This year has proven to be a flashpoint when it comes to the discussion of Black hair in the UK. Academic and author Emma Dabri started a petition to amend the UK Equality act to include Afro hair, in order to halt discrimination against children in schools on the grounds of wearing theirs simply as it grows from their heads, or in a protective style such as braids, locks and fades. There has been a push to include Afro hair in the hairdressing NVQ Curriculum (astonishingly, right now, there is zero training in textured locks on a standard level 2 diploma).
When it comes to beauty more broadly, movements like #PullUpOrShutUp – a direct action campaign from founder of Uoma Beauty Sharon Culter, which asks brands to share the number of Black people they employ at corporate and executive level – have started to break the veil between brands and Black consumers across the industry.
Black hair is big business. In Great Britain, the value of this market stood at £1.72billion in December 2019, with Black women spending six times more than white women on their crowning glory.
Yet, when it comes to conversations about hair health – for natural or processed Black hair – the beauty industry still has yet to fully come to terms with the demands for products, tools and haircare direction. Gentrification of Black heritage locations, like Peckham in South London, means that Black salons must now contend with being priced – and pushed – out of one of the few places available on the high street that cater for Afro hair. Black salons currently make up only around 1 per cent of the 36,000 hairdressers across the UK, meaning that, alongside this the lack of adequate products on the high street, Black women are often left with word-of-mouth recommendations alone, in order to care for their hair.
What is Haircrush?
It's this that led 26-year-old hair aficionado Antoinette Ale to found Haircrush. The online platform, created in 2018, features both hair care know-how and brands to buy, along with the latest trends. Ale's experiences helping other people with their hair started young – she always worked in her Auntie’s salons – and, by the time she got to university in Leicester in 2015, where there was a lack of hair salons which offered Black hair services, she wound up being, in her own words: "That go-to person at university – I did everyone's hair."
Despite the obvious frustrations of finding herself in a "Black hair desert", this experience was pivotal for the conception of Haircrush. After doing someone's hair, she noticed that they would often call back, asking how to maintain their hair between appointments. "I felt like there wasn't anything out there that was helping women and empowering them to make healthy choices, in an informative way," she says. It's this desire to give women the knowledge they need to maintain a healthy head of hair that is at the core of Haircrush.
Success was swift: in the two years since launch the platform has partnered with renowned hairstylists, entrepreneurs, influencers, and brands like Cantu, Dyson, Afrocenchix and Antidote Street, has hosted multiple expert-led events, and has a staff of four.
What does Haircrush mean?
In among these partnerships, creating a healthy hair community for Black women remains at the heart of the brand. Trina Charles, 28, co-founder of hair site Curlture and co-author of the book Kink, says that for her: "Haircrush is a platform I wish I had when I was younger. I see it as a platform that celebrates me, and that's why I had to get involved. With so much information on hair care out there, from Instagram to YouTube, it can be hard knowing what and who to trust, as well as where to look. Haircrush provides style inspiration, tips, tricks and advice you can trust, online and offline."
Nana, 29, is in full agreement. "Haircrush has literally saved my hair. For so long, I just freestyled and ended up making poor hair choices and the platform has encouraged me to try new styles and not see my hair as a burden."
During lockdown restrictions in the UK, Nana says she attended Haircrush's Instagram Live sessions, which were curated as a Covid-time alternative to their expert-filled events. Here, she says she had freedom to "ask all the questions, without being judged and I also get encouragement from the wider community". It reaffirmed her knowledge that "Afro hair shouldn’t be seen as a burden, it should be seen as a crown".
Liz, 26, discovered Haircrush through the brand's Instagram page. She says that as she has "natural Afro hair, I’m always on the hunt to find more ways to care and look after my hair - whether that’s under my wig, my wash days, or for styling". For her, tutorials and tips were what encouraged her to join the brand’s online community. "Since then, I’ve watched Haircrush develop and it’s nice to be part of a community that helps you stay in the know about the best way to look after your hair," she explains.
Community, care and real change: long may Haircrush's reign continue.
3 other Black hair platforms for inspiration
Founded by London dwellers Jay-Ann Lopez and Trina Charles, Curlture self-defines as "an online empowerment platform". As well as advice centred around natural Black hair, their site covers beauty and style, as well as travel.
2. Haley Brown
Follow Hayley for advice on how to wash, protect and style natural hair, with a focus on keeping strands healthy.
3. Antidote Street
This platform brings you the best products and routines for textured hair, as curated by Winnie Awa.
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