On 125th Street, the artery of Harlem, past the historic Apollo Theatre, you will find Beleza Natural. This Brazilian Hair Salon launched at their new location in uptown Manhattan less than a year ago and has been servicing the community with their specialized treatments, cuts, and more. From the moment you walk into the salon, you know you’re not just here for haircare and a style, you are about to have an experience.
I’m greeted by Carmen, who checks me in for my appointment. Before I start, I get to meet one of the managers, who gives me a tour of the entire space. Yes, a tour is needed, because beauties, this salon is HUGE. There is a whole front area for checking in guests, people who are just popping in to buy products, or curious about the new salon. There are consultations rooms, there is not one, but two large waiting rooms, depending on what part of your experience you are on. In the back there is a kiddie salon area, specifically for children 12 and under to get their hair done. In the back where you get washed and shampoo’d, it’s so organized: there are sinks specifically for washing and shampoo’ing, sinks for their special color technique, and sinks particularly for treatments. It’s really remarkable. The area where you go to get styled is bright with lots of mirrors and space for multiple stylists. There is even a separate area, away from this area, where you are placed to sit under the dryer. There is even a private space for women who don’t like other people to see them getting their hair done. They have literally thought of everything that women of color could want and need in a salon experience.
After my tour, I meet Ify, who will give me a hair consult. She takes me into a private room where she starts to play and evaluate my hair. She tells me matter of factly, “A lot of your hair is shedding.” I had taken my braids out less than a week ago so, my hair was in need of some serious TLC, past my deep conditioning treatment from the week prior. We decide that I should get their Vitamin Power Repair which will be protein treatment and help strengthen my hair. The hair consultation is free, which goes to show that Beleza Naturales cares about customers hair and not only making money.
I’m then taken further back into the salon where I’m seated as I wait to get my hair shampoo’d and conditioned. I’ve decided with Ify that I’ll leave the salon with a trim and a silk press in addition to my Vitamin Power Repair. I am introduced to Danielle Ebongue, who will be doing my shampoo and conditioning as well as applying my treatment. Ebongue is bubbly and I instantly feel comfortable in her hands. She explains to me that she will wash my hair twice, then condition, before applying the treatment. As she’s conditioning my hair, I notice her massaging it. She explains that it is to help the product penetrate through my cuticles better. “There is a Beleza technique for everything,” she tells me as she massages my scalp and strands.
After she washed and conditioned my hair, she parts my hair in four. She lightly begins to dry my hair with a towel. My hair should be damp, not wet before applying deep conditioner, “because water and oil don’t mix together and you don’t want the conditioner to drain.” The great thing about this experience is they educate you as they go. She massages the Vitamin Power Repair formula into my strands and then leaves me for 15 minutes so it can absorb. When she returns, she washes it out of my hair and then brings me to meet my stylist, Shantell Kelly.
Kelly is a hair educator at Beleza Natural and is obviously well loved by staff in the salon. She’s kind and explains what’s going to happen next in the ‘Beleza way.’ She will go through my hair and trim it, then blow dry my hair, then straighten it with a flat iron, to leave me with a look that will make people think I relaxed my hair. Yes, you read that right, she trimmed my hair BEFORE blow drying it.
At Beleza Natural, they specialize and only focus on doing curly cuts. Kelly provides me with a book so I can look over styles to see how I want my curls shaped. I’m not feeling brave for an actual cut, so I ask her to keep it in it’s current shape, which is apparently the “standard curly cut” for Black girls. I love that at Beleza Naturales, people take the time to help me learn and undesrtand my hair.
Kelly wasn’t scissors happy with my trim either. She showed me just how much she was going to take off before she even picked up the scissors. She explained, “You know it’s time to get a trim when your hair gets see through or your ends are knotting.” I was nervous about having a curly cut, as I had never had one before. She soothed my fears, “A good thing about a curly cut is that you can see what’s going on with the hair.”
We talked a lot about specific haircare for my hair texture (Type 4). She explained for my hair type, I should be focused on “moisture, moisture, moisture.” She also added that I should “be getting a trim every six weeks.” Yes beauties, you heard that right. This is the girl that gets a trim every 3-4 months and feels like she is doing something. “If you are being diligent with your deep conditioners, it could be longer. Everybody’s hair is different.” For her clients with color, she normally gives them a trim everytime they come in.
We discuss her favorite products in the line and it really depends on what Kelly is trying to achieve. “When I’m doing my hair same day for an event, I like the loose curl product ($36.99, BelezaNatural.MyShopify.com) because it’s lighter and won’t weigh my hair down. I like my hair to be big!” Before you balk at the almost $40.00 price tag, you are getting Costco size product when you buy from Beleza Natural. It’s almost 34 ounces of product in one big jar. When Kelly is trying to create a lasting style to get her through the week, she opts for the Beleza Natural Tight Curls Styling Creme ($36.99, BelezaNatural.MyShopify.com).
The great thing about Beleza Natural is that they mix well with other products. As she prepares to do my blowout she places some Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner ($13.99, Walmart.com). As she places in on my strands she states, “I like the lightness and it gives a nice shine to the hair and moisturizes. It works!” This product has been around for a while, but hasn’t made its way to my bathroom. I make a mental note for my next haircare purhase. She then added the Chi 44 Iron Guard Heat Protectant ($4.35, Walmart.com). She’s uses the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($399.99, BedBathAndBeyond.com) to begin drying and blowing out my hair with a denman brush ($14.99, SallyBeauty.com). She explains, “the purpose of this is not too much heat touching the brush and the hair dryer so there is less heat on your hair.” This is a great way to protect your curl pattern from heat, “you want to get your hair as straight as possible using the Dyson blow dryer,” she explains. As she is blow drying my hair, ironically, she is spritzing some water on it in between. Again, this is one of the Beleza Naturals techniques: “Water helps to make the natural hair smooth and to stretch it.”
Honestly, most of my straight looks or “blow outs” have been done by Dominican hair salons in Harlem. I go there because the results look great, they are affordable; however, they don’t care about your hair. It’s more about the look vs. the haircare. Kelly explains that silk presses are healthier for your hair because it takes less heat and time (you don’t have to sit under the dryer like you do with a Dominican blowout). She blow dried my hair in smaller sections giving it an opportunity to get pretty straight.
Now it’s time for the flat iron. I feel my palms begin to sweat. Last time I had my hair straightened, my curls never popped back. I have spent the past two years attempting to grow my hair out, so I’m nervous, understandably. Kelly places the flat iron on 375. In case I want to try flat ironing my hair in the future, she tells me, “Don’t go over a section of the hair more than twice. Anything after that and then you are in the danger zone.” I make a mental note, but also laugh to myself because I’ll leave the heat and my hair to a professional.
When we finish, I’m in absolute awe. My hair looks silky and looks as if it’s been freshly relaxed. Beleza Naturals has a “red carpet” that customers walk on their way out and I stop for a photo so they can document my style. It feels glamorous and I’m feeling beautiful and confident. Throughout the salon, they have positive affirmations regarding hair and self-esteem, so you naturally absorb the vibes.
While Beleza Naturals kindly comp’d my services for the purpose of this article, if I had paid, minus a 20% tip, my services would have cost $99.00 plus the cost of a trim. A shampoo and blowout by itself is $39.00. That’s comparable to the price of a Dominican blowout, but with a better experience and more focus on haircare.
I’ve now had my silk press for almost a week. It’s made it through two workouts and still looks good. The Beleza Naturals products left my hair feeling and looking healthy and with a great amount of shine. I’ll definitely be going to this salon again. If you have any questions, feel free to message me on Instagram or Twitter. You can also see a whole tour of the salon, here. This is a great addition to the Harlem community!