Trip to the Salon: $50. Free Therapy: Priceless.

Hair salon in 1950s Florida.
(picture courtesy of Flickr)

Salon, take me away!
Every time I sit down in one of those funny chairs in my local salon, the kind that swivel in place and can move up and down (not that I've tried this out or anything...), I breathe a reflexive sigh of relief. I can feel my limbs loosen, my stress melt away -- I am instantly relaxed. What is it about going to the salon that is so soothing, so therapeutic?

This is something I've been wanting to write about for some time, to try and answer that very question. I should state outright that I have never visited a salon in another state, or country, for that matter. So I can only discuss this based on my experience visiting salons in Miami. However, I've visited quite a few, and I think I can narrow down the types of salons we offer pretty accurately.

Based on my experience visiting salons in Miami, I can categorize the major types of salons into three groups:

  • Top Dollar

  • Ethnic (Cuban, Dominican, Haitian, etc.)

  • Cheap and Sloppy

There may be other types of salons that exist, I don't know. But these are the three that I've visited.

Top Dollar
In Top Dollar salons, you can tell it's Top Dollar because they greet you at the door with a glass of white wine and a fluffy white robe. There may even be rose petals in your pedicure water. The stylists all wear white monogrammed coats that have been starched within an inch of their life, and they are, of course, impeccably groomed.

All mani/pedi treatments at Top Dollar salons come with a requisite hand and/or foot massage, and your hands will literally feel like new afterward. The same goes for hair treatments -- whether your visit is for a trim, dye, straightening treatment, or simple blow-out, etc., you will no doubt have your hair washed by someone with magic hands. By which I mean they will give you the best scalp massage of your life. (I still tingle all over remembering this experience.) Their blow-outs are great, too, and can last for days.

The only downside of visiting a Top Dollar salon? The price-tag! Something as simple as a blow-out can cost a hundred dollars or more. You may be relaxed and sweet-smelling by the end of your visit, but chances are the stress will come right back when you see the bill! But if you want quality and don't mind paying top dollar for it, this is the salon for you. Some great areas in Miami for Top Dollar salons are South Beach and Coral Gables.

My only experience with an Ethnic salon has been visiting Cuban salons in Miami. I myself am Cuban, so this is the salon I'm most comfortable with -- especially since my paltry teacher's salary means I can't afford to visit those classy Top Dollar salons (sniff, sniff). But what my little Cubiche salon may lack in class, it more than makes up in warmth. You may not get rose petals in your pedicure water, but you will get a grandmotherly lady who will give you advice on your latest spat with your mate. You may not get white wine, but you will get a piping hot cup of espresso (which will keep you fueled for the next 24 hours).

While Top Dollar salons use quality products that truly make a difference on your hair, hands, and feet, I find that my Cuban salon's products, while generic, get the job done. And the blow-outs honestly are often just as good. The price also happens to be right -- it usually costs me about $25 for a wash and blow-dry, and $25 for mani/pedi.

The only downside to visiting an Ethnic salon like mine is that sometimes the stylists don't speak English. For example, in my Cuban salon, everyone speaks only Spanish. I speak Spanish, so it's no problem for me, but I can see how it can be an issue if you walk in wanting your hair cut or dyed -- and you don't speak any Spanish. However, this is an easy fix -- find someone to translate for you! One of my good friends is my salon buddy, and she speaks little to no Spanish. In fact, I think she's been picking up more Spanish ever since she started coming to my salon. :) Good places to get your hair and nails styled -- and practice your Spanish --  in South Florida are in Hialeah, where the majority of salons are run by Cubans and other Latin Americans.

Cheap and Sloppy
When you need a haircut that's both quick and cheap, this is the type of salon you will probably visit. They take walk-ins, they don't bat at an eye if you have to leave right away, even if it means leaving with your hair wet. Best of all, the price tag is super cheap. I've seen some places charge as little as $15 for a wash, cut, and blow-dry. (This would run me $30-35 at my Cuban salon, for example.)

It seems like a win-win situation, right? You get your hair washed, cut, and styled in minimum time and you pay a minimum price. Plus these types of salons are ubiquitous and can be found virtually anywhere. What's not to love?

Actually, there's a lot not to love. In my experience, the stylists at these Cheap and Sloppy salons aren't that experienced (I had one lady get her round brush stuck in my hair), and since their paychecks are probably pitiful (how high can they be with such low prices?), they don't show their customers that much care or attention. (Supercuts, I am looking at YOU.)

The Long and Short of It...
Maybe it's different for you -- maybe your local Cheap and Sloppy salon is Cheap and Not-So-Sloppy. If so, count your blessings! Remember everything that I've posted above has been based on my experience. And my experience in short is this: I visit my local Cuban salon every other week for a mani/pedi and to have my hair washed and blow-dried. Each visit runs me $50 plus tip. It's a small price to pay for my happiness (not to mention sanity!) -- I find that after a stressful day, visiting my salon is an instant pick-me-up. I leave the salon not only looking better, but feeling better, too. And that's what going to the salon should be all about, right?

Now that I've given you my two cents (more like a twenty bucks, right? ;p), I'd love to hear what you have to say. Do you go the salon? How often and why? Let me know in the comments!

4 comment(s):

Rory said...

I can sooo see what you mean. Only, up here in the Mid-West, we have: A)Top Dollar, B)Super-Pricy, C)Hole-in-the-Walls that nobody knows about, and D) WALMART.
Luckily, I get most of my salon stuff for free... Oh, the advantages of having a half-sister that works at a Super-Pricy salon... :D

Anonymous said...

interesting post, ana :)

i tend to visit the salon once every 2-3 months. i always keep it practical, being a student and all. it usually costs me $50+, but i'm not the one who's paying hahah. but i totally get what you mean about feeling better too - love it!

Randomization said...

It's been a year since my last haircut. The main reason why I don't go to salons that often is because of the prices. I can't afford to constantly go to them. Plus it's not that relaxing for me. I get really tense because I don't know my hair will turn out.

I am dying for a hair cut though, I'm just waiting for my piggy bank to get full :D
I want to get something really different, like an inverted bob. I can't wait XD

Unknown said...

@Randomization: An inverted bob? I have never heard of that but it sounds awesome. Googling it now...

@Robyn: You are awesome.

@Rory: You are so lucky to know someone who works at a super-pricey salon! I wish I did ... especially in Miami where hair cuts can run upwards of $300 (ouch).