Thursday, December 14, 2017

Choose to go natural


Nautural hair being styled by ZM Image Consultants and its natural hair brand T&T Na-tu-rals. —Photos courtesy ZM IMAGE CONSULTANTS

Mark Fraser

Look around you... “Naturals” are everywhere!

Natural hair is trending and if you are not a bonafide “natural” as yet then you are among the group of women who are staying true to relaxers and straighteners. Natural hair has made a comeback with more women opting instead to bear their natural hair with pride. The trend has grown and it turns out that Trinidad and Tobago already has large followers of the trend. There are various groups, Youtube videos, Facebook pages and websites and blogs dedicated to supporting women opting to wear their hair natural — T&T Na-tu-rals is one such group. It is a popular and active natural hair social networking group that offers tips, hair care and products to aid in their client’s natural hair journey.

In Trinidad and Tobago this niche market has also expanded. Natural hair advocate and specialist and founder of T&T Na-tu-rals, Zikiya Mills-Francois has confirmed that her salon provides natural haircare services and products to over 500 clients a month. Mills-Francois has observed that the local trend started to peak in 2012 with a rising number of people going natural. Mills, observing the great demand for information and inspiration has pioneered and hosted regular hair events locally which the natural hair community calls “meet ups” — the largest one being the annual Natural Hair Health and Beauty Expo where hundreds of women attend for discussions on hair care, maintenance, and the politics of having natural hair among other topics.

“I would say for me, I observed that it started to pick up in T&T in 2012. Based on that we held the first expo at the Hyatt Regency because of what was happening locally. At the show we had about 1,200 patrons attending and we had another 800 people who wanted tickets but we had to turn them back because we really could not accommodate them. That’s how we realised what was going on. We knew that we had clients who wanted to focus on their natural hair but it was only until we had the show that we realised the magnitude of the trend people,” Mills-Francois said.

The hair-typing system in the natural hair community is a system which defines your hair type. It is very useful in understanding why your hair responds to certain products and why it doesn’t respond to others however, it is negatively viewed by some as it is viewed as the categorization of “good” and “bad” hair textures. Mills-Francois said the biggest issue many natural’s face is lack of knowledge.

“There are people who live on Youtube but not everybody on Youtube is skilled on managing a particular hair type; so they might not be getting the results suited to their hair type so that is where the miseducation comes in. Once you know how to manage your own hair type the journey becomes easier. There is this whole thing about hair typing — everybody wants to know their hair type; a lot of people want to have the particular hair type as society classify as curly hair or the “good hair” and everybody wants to be a type 3a hair when in fact they are a 4a or 4b or 4c. We tell people don’t focus on hair typing. We don’t only do hair we do full image consulting so we work on the women themselves making them love who they are. Once you cross that hurdle, loving your hair would come naturally,” Mills-Francois said.

She added: “What we realise is that most women think that maintaining natural hair is difficult and this is mainly because of bad childhood experiences; they know what their natural hair was like as a child and they know the pain they went through with shampoos and tangling. But we explain to people that the wrong techniques were being used which is why they experienced pain. Now people see how easy it is to manage their natural hair. They know that it could be soft, moisturised and well groomed. Mindsets still need to be changed because alot of people still don’t believe that natural hair is versatile and can look professional. There are different options besides weaves, wigs and twists and hairdressers are not offering those options.”

Mills-Francois continued: “When we started we sent letters to every salon offering training on caring for natural hair so that they would be knowledgeable to guide their clients accordingly. But everybody was telling us they are not interested because at the time most hairdressers found working with natural hair to be a tedious process. But yes it is going to take you some time when you are working on natural hair because it’s not just about slapping on some relaxer. I am also a trichology treatment professional and what I am seeing is a lot of young women in their early 20’s are balding because stylists are using incorrect styling measures. They come to us in most instances and the entire back is natural and the front is chemically treated because the hairdresser told them that they have to relax the front to make the weave look better. Most people come to us to treat damaged hair.”

Mills-Francois said the natural hair phenomenon is here to stay. “I don’t think the natural hair phenomenon will actually phase off people are going natural not just because of a phase, they are more health conscious, they are doing their research and they are realising the damaging effects chemicals and they are making decisions based on that. A lot of people are also changing their marketing strategy because they are aware of the options available in natural haircare.”

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