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Wendy Sama Afro Hair
Photography Wendy Sama

All UK hairdressers will now be trained to cut and style Afro hair


TextAlex Peters

Finally

Stories about hairdressers who aren’t trained to do Black hair, and the resultant damage caused, are unfortunately extremely common. These experiences should soon be in the past, however, thanks to the introduction of new training guidelines in the UK. 

Last month, a new version of the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for hairdressing – nationally recognised practice standards which form the basis of many competency qualifications across the UK – was published and approved by the government, having been updated to include Afro and textured hair. This means all new hairdressers will learn to work with Black hair as part of their training. 

“It is paramount that hairdressing standards and qualifications reflect and represent the diverse range of hair types and textures of clients across the hair and beauty sector,” says Helena Grzesk, COO of British Beauty Council, who worked with the standards setting body Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority (Habia) on the new changes. “Our aim is to amplify and celebrate the voices of all the communities the industry serves to ensure each and every one of us feels seen, heard, valued and excited to engage with the beauty industry.”

Many current hairdressing qualifications have no compulsory requirements for students to be educated on Afro and textured hair. The NOS update is just the first step – the next stage is for awarding organisations to review their qualifications and align the curriculum content with the new inclusive standard.  

This update is long overdue. In 2019, model Olivia Anakwe called out the fashion industry in a viral Instagram post following an experience during Paris Fashion Week where the only person backstage able to braid her hair was the nail artist. Writer Rhea Cartwright described an experience she had at an “inclusive salon” where she had to instruct the hairdresser on how to cut her curly hair in an article for Dazed Beauty, while hairstylists like Lacy Redway have shared stories about being the only person backstage able to work with Black hair.

Model Youma Wague encountered a hairstylist who did not have the skill set to style her hair in a 2018 Dazed shoot. After discussing the problem with other Black models and hairstylists she traced the problem back to beauty schools not teaching students how to work with natural hair. The experience led her to launch Youma’s Natural Hair Workshop, a sensitivity and technical training workshop where hairstylists can become Texture Positive certified.

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