With no common safeguards put in place to regulate afro hairdressers in England any aspiring hair stylist can take a chance at their dream – on your hair.
Despite the fact that not every afro hairdresser invests in formal hair education many hairdressers and customers alike do not seem deterred.
Afro hair specialist at The Spencer Clinic, Ms Sam Stewart said: “I think in the afro hair industry, it seems completely acceptable to have your hair damaged. I don’t really get why, in this day and age. It’s sort of part and parcel with, you know, having your hair chemically treated. It gets damaged. It really shouldn’t be that way.“
“I’m sure if you sat down and did the sums you’d probably find that black women spend more money than their Caucasian counterparts. All that we do is move to the next salon, nobody is held accountable, nobody complains.”
“We do a lot of legal work, and we generally get more Caucasian people coming in to sue, or to seek, legal advice. With our afro clients, they just carry on. I think the only way to address it is to say you can only practice if have a qualification.”
However, a hairdresser’s skills are arguably measured beyond the science of hair. They are both scientists and artists. Experience, for some, may be more than enough reason to trust their hairdresser with their hair.
Hairdresser, Miss Funmilola Oluwo, started her career in hairdresser as a salon assistant helping hairdressers get their jobs done faster.
Miss Oluwo said: “It is like a skill, you have to show what you can do. When you say: “Yeah, I can do this, I can do that” but you can’t show it then it doesn’t really mean anything.
“I was trained, so I didn’t just come in there and go straight to working on someone’s hair. There was a trust that had to be developed. They had to keep watching me and see what I could do.”
“When I started I just had to help out; so cutting the hair extensions, finishing off braids, or just washing – basic stuff. As I continued I began to do weave-ons, steaming and the treatment. I was able to actually have a customer to myself and just give them the hairstyle that they asked for, whatever it was.”
“I totally agree that salons should be regulated because I feel that sometimes there are salons where people are allowed to start straight away and it is a bit dangerous especially when you’re dealing with chemicals.”
Ms Sam Stewart said: “It’s not necessarily about afro hair, it’s about hair. You need to have knowledge of hair, the structure and how products react when you put a chemical on to hair. It’s not as simple as: “Well that chemical relaxes.” You need to know what process it goes through to relax. So therefore some, not all, some hairdressers don’t have knowledge of hair. I think that needs to change because we see people coming to us every day with damage having their hair over relaxed.”
Some may say that the hair colleges are to blame for under-preparing them to handle what is considered by many to be the most complex hair type of them all.
Salon owner and hairdresser said: “Down here, in Dorset especially, there is nothing the like Afro-Caribbean hairdressing in the colleges. If you want to do hairdressing in this country you have got to go to places like London, which is discouraging. I have been to the college as well. I have found that when you talk of Afro hair they have got no idea of what it means and how to manage it. “
Fellow of the Institute of Trichologists, Mr Keith Hobbs agreed. He said: “In my opinion colleges don’t go too deeply into what can go wrong. There are many things that can go wrong. It is one thing to make someone look pretty and quite another thing to think, ‘well what is this chemical and what is it doing to me?’”
Ms Sam Stewart advised: “I think it has to do with knowledge. If you think about it, the afro hair industry is probably one of the biggest industries because we are so reliant on hairdressers. I often say to people if you are finding a new salon go in and have a non chemical procedure. Have a look, see how they work, see how many clients they do at once. That’s another problem with most afro salons, they very rarely do one person at a time. Obtain your own knowledge, Knowledge is power. I don’t think you should assume that when you are going somewhere they know what they are doing.”