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Cuts for Curls

If you’ve ever had curly hair, it’s likely that you boast firsthand experience with the trials and tribulations of a coiled coif. Whether it’s combating unpredictable weather, struggling to master the ABC’s of flat-ironing (while attempting to contend with heat damage), or navigating a society that has largely internalized the appeal of the perfect stick-straight mane, curlyheads have never had it easy. That also goes for finding the right place to get your locks cut and styled.

Enter Marie France Cesar, the founder of MaduSalon, a busy hotbed of hair activity on Divisadero Street, has attracted curlyheads from all over the Bay Area and beyond — precisely because of its uncompromising love for curly, kinky, and natural tresses. Leave your flat-iron demands at the door or prepare to be met with some fighting words.

While the stylists at MaduSalon aren’t about preaching to the masses on the benefits of loving your hair, frizz and all, it’s obvious from the sheer number of clients pouring in and out of Cesar’s atelier that getting your hair cut here isn’t about the simple beauty fix — it’s more of a lifestyle choice.

Cesar, who is of Haitian descent, has been perfecting her craft for the past two decades. Ever since she stopped relaxing her hair and decided to embrace her own locks, she has inculcated dubious clients with the importance of staying true to themselves.

“What we do here is about the beauty and individuality of each of the clients and their particular hair,” she says. “Some people won’t want to take the time to figure out the right regimen for their hair, but there are many people who come in here without a clue about the right products to use or how to treat their hair. We want to make all of our clients happy.”

Whether it’s corkscrew curls or Botticelli waves, the thing that sets MaduSalon apart from the rest is the fact that it offers “Deva” cuts, a technique developed by British stylist Lorraine Massey that offers customized, individualized haircuts for naturally curly clients. Hair is cut while it’s completely dry, to prevent the shrinkage that occurs when cutting wet hair.

“It’s less a cut than it is sculpting the hair,” says Cesar, who prefers to observe each of her clients’ natural curl patterns.

It was only after the cut that my hair was washed — but not with regular shampoo, since the Deva method pooh-poohs the use of shampoo, which often contains harsh detergents that only serve to dry out curly hair even further. MaduSalon carries the entire line of Massey’s gentle DevaCurl products, and the stylists offer thorough instructions on how to use them — from circle-massaging the scalp with conditioner when cleansing your hair (upside down, mind you) to avoiding the use of a towel to dry your hair (T-shirt fabric is much gentler and won’t unnecessarily ruffle your curls), to using products that will soften your hair rather than add crunchiness and build-up.

Cuts at MaduSalon range from $60 to $80, depending on the length and density of your hair, and how wild and crazy you choose to get. While the upstairs area is cozy yet sparse (with just a few chairs and artwork by local designers festooning the walls), there’s also an alcove of salon chairs in the downstairs area. This is also where clients can get their pores purified by aesthetician Monica Fine, whose custom line of products (Shalom Organics) will whip problem skin into tip-top shape.

Just remember that walking into MaduSalon isn’t exactly the same as moseying on down to your local neighborhood whack shack. You may be sitting in the waiting area, sipping tea and thumbing through fashion magazines for a good while before your stylist gets to you, appointment notwithstanding.

After close to 45 minutes of waiting, I was finally attended to by a gracious, apologetic Cesar, who explained that her assistant was out that day. Given the attention to detail and the fact that cursory haircuts are hardly routine at MaduSalon, I completely understood. My cut took close to two hours, and given the lustrousness of my newly springy bob, the wait was well worth it.