"SOME PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF A HIJABI WOMAN TAKING PRIDE IN HER HAIRCARE, WHICH IS FRUSTRATING.”
We need to be inclusive to more hair types and people who wear hijabs, says Mary Al-Khudri, Managing Director at Salon Hijab Academy
“Some people don’t understand the importance of a hijabi woman taking pride in her haircare, which is frustrating. My clients care for their hair because they want to feel good – their beliefs don’t make them different to other clients. I opened up the Salon Hijab Academy in North London as I’ve always felt like there was a need for an academy that was womenonly and a salon that catered to hijabi clients. I was very young when I started in hairdressing, I began as a Saturday girl aged 13. I have lived in the Middle East, but came back to the UK and ended up re-training in college. Whilst I was there I noticed that I wasn’t getting as many clients as the other students. I confronted my teacher as I felt like the girls who didn’t wear a headscarf were getting all the clients. Because I wore a hijab I thought – maybe they can’t see my hairdressing skills because I don’t have my hair on show?
When I first started working in the seventies, men rarely came into hair salons, so in many ways it was easier to cater to hijabi clients. You didn’t necessarily need a private area, as it was pretty much a female-only space. Now most salons are unisex and I’ve heard of some salons hosting their hijabi clients in store rooms or behind curtains! A lot of hijabi women will get their hair done at home because their experience in salons is so bad, but I’m on a mission to change that.
I have a personal plea to anyone reading this that’s in product development – Ifind that Asian hair is very resistant to colour and any colour intended for grey coverage, tends to come out very dark. I would also say be mindful that there are lots of different hair types that sit within the bracket of ‘Asian hair’ [and of course, not all Muslims are Asian]. At our training academy, we teach the differences between Asian and Middle Eastern hair types. We ask our clients about their heritage so we can figure out their hair type. For example, if we have a client who is Algerian, she might have both Asian and Afro textures within her hair. Wearing a hijab might also mean that a client’s hairline is fragile, so I would always colour with caution. In terms of product recommendations, clarifying shampoos are a must to help cleanse the scalp of sweat that gets trapped underneath a hijab, some hijabi clients also get a dry scalp, so consider moisturising treatments too.
Everyone is different, so a detailed consultation is essential – ask questions to find out about their daily life and how they wear their hair under their hijab, as this can affect the hair’s health. I would always ask my clients how they would like their service too, and would never assume someone is Muslim if they wear a headscarf. Wanting privacy isn’t a Muslim issue, your client might have thinning hair or scalp issues and want their service conducted in a private room. In hairdressing, and particularly hairdressing for hijabi women, a onesize-fits-all approach just doesn’t work. Even though I can’t put pictures of my client’s hair up online, reviews and word of mouth marketing is the most powerful tool in attracting new clients, so consider this if you’re looking to attract hijabi clients.”