Back to natural, healthy black hair

LONDON - A recent study shockingly revealed that Africans have spent over $7 billion on weaves and wigs. Statistics show that out of every 10 women, 7 wear fake hair.

Last year, I heard for the first time about Zimbabwe-born natural hair consultant Lani Masuku who is also the chief executive officer Phro Group.

At that time she was in the process of launching her Back to Basics product range which was set to change the formulae of achieving healthy natural hair.  I became very intrigued with the idea that there were individuals out there who actually cared not only about their own hair, but about how other black women were conducting theirs.

Masuku individualises hair as a separate entity from one’s body and I found that concept really fascinating and even more when I learnt that she had created her business from the hands-on experience she had while on a “natural hair journey”.

In the process she became an Internet sensation after she started sharing her hair diary with her friends on Facebook. This week I had the chance to talk to Australia-based Masuku.

Below are excerpts of the interview:

PSN: I am a huge fan of your work and your progress. Can you please share a brief history of your journey?

LM: In 2010, a close friend of mine introduced me to hair care forums from the United States of America. I was surprised that people dedicated this much time and energy to their hair, but I was truly enthralled. I saw women that looked like me whose hair was long and healthy — and I wanted a piece of that.

I was introduced to “hair challenges”, which are a very simple way of substituting what you’re currently doing with your hair, to something the creator of the challenge says works. I got hooked on one, and I was sold after seeing great results in just one week. I was a convert! I am such a vocal person and believe strongly in sharing.

I then started telling anyone who would listen about these challenges. I’ve only grown because of the real need out there of creating a trusted platform where women’s hair issues are actually solved by empowering people with information that they put into practice.

I also train under a doctor who specialises in hair and scalp issues, which is such a privilege. It’s been a beautiful journey led by God.

PSN: Tell me about your most recent hair transition?

LM: A lot of women mistakenly believe that my hair is natural because of its texture and the fact that I style it into an afro. I have texlaxed hair, which is the art of applying relaxer to your hair for a short period of time to avoid hair going really straight.

Texlaxing, when done right, will slightly loosen tight coils, allowing you to retain a lot of your hair’s original texture.

Funnily enough, I had to transition from my bone straight relaxed hair to texlaxed hair, which is similar to transitioning to natural hair. It’s been fantastic to see how much more versatile my texlaxed hair is and to see it gain a lot of thickness.

PSN: Tell me about your hair today? What was your routine?

LM: Today my hair is styled in an afro. I added a bit of moisture, using a spray I’m currently trying before I add it onto my range. I then seal all of that amazing moisture with Shea Care from my Back to Basics Hair Care Range. I fluff out my hair … and I’m done!  I love the ease of a wash and go —when you lead a busy life style you need a quick hair styling routine that nourishes your hair and gives you a great style that works on your head.

PSN: Your hair product range is so cool and contemporary and very relevant to the present day woman, tell me about the design process?

LM: I’ve worked really hard to solve an issue that women are facing with their hair. My product range strips away all the nonsense promises that other products give.

When you purchase the Back to Basics Range, you feed your hair and scalp only the essential oils it needs to thrive. The Aphro Comb compliments the range really well, by providing women an accessory that makes nourishing their scalp enjoyable and easy.

My products are effective, easy to use and allow for you to get on with your busy lifestyle.

PSN: Where are you currently distributing and where can people outside the distribution areas get a hold of the product?

LM: We currently have distributors in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the United Kingdom with talks in other countries taking place right now. It’s really exciting to see people that are passionate about this healthy hair movement getting behind my product line. It’s awesome to know I am working with the best of the best.

PSN: Tell us about the response you have had, and which feedback gave you more pleasure to continue what you are doing?

LM: Responses have been phenomenal, there’s so much support from the African community. When I hear ‘Phro, when are you coming to my neck of the woods?

My hair needs your products because it’s doing wonders for my sister’, I get really encouraged. It motivates me to give people access to products that work and couple that with routines that will allow them to change their mindset on the effectiveness of real hair care practices.

PSN: What are your aspirations in the next 3 years regarding your business?

LM: I see the Zimbabwean work force being heavily involved with Phro Group. My passion is creating opportunities for people that are disadvantaged. My experience in the not-for-profit sector has driven my vision for the company. Phro Group is working hard to create sustainable ways for people in marginalised communities to create their own income – and not to wait for donors to provide for them.

PSN: What do you think of the Zimbabwean hair industry? What can be done to push/or improve the resources we already have?

LM: I think the Zimbabwean hair industry has a lot of opportunities to shape itself right now.

We have a lot of influence from trainers in South Africa who have access to international syndicates. We are experiencing a trickling back of diasporans (is that a word?) who have come back to stay and they are demanding service from hair care providers that encourages our providers to enhance their skills.

A lot of change is taking place, so hairdressers have an opportunity to embrace that change or turn away from it. If they are going to remain relevant, they need to ride on the bandwagon, which will enhance their skillset. 

I think we should be in a place where we celebrate the versatility of our hair. We are the only ethnicity that can freely wear a wig, then a weave, then braid our hair, cut it short and go natural, then decide to relax the new growth just for a new look – and I think we should celebrate this gift we have. 

Instead of derailing someone’s need to have straight hair from India on their hair, lets congratulate the fact that we can embody whatever styles we want … and three weeks from now, change it yet again. Hair is truly another way that African women express themselves. 

The less we judge people’s intentions on their chosen hairstyle, the less divisive hair will actually be.

There are women, who are at the extremes and are likely to have internal issues that drive that, which could be manifested in their hair and other external ways of expressing self-hate – that’s certainly not the majority of African women.

PSN: What advice would you give someone who is contemplating going natural?

LM: Research is your friend. As with all things, don’t walk into the decision blindly. Your motivation is equally as important as your journey back to natural hair. The entire process will stretch you in ways that you didn’t even realise. Some women have mentioned that it really spoke about how they viewed their own beauty, while others talk about this being an unleashing of the woman that was within. There are still others that go back to chemically treat their hair because they didn’t feel like themselves. My three top tips for someone contemplating going back to natural are:

Do your research into the journey. There’s lots of information on YouTube, Blogs, Facebook and Pinterest.  Be wary of having hair crushes that don’t have your hair type. Once you’re 100% natural, you may end up disappointed that your curl pattern isn’t ‘theirs’ and start assuming that you don’t have nice hair – which isn’t true at all.

You need time to get used to your natural hair. Having moments of doubt and uneasiness is normal. Power through your decision and look for ways to style your new normal.  The journey is different for everyone. Some stay natural others go back to chemically treating their hair. Whatever choice you make with your hair, my advice would be for you to enjoy it!

For more on Lani's amazing entrepreneurial journey, please visit her website http://www.phrogroup.com/, where information on where to follow her on social media is available.

Lani will be launching her entire range in the UK on the 23rd of May at the Curlvolution Hair Show in London, and she is offering any readers a great introductory price to her new range. To get that discounted price, all they have to say is ‘Pam Sent Me’ and a further 5% will be removed when they buy the entire range on the day.

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

 

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