In Kenya, salons are filled with women who spend hours to have their hair done. It’s also expensive in a country where half of the population live on less than a dollar a day. For some women, that has come at too high a cost and now they are embracing their natural hair.
Monica Wamaitha, 22, works in a salon in downtown Nairobi. Despite specializing in creating weaves and wigs for her clients, she keeps her natural hair.
“I decided to go natural because I want to be myself. I don’t want to perm my hair or put weaves because I want to be myself with my natural hair,” she said.
She said she finds it pretty easy to maintain and cost effective.
“Maintaining natural hair is cheap as compared to putting chemicals or weaves or anything that’s not natural on my hair,” said Wamaitha.
After years of complicated styles being in fashion, many Kenyan women are embracing a simpler look.
Alice Nannatte, 25, said she wants to feel appreciated in her own skin and for her natural look.
“Natural hair is very easy to maintain because you don’t really think so much about ‘if my hair looks bad’ cause you can maintain it [yourself]. I don’t like weaves because I find them just being too plastic. So natural for me is the way to go,” she said.
Muli Musyoka is a trichologist dealing with hair treatment and scalp problems. He said one reason why women are disillusioned with in vogue hair products is they find them hard to use properly.
“Most of our women have been frustrated with the products we have in the market — some of them being very good products, but being misused at the salon. So they end up leaving hair damaged or even scalp burns,” said Musyoka. “There is also the issue of right now everyone in the world is scared of cancer and you do not want to expose yourself to a lot of chemicals. So there is also that notion, that if you keep natural hair, you will be in a position to use natural products.”
Whether natural or highly styled, the haircare business in Kenya is a multi-million-dollar industry. Benson Kimemia said a return to a more natural look has not hurt his salon business.
He said he started his salon to inspire people to have the best natural hair, including dreadlocks. He said more and more people are going natural — as compared to a few years back — because people have seen too much chemical damage. They know natural is gentler and God given, so they are embracing it.