A Mintel report states that the Afro hair and beauty business in the UK is worth around £60 million a year, with hair care constituting for a larger percentage of the total market.
With the popular perception that afro hair is unmanageable and hard to maintain the chemical and extension alternatives may be seen as more appealing to Afro Caribbeans, as opposed to wearing their afro hair.
Joycelyn, CEO and Co-Founder of Afrocenchix, said: “In the hair industry it’s the weaves and perms that make the most money. Over 60% of what ethnic minorities purchase is perm. Now it is the Remi weave. That is where the money is.”
“People do not know how to take care of their natural hair because their parents have been relaxing it from when they’re young and don’t want to deal with the hassle, so they just opt for what they think is easier. It does take extra work, but so does relaxed hair. A lot of people with relaxed hair are wearing weaves because they don’t want to deal with their own hair. If you’re going to wear weaves all the time why not just have your own natural hair?”
Afro Hair and Beauty Show organiser, Ms Grace Kelly disagreed.
She said: “There is information out there. Black Beauty and Hair magazine have a regular natural column, Black Hair magazine does also. There is a wealth of information on the internet. I think there is more information now than there has ever been about ways of maintaining, and styling natural hair.”
“I’ve been natural for about 15 years and when I first went natural there wasn’t any information available, now you have blogs, and YouTube. When I went natural I had to speak with hairdressers in order to get the information that I needed, and also it was trial and error. Now a lot of people are sharing information about wearing your hair natural because it’s a journey, and a lot of people want to share that journey. It’s something that I’m sure our mothers and grand-mothers would have loved to have been able to have access to.”
The surge in information available online may shift more power into the hands of the afro consumer to choose weaves and relaxers as a styling choice, rather than a necessity to appear presentable.
Editor of Black Beauty & Hair magazine, Ms Irene Shelley said: “I don’t think it’s a case of focusing on what they know is going to sell, though those products do sell. People still wear relaxers and people still weave their hair but a lot of the natural hair market is slightly diffracted. There aren’t too many large companies that have budgets to take part in hair shows, or advertise in magazines. Consequently you’re not finding their presence in publications, even though people are choosing to wear their hair naturally. It is not reflected in the products that are advertised in the magazines and also not reflected in hair care salons that are able to look after that particular natural hair type.”
The Afro Hair and Beauty Bible author, Ms Alison Husbands said: “If all women see are relaxers and weaves that’s all their going to think is possible to achieve. I think natural hair could be represented more but I don’t think it would really make them much money. It’s obviously better for them if they can encourage people to spend money on weaves, and wigs, and getting hair from Brazil and all these different countries than just looking after your own hair, and growing your own hair. Because there’s not really much money in that, I think they think. It’s about money I think.