Like straightening your hair or getting a few streaks of brown highlights, protective styles have become a rite of passage for many black women. Box braids and Senegalese twists, for example, can take up to eight hours to complete, a frustrating and painful relationship many of us—myself included—can't seem to escape; we charge it to the game because the results are beautiful and beauty is pain, right? But a recently opened San Francisco salon is on a mission to correct the black salon experience by offering a menu of styles and cutting the time in half.
Touted as the "DryBar for women of color," Naza, a new salon founded by Natanya Montgomery—and backed by Alexis Ohanian, the Reddit co-founder and husband to Serena Williams—creates a seamless, anxiety-free salon experience from the moment a customer visits the booking site—a luxury many women aren't afforded at local salons. First, you click on your desired style. Then, customize your look by selecting the color, size, length, thickness, down to whether you prefer a knotless or knotted roots. What's more, customers aren't charged until after their hair appointment.
"For black women, there’s a lot of anxiety that can exist in going for a salon day, there’s so much unknown,” Montgomery told Forbes, adding, "All of this hair anxiety causes a pretty stressful experience, and that’s why I think people have found that they stay with a place even if they're not satisfied with the service."
Naza only offers five hair services: crochet braids, silk press, cornrows, box braids/twists, and weaves. And while a recent Twitter debate revealed just how many women experienced stylists who tack on extra charges for thickness, length, and more, you won't be inundated with hidden fees at Naza.
"There’s no up-charge for any sort of thick or extra hair,” Montgomery continued. “We assume that every single person is going to come with hair as thick as it comes and as tangled as it comes. . . .We’re prepared for the reality.”
Ohanian told Forbes he chose to back Montgomery's salon for the same reason he previously joined four different natural hair Facebook groups: to educate himself on his daughter Olympia's natural hair and ensure Olympia has "access to the world she grows up in—a space that celebrates her hair, provides her excellent service and empowers all the people who work there to excel at their craft on their terms."
Nerisha Penrose Assistant Editor Nerisha is the assistant editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty and fashion.