Black hair is big business in Brazil; meet the top 5 black hair specialists in the country

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Note from BW of Brazil: Care, treatment and maintenance of afro-textured hair is a HUGE topic in Brazil and as it is, it has always been a much discussed topic on the blog. Hair is not simply a question connected to how a woman or a man sees the beauty in a woman, but in a country like Brazil, the texture of one’s hair is often the factor that determines whether a person is seen as white or non-white. And with the usage of countless hair products, including colors for dyeing, bleaching, straightening or loosening one’s curls, the issue becomes infinitely more complex. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve taken a first glance at a woman with fair skin and blond hair and assumed she was white only to take second, closer look at perceive that not only does the woman has dark roots peeking out of her scalp, but also that her grade of hair is quite thick and treated with some sort of chemical to straighten out the curl pattern or frizz.

What’s going on in Brazil today in terms of hair is intriguing as it is quite noticeable how many women, as well as men, of visible African ancestry are choosing to wear their hair is natural styles. This wasn’t the case just a few decades ago when it wasn’t even up for debate about a black woman walking the streets without having straightened her hair in some manner. It was almost seen as a sin, a social no-no, for one to walk the streets with her hair looking “like that”. For black men, the issue was quite simple: cut it as close to the scalp as possible. If the man were light-skinned enough, he might be able to fool someone into thinking he weren’t black, or least be categorized as a “moreno”. But allowing his hair to grow too long and thus expose his African-influenced curls would be a dead give away. But nowadays in Brazil, it’s quite common to see men of visible African ancestry rockin’ afros, braids and fades. In the past six months or so, I’ve even seen the 90s high top fade make a slight comeback in the streets!

From time to time I get readers who are visiting Brazil ask me where they find stylists who specialize in black hair care. A few hair stylists are more well-known than others in Brazil’s 115 billion REAL (USD$29 billion) beauty industry, of which at least 8 billion reais (USD$2 billion) are spent on hair care alone, but there are a number who have a name for themselves as the most respected in this industry. Of course, I could list many more, but below are five of the most prominent. 

Meet the top 5 black hair specialists in Brazil

By Vanessa Fontes

With the expressive increase of people in a hair transition process and the empowerment of the black woman, more and more salons are emerging  that specialize in specifically caring for cabelos crespos e cacheados (kinky/curly and curly hair). But you are mistaken if you think that this subject is something new. We went after 5 experts who have been in the market for many years and are making a difference in the area of cabelo afro (black hair).

Zica

zica
Zica, founder of Beleza Natural

From ex-cleaning lady to a millionaire network

Elected by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 most powerful women in Brazil, Heloísa Helena Assis, better known as Zica, owns one of the most important hair franchises in Brazil: Beleza Natural, a network of beauty salons specializing in black and curly hair.

Listening to someone praising my hair again after years of tresses falling  and testing myself, was a joy without description. I realized at that time that I had gotten a product to treat my kinky/curly strands.

– Zica Assis (1990)

It all started when tired of the many offerings to straighten her hair, the carioca (Rio native) Zica, began to invest in creating a solution that would treat her curls and value her natural hairdresser. It was after many attempts and almost going bald that the businesswoman managed to find the desired formula and with her brother Rogério (who often served as a guinea pig), husband Jair and Leila, friend of Rogério, started a company that has grown into about 40 units in the country, more than 4,000 jobs and the opening of a store in New York.

Solange Dias

Solange Dias
Solange Dias, cosmetologist, visagist and personal hair.

A scholarship that changed her life

Daughter of Dona Eva, 80 years old and 50 year career, Solange Dias is a 55-year old cosmetologist and personal hair stylist  who won over the world and was responsible for the hairdressing of countless celebrities such as Anita Baker, Tina Turner, Patricia Dejesus, Cris Vianna, Paula Lima, Adriana Lessa, Beth Carvalho and supermodel and actress Naomi Campbell, who was her client for 9 years.

It all started when her mother who had a salon, initially a backyard, was invited to offer the first course for cabelo crespo in Brazil, inside of SENAC and Solange, as she had just left a course of Letters, entered the area helping her mother to set up the course in writing. This partnership caught the attention of a very famous American company called Soft Sheen. This company learned about the history of the partnership between mother and daughter and decided to invest in the formation and future of Solange, offering her a scholarship in the United States and later the position of technical director of the company.

Things of my life were happening, I didn’t know that I was going to be the technical director of Soft Sheen. A simple girl who ended up becoming director of this multinational, trained in cosmetology, thanks to a second scholarship at Dudley’s Cosmetology University, and generating interest from so many celebrities.

– Solange Dias (2017)

But Solange didn’t stop there, the expert who is in full steam, has had about 8 salons as technical director of Soft Sheen, gained the respect of the artistic class and also the beauty market, traveled to more than 29 countries with cosmetics companies, administered seminars and courses, including in SENAC, where everything started.

Recently she was invited to teach courses at a company of Pacífico, in addition to tending to her studio in São Paulo.

Bárbara Moura

Bárbara Moura
Bárbara Moura, founder of Raízes Salão Afro

The desire to care for black hair that was born with an idol

We are full of carioca (Rio natives) professionals who do heads of women with crespo and cacheado hair and the expert hairstylist in black hair, Barbara Moura doesn’t do it for less. She’s had her salon since 2001 and said in an interview that the desire to open her own business in this market was born precisely from the desire to care for her own hair, because at the time there were not many specialized salons and those that existed and had good quality, were extremely expensive. According to Bárbara, some of these salons even provided a carnet so that their clients could pay for the service even before they were performed.

When I was a girl, everyone wanted Michael Jackson’s hair (including me), but not everyone could. The products were expensive and imported. Ten years later, when this type of product began to be more widespread in Brazil, I finally started working with them.

-Barbara Moura (2017)

A reputation built on word-of-mouth marketing

As we well know, in the beginning nothing is all roses, even more so because of the resistance that existed at the time in terms of the naturalization of the hair. The specialist says that when she opened her salon in Praça Seca in Rio de Janeiro, she went about 30 days without receiving a single client. Only vendors came to the store, and after about two months, people who came to her to change their hair liked the service, the products and the service, and recommended her to other people.

According to the specialist, it is very important to have more and more specialized salons in black hair so that the black woman doesn’t have difficulty finding a space where her hair is going to be appreciated and treated by professionals who are really trained and understand black hair. “This has a lot to do with respect and recognition of the black woman, because she has the right to have a specialized salon to take care of her hair, something that even with people paying dearly, 20 years ago did not exist,” says Barbara. The professional further says that at the time when she was a client and looking for salons to do afro permanente (jheri curl), she often went through disrespect, arrived at the hall at 8 am and left almost at the end of the afternoon and always heard a “I’m only going to [cut her hair], [put in some color], [a hydration] that is very fast and we have already started yours. That’s when I thought, since there’s no salon here that can serve the black woman with quality and respect, I’ll open mine,” she concluded.

Today, with the franchise and salon licensing system, Raízes Salão Afro, has several salons licensed by the city of Rio de Janeiro and she plans to further expand her business. According to the founder, all the professionals are highly trained and work exclusively with her product line and her main supplier, Onduladus. “These are quality products that make all the difference in cabelo crespo e cacheado. Our clients come to us for the quality of the service and mainly for the quality of our products,” she says.

Maria Cristina Soares

Maria Cristina Soares
Maria Cristina Soares, a specialist in black hair and owner of the brand Mega Black & Cachos

From mother to daughter: a story of struggle and survival

The survival and teachings of her mother made the black hair specialist Maria Cristina Soares go into the field many years ago. When her mother fell ill, Cris, who was just 11 years old, found herself obliged to follow in her mother’s footsteps and tend to the palette of customers she had won over during the course of her career.

At the age of 13 I started working more professionally in my godmother’s salon. She took me to SENAC where I met people and perfected my technique and I became specialized. But until then, the focus was not on curls.

-Maria Cristina Soares (2017)

It was in 1995, after taking nursing courses and passing the competition with the hope of having a more stable life that Maria Cristina Soares began to see the movimento do cabelo afro (black hair movement) gain strength and decided to return to being active. She enrolled in Soft Sheen and from there on has never stopped doing permanente afro.

In 2010, after joining Avlon’s Top 10 hairdressers, between the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and São Paulo, the specialist decided to perfect the sophisticated part of ethnic hair such as visagism, color change, looks and went to study cosmetology, visagism, trichology and capillary therapy and today has a salon on the Avenida dos Italianos in Rocha Miranda, Rio de Janeiro and a cosmetics brand called Mega Black & Cachos.

Fátima Balbino

Fátima Balbino
Fátima Balbino, Specialist in black hair, Campinas, São Paulo.

The quest to take care of her own hair turned into a profession.

Born and raised in Campinas, São Paulo, Aparecida de Fátima Balbino, has worked with black hair for 33 years and has had her own salon for 24.

In 1980, I decided on this profession because I found it difficult at the time to arrange hairdressers here in Campinas that worked with black hair. There were none, it was the biggest difficulty. Until I found a specialist hairdresser, he taught me a lot of the things I know today.

-Fátima Balbino

The arrival of her first daughter, who is now 24 years old, was the perfect start for Fátima to open her salon, Fátima Cabeleireiras Afros, in 1993, in downtown Campinas. She recalls that her daughter, trained in physiotherapy, besides tending to patients, also helps in the salon that offers services such as afro permanente, relaxation, braids, extensions, texturizing, dreads, etc.

Source: Revista Afro

About Marques Travae 2897 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Really glad to read this article, the sister’s are making a move to try and dominate the hair business. I only hope the black women here in the 🇺🇸 had that same ambition to own their hair shops, since they are the biggest consumer’s. I understand the Koreans have a strong hold on the synthetic hair distribution, so I can see the difficulty in starting a line of synthetic hair textures. Somehow the sister’s have to find a way around that road block to succeed.

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