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Kenya Women Return to Natural Hair


A customer waits for her hair stylist in Rita Dantaa's hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).

A customer waits for her hair stylist in Rita Dantaa's hair salon in downtown Johannesburg, May 16, 2014 (Gillian Parker for VOA).

Many women enjoy getting their hair done at a beauty salon. They say they feel better about themselves and their looks after such a visit. Twenty-two year old Monica Wamaitha works in a salon in the center of Nairobi. She is skilled at creating hair weaves and wigs for customers. Yet 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.”

After years of complex hair styles being popular, many Kenyan women are accepting a simpler look. Twenty-five year-old Alice Nannatte says wants to feel respected 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.”

Muli Musyoka is a trichologist -- someone who deals with hair treatment and scalp problems. He says one reason why women are turning away from modern hair products is they find them hard to use correctly.

“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. 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.”

The hair care business in Kenya is a huge industry. Benson Kimemia owns a beauty salon. He says women returning to a more natural look have not hurt his business.

He says he started his salon to motivate people to have the best natural hair – including dreadlocks. He says 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 easier and God given – so they are embracing it.

I’m Marsha James.

Mohammed Yusuf reported this story from Nairobi. Marsha James wrote it for Learning English. George Grow edited it.

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Words in This Story

salon – n. a business specializing in beauty treatments

hair weaven. a hair piece that is combined with a person’s own hair so that it looks natural

dreadlocksn. a natural hairstyle in which the hair is shaped into long matted or rope-like locks

wig n. a hair piece that you wear on your head to hide baldness or to change one’s appearance

stylishadj. popular; fashionable

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