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From Aunties To IG Hairdressers, Black Women’s Hair Ideals Are Changing

Whoever we trust with our hair, the styles Black women are favouring are changing – and fast.
“Today, I feel like hair trends seem to change with the season: seasonal colours, lengths and protective styles etc,” says hairstyilst Ayanda Soares. Soares has been a hairdresser for 14 years and describes her customers as those who want to embrace their natural hair and often opt for protective styling.

She began learning when she was a teenager. “I had always done my own hair, as my mum was terrible at doing mine and my sister’s hair – she had dreadlocks for most of our childhood,” she shared. “In secondary school, I would braid friends’ hair and I learned to do braided weaves around the same time.”

Soares tells HuffPost that in her time as a hairdresser, she’s seen a surge in demand for experimental methods such as tape-ins and keratin fusion. These options weren’t accessible in the UK in the same way they were in the US due to a lack of hair suppliers offering extensions for women with Black hair.

“These have been around for many years, but have not been seen at this level in the afro/Black hair space,” she adds.

Ayanda Soares (left) and a model with tape-ins styled by her (right).
Ayanda Soares (left) and a model with tape-ins styled by her (right).

Soares agrees that social media has played its part in changing the landscape of Black hair styling. “It has also has allowed us to showcase our work globally,” she says.

She is big on educating women about how to care for their hair, running training programmes that highlight how to clean and prolong your hair extensions, for example.

“Content creators also help sell the message for us business owners, in terms of education, so we tend to work with influencers often,” she adds.

The pandemic also affected the way Black women do their hair – 64.7% said the way the did their hair changed as a result of lockdowns, according to the TreasureTress research.

More of us made the decision to transition “back to natural”, where women grow out their chemically treated hair. Additionally, they actively sought out resources to educate themselves on how to take care of their hair because they were no longer able to visit professionals due to lockdowns.

And with a younger demographic booking clients, the hair styles Black women are choosing is shifting.

Marlene Gatrude Twinomugisha: 'I just kind of fell into it'
Marlene Gatrude Twinomugisha: ‘I just kind of fell into it’

The most popular hairstyles today tend to be the more natural ones, like knotless braids, free-style feed in cane rolls or locs, Marlene Gatrude Twinomugisha, a 20-year-old hairdresser from London tells me.

She started doing hair by “accident”. Similar to Soares, she didn’t like the way her mum did her hair, so took it upon herself to learn how to style it. “I then moved on to to doing hair for my cousins, then my friends and more people were asking me to do their hair at school, so I just kind of fell into it,” she says.

“My experiences getting my hair done by aunties when I was younger was me showing them a hairstyle, them saying they can do it but whenever the style was done, it didn’t look the same at all,” says Twinomugisha, who posts her styles on Instagram under the name Crowned By Her UK.

She believes younger girls have moved to sourcing stylists from Instagram because IG hairdressers are able to jump on hair trends quicker. “Aunties can’t really keep up,” she adds.

However, IG hairdressers also have their issues. Writing for Refinery29 earlier this summer, Yolanthe Fawehinmi detailed how the convoluted booking process and poor customer service is causing young women to return to their roots.

“As more and more horror stories pile in about the last-minute cancellations, excessive fees, where you’ll need to pay a deposit via a booking system to secure an appointment and can be charged for being late, wanting extra length or colour, and of recent, even parting your hair — sometimes bad customer service, young people on social media are boycotting Instagram hairstylists, particularly those on TikTok, who are going back to Britain’s African braiders,” she reported.

Sade Idem, a 25-year-old hairstylist from Kent, says younger black stylists have more of a business mindset.

“With many of us growing up in the UK, we’ve seen how much Caucasian stylists would charge for less challenging hair services, and we realise £60 for seven hours of braiding with no breaks is criminal!” she says.

Idem has a lot of respect for older stylists as they’ve paved the way for the younger ones. “However, many older stylists are focused on the final look, rather than the health of the client’s hair long term,” she comments. “Their customer service can also be affected as they’re trying to fit in as many clients as possible to make up for the low prices they charge.”

Sade Idem: 'We realise £60 for seven hours of braiding with no breaks is criminal.'
Sade Idem: ‘We realise £60 for seven hours of braiding with no breaks is criminal.’

So what does the future of Black hair and hairdressing look like from here? To me, it looks like versatility, growth and experimentation. As we move towards more protective and natural styles, I see us breaking away from the idea that we have to play it safe with our hair. Let’s enjoy it, and have fun.

I hope to see more young Black girls growing in the profession, but I do believe there’s a place for aunties in the Black hairdressing arena. They worked hard to build Black spaces for women to do hair in this country and paved the way for younger Black women to learn and grow as hairdressers.

As Byrd puts it: “There’s no doubt that Black hairdressing is a growing industry with immense potential. The future looks bright for those willing to put in the hard work and dedication required to succeed.”