bare minimum of a client-centered environment, or lack thereof, because what’s one unsatisfied customer to an Instagram following of 28K?

This new standard of business makes consumers bend the knee for over-priced service and subpar customer care.

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