Head Coverings and the Hair Industry | Pocketmags.com
Hairdressers Journal
Hairdressers Journal


Head Coverings and the Hair Industry

Women who wear head coverings care about their hair, but is the hair industry catering to what these clients and their hair needs? Are salons offering private spaces, male-free environments and services that include rather than exclude?

We interviewed hairdressers to find out how they’re welcoming clients with head coverings and we asked clients who wear head coverings to share their perspective.

Lots of women wear head scarves, wraps and coverings everyday and it would be wrong to assume they are only worn for religious purposes. They can be worn to hide flaky scalps, disguise hair thinning and as a fashion statement. Stylist Rianna Henry also points out: ‘A lot of black women, including myself, will pop to the shops in a scarf if they are conscious of their edges!’

Hair clients Sam and Zubeida, two young Muslim women who both wear a hijab for religious reasons explain what the hijab means in Muslim culture. “A hijab isn’t just about concealing your hair. It’s about being ‘modest’ in speech and behaviour too,” Sam shares. Most hijab-wearing women only remove their hijab at home in front of their immediate family, including their husband, and amongst their female friends. This means a trip to a hair salon needs to be navigated carefully. Having passers-by on the street or male salon staff see their hair is a big no-no.

Both women point out the last thing they want is to be treated differently, especially in a salon. After all it’s a place where women go to look and feel amazing – not to feel like a problem. Speaking from their own experiences, Sam and Zubeida said hairdressers were accommodating on the whole, but it can depend on whether the salon is based in a multi-cultural area. “I recently moved house so I had to find a new hairdresser,” explains Sam. “Luckily the salon I visited had floor-to-ceiling roller blinds on the windows which could be pulled down so no one could see me. The team had clearly catered to Muslim women before and this made me feel really comfortable.”

Making clients feel welcome is at the heart of every good hair business. “If a client is wearing a head covering, I would have a conversation about their hair, the salon environment, whether they’ll need a private area and what would make them feel most comfortable,” says Rianna, a mobile stylist with a number of clients who wear head coverings. Sam and Zubeida both confirm they like to remove their hijab themselves. “It’s just like when you go for a massage and you have to remove your clothes. You wouldn’t let the therapist undress you and it’s the same with my hijab,” Sam explains.

Zubeida has worn a hijab since 2013 and since then she’s had both at-home and in-salon hair appointments – both of which have catered to her needs. “I’ve used mobile beauty websites where you can request a female hairdresser, which is really helpful,” she explains. “I find independent salons to be accommodating and some have closed the salon completely for me. Some larger chains have dedicated areas or they use a beauty room as a private space which works well.” Melissa Timperley Salon in Manchester does this to cater to hijab-wearing clients. “We have an area which has two sections and moveable artwork that we use as a screen to give clients privacy,” salon owner Melissa Timperley says. “I employ a male stylist so I always ensure he is away from this area when it’s being used.”

Mobile stylist Rianna gets invited into many of her clients’ homes so she’s learned the social customs. “For example, as a sign of respect, I take my shoes off and cover up my shoulders and legs for my Emirati clients.” She has also realised one crucial point: “Word of mouth recommendations are very important.” Being sensitive to people’s customs means Rianna has become the go-to stylist for Muslim women in search of a killer blow-dry.

Once you have adapted your salon to cater for this market, you must ensure your retail area and the type of imagery you are posting on social media is equally as inclusive. Research estimates the Halal beauty market will reach $89 billion (roughly £65.6 billion) by 2023,* which suggests this market is waiting to be engaged.

Zubeida’s excitement about her hair was obvious during our interview and she wants to be shown by her hairdresser how to style it at home. Sadly, Zubeida experienced exclusion on one memorable occasion. “I went for a cut and finish and after cutting my hair the stylist refused to blow-dry and style my hair because I was covering it up,” Zubeida explains. “The idea of not getting my hair finished because I wasn’t showing it to the world doesn’t make sense to me.” Aside from the hairdresser’s ignorance, Zubeida felt she was paying for a full service and was denied a vital part of it. Not to mention the part of the service every client gets the most excited about – the finished look!

Sam is keen to experiment with different hairstyles. She explains that she and her Muslim girlfriends style their headscarves and hair depending on the occasion. “For example, if I’m on holiday I’ll wear it in a turban style and for formal occasions some women opt for padded buns that change the shape of their head coverings.” However, one style doesn’t suit everyone, and Zubeida insists padded buns would make her look like a camel!

What’s clearly important to remember is that whatever a client’s likes, dislikes or personal style, everyone is entitled to a gorgeous cut, colour and finish regardless of whether it will be shown to the world, their family or just for themselves. Zubeida put it beautifully when she said: “Just because I wear a headscarf doesn’t mean I don’t want my hair to look great.”


This article appears in the February 2021 Issue of Hairdressers Journal

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This article appears in the February 2021 Issue of Hairdressers Journal