Here’s The Real Reason Why Braiders Are Charging Up

Getty Images / Anthony Barboza.

Natural hair is a full-time job without any pay. Week after week, we are subjected to intense wash days to achieve our desired styles. Caring for our crown is an act of empowerment, but it can also become tiresome. This is when having a hair braider on speed dial comes in handy, as they save us from giving up on our hair altogether. 

But what happens when affordability gets in the way of accessibility? A surcharge from the braiding community has caused outrage and a divide on social media for quite some time now. This has resulted in women taking it upon themselves to style their own hair to avoid pricing. 

Meanwhile, stylists have gone on TikTok to explain the rising prices of braiding styles. Content creator Christina Ann, for example, recently posted a video detailing the labor that goes into being a hair braider. “Hair braiders get no lunch, no breaks, and could be stressed out making sure your (the client) parts are straight,” says Ann in the video. Mulan McCausland, a New York-based stylist and owner of The Mu Look, knows all too well the pressure of hair braiding, too. “Braids have evolved so much over the past few years. We’re doing more than just box braids,” says McCausland. 

A friend’s compliment about McCaslin’s braids started her styling journey. Her first few clients were friends and associates. McCausland was uncomfortable charging too high for her work, although she was working long hours. She prioritized mastering her technique at the time because she was new to the industry. McCausland says, “I was charging around $100 per style because I was focused on being good at my craft.” Now that her technique is on point, the stylist has raised her prices, and her talent has allowed her to keep up with the latest hair trends. “I’m doing more intricate styles these days and buying products for my clients so they can have the best results,” says McCausland. 

With inflation on the rise, the average cost of beauty products has gone up, too. Business owners in all industries have been forced to factor the increase in the economy into their pricing. “When I first began braiding, hair would cost me $5 a pack, and now it’s up to $9. If my clients need 6 packs of hair each, that begins to add up quickly,” adds McCausland. Stylists also factor in costs for hair products and time. Braids can last anywhere from four to six weeks. A stylist must then factor in the time it may take before they see their clients again– considering they are regulars. 

The hair community has become an investment for women of color and their stylists. It can be intimidating to pay a high price for a protective-style appointment. With the rise of stylists, it’s essential for clients to feel confident about their investments. “Don’t be afraid to vet stylists. Stalk their social media accounts! Look out for client reviews; before and afters are key,” says McCausland. Potential clients can look out for progress photos that are months apart. This can help them determine if the stylist they’re investing in will ensure their protective style lasts. It is also okay to ask stylists questions and ask for photos if they don’t have a social media account. The key is to remember this is an investment and where you put your money matters.

“It’s important to know that there’s someone for everyone,” says McCausland. The beauty of social media has given us access to hundreds of stylists in our area. This allows us the opportunity to find a hair stylist that can be in our price point and help us protect our hair. At the same time, we must remember that hair braiders are the heart of the natural hair community and by supporting them we are pouring into the root of our culture.   

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