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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8845
JPY
USD
117.71
GBP
USD
0.6643
CAD
USD
1.2669
INR
USD
62.019

Rates may not be current.