Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Sisterlocks Expense

Some people talk to a consultant and get a quote and just think: that's a lot of money to spend on a hairstyle. They don't realize that it really is an investment, not unlike a home improvement. It's something that stays with you and pays dividends over time.

I can't say how much I feel like I've earned back already in terms of time not spent fussing with and fretting over my hair! Literally hours every week that I can spend doing other things. And I actually spend less money on products and maintenance. But I know that is not the case for everyone.

I was just writing a letter to a friend (who is also natural and looked into Sisterlocks in the past, but she mentioned it in passing and I never got to ask her why she decided not to get them.) I was telling her how much I love mine.

I talked about the fact that I used to spend a minimum of three hours styling my hair whether it was twisted, loose curly, or straight. When it was curly, I had to wet it every morning and put anti-frizz and curl-defining products on it, so that was at least 45-minutes every morning. When I wore twists, I could never twist my whole head in less than three hours or untwist it for the retwist in less than 2 - that wasn't counting the actual wash (which was usually 10 - 15 minutes.) And when it was straight, I would spend about half an hour combing through it with detangling, straightening leave-in conditioner before spending another 45 minutes blow-drying it. Then it was off to the salon to have it flat-ironed, which took another hour and a half! If I decided to deep-condition or do a hot oil treatment before straightening, that added another half hour.

Now, I wash my hair in the same 15 minutes - sometimes in the shower, sometimes not, and keep getting up! I don't have to do anything else to it if I don't want to and it still looks good. I just can't even put a price on that. My retightenings are done at 5 or 6 week intervals and cost the same amount (including tip!) as my salon visits did at 2 or 3 week intervals.

I also save because I will never have to purchase extension hair again. I had stocked up on shampoo and oils and conditioners (I caught all the products I use on clearance a few weeks before I decided to get sisterlocks), so I don't know the next time I will have to buy products. (I may want to try something new, but I will not have to buy products for years...because I use so much less of everything now!)

Sophia broke it down in a recent post about the cost of Sisterlocks compared to a good weave or set of kinky twists or micros. She said, "It amazes me that a woman will pay $300 for a weave or braids that last for, at most, 2 months. She will get the weave/braids redone at least 6 times. 6 x $300= $1800 for 1 year. Once I reach my year mark with SLs, I will not have spent nearly this much. And outside of the initial costs, SLs are relatively affordable."

I used to get kinky twists put in once or twice a year, and my Sisterlocks installation was the same price as having fake hair put in. You all have seen how my hair grows, so even if they were put in well, I could never keep them for longer than two months without my roots looking really ghetto simply on account of my new growth. It was alright though, because that was about my limit for the fakeness. I was constantly aware that I had hair on my head that was not my own and I was always ready to be out with it and have my hair loose where I could really wash it again.

This is part of the reason I had apprehension about starting sisterlocks. I would always reach a point where I was like: ugh! I have to take these braids/twists out! I have to feel my own hair again! I have to comb through it and brush it and run my fingers through my own hair!

I was afraid I wouldn't like having the individual locks. I was afraid I would want them out that same way after just a few months. But it wasn't the grouping into sections that I was averse to: it was the artificiality and stiffness and added weight of fake hair. I hated the tension and pulling. Even the best human hair was still not my hair. Now that it is all my hair and it is soft and light, I am not bothered at all.

But, I digress, I was talking about sisterlocks expense. If you know you're going to keep them - even for as little as two years, they're worth the investment!

Anyone who is concerned about the ongoing costs of maintenance can definitely save money by retightening herself. Even though my consultant's prices are extremely reasonable, I know that sometimes every little bit of savings helps. A retightening can be equivalent to several tanks of gas or groceries!

It is often mentioned that sisterlocks are considered a brand or status symbol in some circles. I was not aware of this at all when I decided to get mine. I wanted to get mine done by a certified consultant simply because I knew that I did intend to keep them for years and I didn't trust simply anyone who said, "I does hair," to throw some locks in.

If I even began to think I could have done my own hair and have it turn out as beautifully as Jaidalon's...(I swear, the neatness amazes me!) or, if I had a friend or sister who could have hooked me up like Creyole did Mrs. Dee, I would have done so.

But I am just not so inclined (to do it myself) and I am not so well-connected. At this moment in time, I am not at all excited at the prospect of retightening my own hair. I would like to know how to, so I never find myself stuck looking unkempt because the local consultant is too busy, charges an arm and a leg, is underqualified, too far away, or non-existent.

Having my hair done is and always will be in the same category as massage and facials. Yes, I suppose you can do it yourself, but it isn't just maintenance to me, it is also pampering and a service. I am so willing to pay for the convenience of not having to do it myself. I'm the sort of person who would have a live-in housekeeper and cook if I could afford it. And a nanny if I had kids...(not in this life!*), but I do like having other people do things for me, even when I know I am perfectly capable of doing them myself.

* On the re-read, I felt that I should clarify that having a domestic is out of reach - it could read as if I dislike children!

I say this in closing to anyone who wants to get sisterlocked and finds herself sticker-shocked... 1) Think about the quote your consultant gives you for the installation. 2) Find out how much she charges for retightenings and how long she expects each session to take. 3) Figure out how often you think you will need to re-tighten. However often you got relaxer touch-ups is usually a good rule of thumb. Some people do as often as 4 weeks and others can stretch it out for 8. 4)Figure out how much this will cost you in 6 months and 12.

Now, realistically figure how much you actually pay for the hairstyles you currently wear. Count everything for 6 months and a year. Relaxers, touch-ups, braids, weaves, and all forms of extensions and fake hair (including pony tails, wigs, falls, etc., even if you're getting them at the local beauty supply for $5.99, they still add up!). Think about how many times you buy OPH, use it and throw it away, or go to the salon for a style that doesn't last a week, and you have to go and have it done again. Think how many times you pay good money for a style that you sweat out or that gets ruined in the rain or humidity.

Think how much time you spend creating and maintaining those styles or waiting in salons and braider's shops (or kitchens or living rooms).

And really count the cost.

Because you often spend this money $20 or $40 or $60 at a time, you don't realize how quickly you have spent $500 or $600 or $1000!

Now, these calculations don't work for people who do their own hair for what works out to be free if they don't use extensions and are masterful at styling or always rock hair that is short or totally natural and chemical-free, but I think those women are definitely in the minority. I think most of us spend a great deal of money on our hair, and a great deal more than we realize because we don't ever stop to add it up.

Why bother? It's like lamenting the high price of still have to buy it.

If it still seems out of reach, or you just can't bring yourself to spend the money, by all means, look into doing it yourself if you have that kind of talent, or find someone who does. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. I understand that. I was totally ready to get sisterlocks, and I thought they were worth it, but I had to wait 6 weeks to find the money. (Still ended up cashing out a small 401K. I did not just have it lying around!)

And, if it somehow goes against your principles and upbringing, I understand that too. I'm just asking you to have some perspective and consider how much money you already spend, and compare that to the price of getting and maintaining sisterlocks. You may find that the gulf is not as wide as you had imagined. Don't count them out off-hand without crunching a few numbers, and don't be judgemental about people who did choose to get them.

Oh, and do shop around! I was quoted a wide variety of prices on my length of hair. There were some people who would have charged me $400 - $500 more than my consultant did! And I have read about retightenings that take 5 - 6 hours, so if it does seem outrageously expensive, maybe it is. I hate to say it, but there do seem to be a few consultants who are price-gouging.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I welcome yours on this subject....from readers with and without sisterlocks.


muslimahlocs said...

renea just did a really good post about this. i agree that there are some price-gouging consultants out here however there are some others that are well worth the price even if they are more expensive.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about the cost of your own time... I remember having to use a half day to twist my hair, I liked them small so my mother would help with the parting. I would start out with using conditioner and combing my hair to keep the product build-up at bay (which took about 1 hr). I then would wash my hair (which took about 30 minutes). I would then twist while my mom parted (I can't part worth anything) which would mean waiting for her to get off work or interrupting her daily schedule. The twisting would take about 4-5 hours since they were so small. By the time I was done there was no more time in the day. So I ask again, how much do you feel your time is worth?

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