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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.