Salon owner speaks of ‘frustration’ around accessing training for black hair

  • Video report by ITV Wales journalist Zahra Errami

A Cardiff salon owner has hit out at how difficult it is to access hairdressing training tailored to Black hair amid a shortage of salons across Wales.

Sian Jones, a hairdresser who specialises in braiding and hair extensions, says people don’t realise how needed salons for black hairstyles are.

It comes after a recent review of the National Occupational Standards for hairdressing - Afro and textured hair will now be included into one cutting and styling practice standard for all hair types, and hairdressers will learn to work with Black hair as part of their training. 

A black salon owner has told S4C Hansh’s GRID that there is a “gap in the market” when it comes to black hair salons in Cardiff. 

Sian Jones, 22, from Cardiff has been a hairdresser for three years, and last month she opened her first salon near the city centre.  

She said, “I think the main reason why I decided to start the business is because there is a gap in the market.

"There’s not many places in Cardiff that offer braiding services. I think I know only of myself and two others in the city centre who actually offer braiding services as a proper business - I know there's plenty of people who do it from their homes, but sometimes people want to come to a salon environment to get their hair done.”

Sian Jones Credit: ITV Wales

A study by HABIA, the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority revealed that in 2017 there were 35,704 beauty salons in the UK, but only 302 Afro-Caribbean salons.

Sian said many people travel outside of Cardiff to have their hair braided and believes people may feel like special salons like hers that cater to black hair aren't needed.

“But, they are needed and I don't think people realise how needed they actually are because at the time when I started my business, in my head I was thinking ‘Is this really going to work?’

“Eventually I just did it and I’m so glad I have because the amount of clients, young girls, adults... I have so many people who come to me and who thank me as well for doing their hair.

"And it’s such an amazing feeling to make someone feel so confident within themselves as well.

“As I’ve become older I absolutely love my braids, and I feel so confident when I wear them. And it just makes me happy. It's strange to say but it does, I feel so confident, I'm always showing off my hair when I get them done.”

As of September 2021, there are no colleges in Wales that offer hairdressing courses where education on how to treat black afro hair is a core part of the curriculum. Sian is eager to see this change.  

Sian says that she will have to travel to England to get the training that she needs, and also said it would be expensive to obtain the necessary qualification.

She said, “There’s no training courses in Cardiff at all. I've recently been looking because I’ve wanted to train in curly cuts and there’s been none here at all"

Joan Scott, Chair of the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority - HABIA, said this gap in the market exists because “it’s been a separate qualification to do afro caribbean type hair. So basically the students are not studying it, so then people going into the industry are not trained.”

HABIA is the standard-setting body for the hair, beauty, nails and aesthetics sector and they review all of the National Occupational Standards (NOS). This year they reviewed the NOS for the hair industry, and now for the first time ever they have made sure that all hair types are included in one hairdressing standard.

“There is not a separate afro Caribbean type hair standard. So once this standard is now approved for the four nations of the UK as a whole - the awarding organisations will now base their qualifications on this new inclusive standard.”

When asked how long it will take to see these changes implemented in salons across the UK, Joan Scott said that “this is the first step”.

She added, “I think it’s going to be at least 12 months because the standards are now in place, more inclusive. Now it takes the awarding organisations to review their qualifications.”

“It’s a huge step and I’m seeing so much support for it that I think it is the beginning of quite a big change. It’s not legal, we haven’t got a regulated industry so you can’t say you’re closed down if you don't do it.

“We’re not saying that everyone will be an expert and specialise in it, because like lots of avenues in hair and beauty you can specialise in colour, hair colour, so there will still be salons that specialise in it.

"But it should be that all the basic services, cutting, colouring and styling should be covered by every qualification.” 

Watch Grid here with English subtitles available.

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