News / Economy

S. Africa's Black Hair Businesses Thriving

A customer looks in the mirrow as she waits for her hair stylist in Rita Dantaa's hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
A customer looks in the mirrow as she waits for her hair stylist in Rita Dantaa's hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
— In a continent of dramatically contrasting poverty and wealth, hair is a rare common denominator that cuts across class and culture groups in Africa. The black hair business is worth billions worldwide, and the Africa market is slowly picking up as consumers look for the best products.

Good Hair, the 2009 documentary by comedian Chris Rock, spotlighted the business of black hair, particularly the use of relaxers, weaves and hair extensions. Elements of his documentary ring true in South Africa, the dominant market on the continent for hair care products. According to researchers, black women are willing to spend at least double the amount on hair and beauty products that white women do.

According to estimates from Euromonitor International, the Middle East and Africa hair care market alone was valued at $4.2 billion in 2013.

Zeenat Ebrahim, a senior analyst at Euromonitor, sees huge potential for the hair care market in Africa.

“Multi-national players, for example, in various locations in Africa are increasing their marketing in advertising budgets," Ebrahim explained, "this is really influencing consumer choice… the likes of hair conditioning products, these products are once again, increasingly appealing, especially because new product development with extra value is allowing consumers to have affordable and salon-like treatment at home."

Ebrahim said South Africa has the most established and developed market for these premium hair care products, which she says are gaining increased interest from consumers.

For many, hair is one of the defining characteristics that African women use to transform their appearance. In Rita Dantaa’s hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, rows of wigs and hair extensions mask the walls. Shelves under the mirrors are filled with gels, creams, mousses and hairspray. Her customers are not wealthy but they are still prepared to pay a few dollars for the salon experience to get their hair done.
Dipping her hand into a large white tub, Dantaa then smothers potent relaxer onto her customer’s hair.
 
Rita Dantaa, who owns a hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, applies relaxer to her client's hair, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).Rita Dantaa, who owns a hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, applies relaxer to her client's hair, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
x
Rita Dantaa, who owns a hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, applies relaxer to her client's hair, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
Rita Dantaa, who owns a hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, applies relaxer to her client's hair, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
“So after relaxing the hair, one week time or two weeks time, she need to come and do treatment to protect the hair from breaking, and then when she finish, she can decide to put a weave or braid or leave her hair like this - it’s up to her,” Dantaa explained.

Sodium hydroxide is the key ingredient used in relaxers, and can smooth out even the toughest afro curls. But it burns the scalp if left on too long. Dantaa quickly moves to rinse the white cream off her customer’s hair after she complains that her head is burning.

Some customers prefer natural hairstyles like corn rows or an afro, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).Some customers prefer natural hairstyles like corn rows or an afro, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
x
Some customers prefer natural hairstyles like corn rows or an afro, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
Some customers prefer natural hairstyles like corn rows or an afro, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
“It’s a bit hot, let’s say….like when you put a weave, once you are scratching, you are bringing sores on your scalp, so if you scratch too much and you relax you get burnt. It’s not bad, it grows the hair and it makes the hair look nice,” she said.

Another popular practice is the application of hair extensions or weaves in which strands of hair are woven in. At Rita's salon, synthetic hair extensions cost $10. In Johannesburg’s upmarket business district, prices range up to $800 for hair extensions.
 
Hair stylist, Donald Zaburoni says improvements in hair quality has driven demand for hair extensions, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).Hair stylist, Donald Zaburoni says improvements in hair quality has driven demand for hair extensions, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
x
Hair stylist, Donald Zaburoni says improvements in hair quality has driven demand for hair extensions, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
Hair stylist, Donald Zaburoni says improvements in hair quality has driven demand for hair extensions, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).
Donald Zaburoni has been a hair stylist for nearly 10 years. He said the improving quality of human hair extensions has driven demand, although for some women, the time and the potential pain is not worth it.

“You have people in SA that prefer to be all African natural, they don't go for weaves, they don't go any other thing" he explained. " Most of my clients used to have weaves, used to relax their hair - then they realized that this is not for me…So with your natural hair you do your corn rows, you do anything with it, you want to rock up in your afro - you rock up in your afro."

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Moa from: South Africa
May 21, 2014 9:45 AM
If anyone can tell me what "black hair" is? South Africa is on the African continent and Africans live there and the hair they have is normal hair. Not black hair. I would also like to see comprehensive articles written on "white hair" bleaching, extensions, wigs, colouring etc. It's 2014, We refuse to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize us.

In Response

by: R. Courtney from: johannesburg
May 23, 2014 12:51 AM
Agreed, we need to move away from Black hair terminology. African hair still covers many people of African descent with various hair types!


by: Kearabetswe from: Pretoria mamelodi
May 21, 2014 9:13 AM
Can u plz cum down to pretoria in de township..jst to see the real south africans''doing it


by: Tenicia Lanae from: USA
May 18, 2014 1:49 PM
The black hair care industry is a multibillion dollar industry in America (in or out of a recession) and now it's beginning to cash in on Africa's dollars. But guess what? We (most of the people who are spending in this industry don't own or create...) There are VERY FEW black owned manufacturers of these products and even less of black owned beauty supply stores. If you can think of any post it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.