From an early age, Rosaura Reynoso understood how hair has the power to frame a woman’s face. She developed a passion for the art of hair styling, and in 1983 decided to start her journey as a hair stylist.
Reynoso was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where she opened her own salon and even taught for a while.
“A lady came to get a haircut one time, and she loved it” Reynoso said. “After that, she wanted me to teach classes at two institutes that were run by the government.”
Before opening El Nuevo Estilo (The New Style) at 4201 W. 6th Street in Hunting Park, Reynoso used to work for another hair salon in New York. However, the lifestyle of the “big apple” was not suited for Reynoso’s entrepreneurial mindset.
“I found myself working in New York to eat and provide for my children,” Reynoso said. “But when I moved to Philly, although I had to work really hard, at least I was able to buy my house and become my own boss.”
According to the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC), the number of Hispanic-owned businesses has grown 28% in less than a decade.
Dominicans, in particular, are known for dominating the bodega businesses. However, another business that tends to be associated with the islanders is hair salons.
Over the years, Dominican hair salons have gained a reputation not only among Hispanic, but other cultures, too.
“I have recommended this place plenty,” said Cai Good, who has been a client for 11 years. “I introduced a friend from Ghana to the salon. She never heard of anything like this. They are not educated on styling their own hair, and she was blown away on how straight her hair was without any chemicals.”
In the Dominican Republic, going to the hair salon has become part of the culture. Most women visit the beauty parlor at least once a week.
Most of the women have textured hair, which requires more care. The aftermath of colonialism has had a long-lasting perception that associates European features like straight hair with beauty. Throughout the years, hair stylists have developed techniques that have resulted into the famous “Dominican Blowout,” by concentrating on washing, drying and brushing using tropical products, often produced locally.
Although techniques have set Dominican hair salons apart, the environment cannot be forgotten.
The Dominican hair salon has an atmosphere that motivates women to talk to one another and make friends and at most times it’s considered a weekly therapeutic visit for many salon-goers.
It’s a lively environment that consists of energetic music, fashion magazines and at least one T.V. showing a Telenovela (a Latin American soap opera). These aspects dominate the setting in these hair salons.
When long-term clients make their way through the salon, an understanding of family is set upon both the client and the hairdresser. A relationship is built through weekly visits, the hairdresser understands how to take care of the clients hair as well as the likes and dislikes of products.
Products made in the Dominican Republic are essential. Dominican-made shampoos, conditioners, oils and rinses are all sold and used in salons. These products are specifically made for different hair types and textures.
Dominican hair-care products are most known for facilitating the healthy hair journey to overcome hair breakage, hair loss or damaged and brittle hair. The organic products are normally made with natural tropical ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil and fruit extracts.
Most clients get what is known as a “Dominican Blowout,” which is a wash and dry method- most commonly done with roller sets.
The clientele at El Nuevo Estilo Salon are African Americans and Dominicans, but while living in New York, Rosaura saw a big difference in the demographics of both cities.
“They were all Hispanics,” Reynoso said when referring to her clientele in New York. “Here most of my clients are African American, and very little Puerto Ricans and Dominicans.”
Although Reynoso has established a stable business that is mostly promoted by worth-of-mouth, she does not think expansion will be part of the picture any time soon.
“The mistake that all salon owners make is that if the business is doing well, they want to open in South Philly, the city or in Cottman,” Reynoso said. “I’m only one person, and I need to always be in my salon. In a business, a boss needs to be present to see what is happening.”
In recent years, the beauty industry has been changing and catering to different audiences. They have done this by providing a larger variety and quality products design for different audiences.
-Text, images and video by Freixys Casado, Jennifer Mota & Michelle Severino.