We don’t know about you, but moving to Denver from tropical or humid environments can take a toll on our skin and our hair. After months of blowing through products that promised to provide moisture, stop breakage and strengthen our natural growth, we decided to dig around and see if a person — rather than a product — could help solve our hair stringent blues. The Mile High City is not saturated with many options and that is partly because there are many misconceptions about African-American hair. Natural hair isn’t hard to style, in-fact it’s variant texture allows for a plethora of ways in which to braid, weave, and comb the hair. Located in Denver and Aurora here’s a succinct list of places we thought best catered to our wonderful, thick and high maintenance heads.
Who: Yamah Constance, owner and hairdresser
Where: 6630 E Colfax Ave., Denver. (303) 388-7859.
Specialty: Braids, locks, weaves.
The Lowdown: Afrocentric Salon is a vibrant space where women (and men) from all backgrounds come to get their hair done. It has different colored walls, and a long black and mahogany checkered floor. Yamah Constance owns the shop and often works alone and by appointment, creating an intimate space where clients can chat and relax while they get their hair done.
“I attract all people from everywhere!” Constance said. It’s more about making people look beautiful than it is about the money for this Liberian girl and race, age and gender do not play a role on how she runs her business. After college, Constance started braiding from the living room in her dad’s apartment and spent the next three years of her career relocating between several locations in Denver, before finally opening up her salon on Colfax in 2007.
Constance likes to educate her clients on effective techniques that promote healthy and permanent growth. “I just tell them to keep their hair moisturized. Put in a leave-in conditioner and condition with water,” Constance said.
For those of us who enjoy the outdoors, Constance suggested getting braids because of the protection the synthetic hair provides against dirt, dryness and breakage. When we asked about how to maintain curls during camping she said, “Get Braids! Or wash it and condition and treat it after.” Despite this, the hair still needs another layer of protection. “Even though the hair is protected, you still need to moisturize it and spray it every day onto the scalp,” she continued.
Another alternative to dealing with natural hair in Colorado is dreadlocks. Constance said they grow 10 times as fast as any other type of hair. “We’re not doing anything with our hair, not putting anything in there. Dreads seem to grow faster, the less you do to your hair the better,” she concluded.
Body & Soul Salon & Day Spa For Men & Women
Where: 4118 E. 8th Ave., Denver. 303-388-3339.
The Lowdown: Alicia Bryant-Mayes, is the owner of her family run business Body & Soul Salon & Day Spa For Men & Women (Body & Soul Salon & Day Spa). Located near the heart of Denver, the salon has a calming atmosphere and has a light aroma similar to incense or some sort of spice. The color purple somewhat dominates the space and a small shrine sits on a square table directly in front of the entrance.
Mayes began her career working in the corporate world, but then left to pursue her dreams of opening a professional hair care space. “It was birthed from my desire to have a professional salon,” Mayes said when we spoke about the emergence of Body & Soul Salon & Day Spa.
Mayes and her team focus on hair texture. “We specialize in hair texture. Everyone has a different texture in their hair, they mix and mingle,” she stated. According to Mayes, the most difficult thing about dealing with hair is the expectations that people normally have. “A lot of times people will see a picture of a hairstyle; they like the person not the hair — you have to be realistic about expectations. The style on you will not look the same,” Mayes said.
In order to maintain moisture and avoid breakage, Mayes suggests using a balance of light based and heavy based oils for the best results. She recommends Moroccan Oil Hydrating Styling Cream, Moroccan Oil Intense Curl Cream and Ouidad Curl Defining Styling Soufflé to Denver readers due to the moisture and balance each product leaves in the hair. She also advocates the natural hair movement – where women do not wear their hair relaxed, in a weave or braided but rather in its natural state. She believes it teaches women how to take care of their hair. “The natural hair movement teaches people how to own it, love it and realize it’s beautiful,” Mayes said.
Mayes wears her own hair in its natural state, a decision she made towards the end of her career in corporate America. “Twenty years ago, most women of color had their hair either flat ironed or relaxed because smooth straight styles were acceptable styles for business — I always loved my natural hair but was afraid of being ostracized.” Mayes admits that it took her some time to become confident and comfortable wearing her natural hair, however she remains happy with her decision to leave it that way. “I have the freedom now to wear both. I no longer feel like the girl that can’t get into the swimming pool, or doesn’t want to get caught in the rain. Natural hair doesn’t eliminate you from living and doing,” she concluded.
Timeless Design Salon
Who: Janice Nave, specializing in braids, weaves and faux locs
Where: 13132 E Mississippi Ave, Aurora
The Lowdown: Walking into this salon, you immediately feel good vibes. There is old school R&B music playing and the smell of freshly pressed hair makes you think of the times you spent in your granny’s kitchen letting her get your hair together. One of the unique things about this shop is that each stylist has their own private station. Holding nothing back, Janice Nave greets you with a smile and a hug. “I greatly enjoy being a black hairstylist, in Denver. I’m striving to instill a sense of security in the current and future generations. Natural is unique. Natural is prestigious. Natural is beautiful,” said Nave.
In true creative nature, this stylist began styling her own hair. “I’ve always noticed a lack of black hairstylists in Denver. Therefore, hairstyling became a hobby of mine. From there, my interest in the hair industry grew into a passion. A passion to make a positive impact on the natural side of the hair industry,” she said.
The Colorado native can slay your hair in numerous ways. Whether you want box braids, faux locs, a sew in or a natural roller set, Janice is your girl for the job. Of all of the styles she has mastered, her favorite styles are protective styles because she thrives on healthy hair. Nave believes that black hair is filled with versatility and the most unique aspect of black hair is itself. When we asked her what she thought was missing in the Denver hair industry, she said, “Realism is absent in the Mile High’s hair industry. You have to be realistic about the current state of hair as well as the plan of care to maintain and/or restore the hair. This is essential to healthy hair and scalp.”
With such a dry and arid climate — treating and maintaining growth can be quite infuriating, however these salons have created a comfortable space where our roots can gather and grow.
All photography by Yamah Constance, Kenneth Coles and Canada Albin