In the UK, black people will know that they can’t just walk into any hairdresser in town and have their hair done. It is a common experience that most black people can relate to. There can be a look of fear and intimidation on stylists’ faces when confronted with an Afro or textured hair.
Thankfully, this could change soon.
On Thursday, the National Occupational Standards (NOS) announced that all UK hairdressers would be required to learn to cut and style Afro hair as part of their training. Most current qualifications have no requirement for students to learn how to cut and style Afro hair, leaving black men and women unable to go to most salons in the UK.
In 2019, the British Beauty Council set up a task force with the Hair & Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) to push for a revised NOS, which outlines practice standards for hairdressers across the UK.
This move helps make salons more accessible to black people. Despite over two million black people living in the UK and there being more than 35,000 hair salons, only 302 are licensed to cut and style Afro hair, according to a study by HABIA.
When interviewed by Sky News, salon owner Meleika Lawrence said that clients have had to come from Leeds and Wales to have their hair done in Manchester in her salon as they couldn’t find a local, capable stylist.
These standards also apply to beauty therapy, wellbeing, and holistic therapies. All services will have to take an inclusive approach on matters of race and gender, as well as physical and mental health. The National Occupational Standards (NOS) published in June now “meet the needs of the UK’s diverse community in one standard”.
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However, some have pointed out some issues that could arise from this new ruling. In Stylist, Banseka Kayembe asks if hairdressers will be taught about the variety of textures of Afro hair as there is no catch-all for black hair.
There is also the question of if these rules will help hairdressers unlearn micro-aggressive terms when it comes to Afro hair such as labelling it “messy” or “challenging”.
These are certainly issues that NOS and the British Beauty Council will have to address with the new ruling, but the addition of new standards is a good start.