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Across the UK, many Black people have stressed how problematic getting their hair done can be. Many opt for tailored Black hairdressers and stylists, as many high street hair institutions either mishandle or simply refuse to cut or style Black hair.
In a June revision of the National Occupational Standards (NOS), Black hairdressing has been added to the core learning modules for new hairdressers. Before this amendment, there was no requirement for any UK hairdresser to be educated on the cutting and styling of Black hair. This much-needed change was first set in motion two years ago, when the British Beauty Council started a taskforce with the Hair & Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) to improve beauty treatment and competency.
Helena Grzesk, chief operating officer at the British Beauty Council, said that “the hair and beauty industry can and should be truly inclusive. But until now, tens of thousands of hairdressers have no qualifications in cutting and styling Afro and textured hair. 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.”
Joan Scott, chairwoman of HABIA, said: “The change to the standards is not just about hair—it is about having the knowledge to treat anybody that walks through the door, be it with life issues, disability or hairstyle.”
This turning point in UK beauty standards runs deeper than just hairstyling for Black people. For many, the segregated nature between Black hair treatment and the rest of the British population furthered the subconscious ideology of “otherness”. The NOS legislation change is a step in the right direction for better representation; however, it’s more alarming it’s taken this long for Black hair to be taken seriously in the beauty world, despite there being more than two million people of African and Caribbean descent living in the UK.