By E-Green Life, Addis Ababa 

Most of Addis Ababa’s ladies lately are tested to be HR+. You may wonder what HR+ mean and what kind of epidemic is haunting our ladies. HR+ is simply means a lady who is living with human hair or she is tested for Human Hair extension positive. It’s a simple abbreviated name I chose for this article.  Mind that it doesn’t even have an Amharic translation. Everywhere you go you will find the English- Amharic version of HR.  (““ሂውማን ሄር አለን”- “We have human hair”)

All over the world many women passionately use HR extension at least couple of times in their life, regardless of their hair length, volume or type They are using it as one of fashion accessory.   The same is true for many Addis Ababan ladies. They wear normally from two to six times longer, silkier and wavier hair than their natural hair. The package of the hair depends on their budget, need and style.

According to hair stylist speculations about 85% of their women customers wear a human hair regularly. Most of the HR is imported from Dubia. One of my sources told me that business people usually smuggle HR with cars cargo containers, so they don’t have to pay taxes.

Walking on the roads of Addis and observing ladies’ “hair” is very fascinating. One can easily realize the power of fashion and its high impact on ladies. Ladies are even complementing each other when they see a well-kept natural hair; “your hair actually looks like truly a human hair”, forgetting they are actually referring to a living “HUMAN HAIR”.

Human Hair (HR) extension is a very intriguing subject among women as well as men. Some say, it’s their personal right and will do whatever to their hair or body.  Others say, it’s just a matter of preference and no extreme attachment with it,  rest of them are honest enough that they do it to please  themselves, because they like it, or because it boosts their confidence and their man or-man-to-be, or anyone likes it. On the other side, men have a different opinion. Some says as long as they are not aware that HR exists on their ladies’ head, they don’t mind.  Translations, as long as it look good and weaved nicely it’s all right.

It’s is very clear that the HR fashion industry is making fortune out of this enormous demand. Whatever comes to the trend stage is every woman’s dream to wear, style, live and feel. The same is true with the need to wear human hair.

I wish to look in to this fashion epidemic from different dimensions. I trust you will enjoy the ride with me.

Track records of HR

Some studies show that, the origin of HR dates back to the time of Cleopatra. Believe it or not, the first documented proof of hair weaves was seen among the Egyptians in 3400 BC. They wore wigs, sewn-on hair pieces and braids that were made of human hair and dyed sheep’s wool. They used resin and beeswax to attach the extensions. Bright blue, red, gold were popular, in addition to the conventional black. Cleopatra’s favorite color was peacock blue. The extensions among European and American women in the 1700s gave way for powdered wigs. A white powdered wig, called Perukes, indicated high rank or birth. When King Louisc(france) started turning bald, he started using Perukes because he didn’t want people to think of him as weak. The trend soon followed with the nobles. Both men and women wore extensions and their weaves were huge and like a beehive. Horse hair and frames filled with wool were woven into the natural hair, and lately hair extensions were come to trend.

How does a woman feel when she puts on HR?

Pro HR: Many of these women found it very difficult to hide their feeling of what HR gives them. They testified it is flawless, elegant, alluring and easy to handle comparing to their natural hair. It gives them a feminine power and confidence. It looks and feels good. It’s as well a confirmation that they are trendy, attractive and able to afford it. Simply, it is a symbol of beauty, fashion and wealth. For some, it’s a place to hide, for others it is an opportunity to try on different range of styles. For many of them it’s their best dress, look or friend that accompanies them from work to, leisure to sleeping.

Anti HR: these women are few in number. They said it is not their choice of fashion accessory due to different reasons. Some of the “anti” HR women said they have no problem with other ladies who used it for different reasons; it’s only not their choice.

Other anti HR women said it is one of the most addictive fashion accessories. It is not natural and steals confidence and makes you dependent on it. It’s highly over rated by price and choice. Some mentioned that it gives monotonous look among ladies and kills the beauty of individual difference. And others mention it’s not an affordable commodity and brings another financial dependency to fulfill the need.

How hair salon business goes after the epidemic of HR?

Beauty salon business is one of the most fortunate sectors after the naturalization of HR among women. Most of the salons are crowded by ladies who want extension or to style their HR. It normally costs from 3 to 5 times more than making the natural hair. Mind that this is without including the profit from HR sales. Most of the hair stylists I have talked to agreed that recently many people are importing human hair through different means, and this slows down the sales of HR in the beauty salons; nevertheless HR business is still good business.

Styling HR from scratch to the walk way may take 2 to 4 hours depending on the types of applying. There are four types of applying HR. The most used is weaving, and the second is clipping (Putting small clips to attach the HR and natural hair). The third is tape-on (plastering) the HR to the skin and the fourth is ”Ring loop HR extension“.  The price ranges from three hundred birr to a couple of thousand according the application type and the volume of the pair of hairs she is using.

Most of the hair stylists said that most women who want HR extensions ranges from early twenties to fifties.  However, it is common to see high school students and senior citizens looking for HR. While asking if they witness anything unusual, I was told one senior citizen (who is in her 60’s) puts on her grey HR and never even shows her natural hair, even though there was not much difference between the two.

Another hairstylist, told me that he found a young lady with a better natural hair than the HR she wanted to apply.

How much human hair extension costs and who is affording it?

Talking money among HR users doesn’t seem to be a concern at all. If they like it, they can go any extra mile to get it and show their glamour. The price of HR ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 birr depending on the country of origin, quality, size and volume. The size ranges from 16”, 18”, 20”, 22”to 24”, and the price goes up parallel to the length. The most common users wear from 6 to 8 thousand birr worth HR.

Who is affording HR is a ridiculous question among these ladies. Some are actually affording it and many do their best to get it by all means possible. For many of the ladies I have interviewed, it is one of the most expensive items they want to have badly. Some are dependent on their families from local and abroad and others even take a second hand one from friends and family, and the rest are supported by their men. Good quality HR has from 12 months to 20 months life time.

When they are asked if they found the price of HR too expensive; nearly all said; it’s something that gives them immeasurable pleasure comparing to its price.

Lately, following the lucrative business of HR extension market some taxi robbers were forcing women to shave their HR extensions with in less than ten minutes. Since there is no popular second hand HR market in town, the robbers renovate the HR and put it on a clip so it sales for a little less price than its  original one.

What men say about human hair?

 Men are the most fascinating stakeholders of this fashion epidemic. They have different and contradictory opinions. I have categorized these men in three categories; anti, middle player and pro HR.

Anti HR Men: Some of them said that most of the women who apply HR don’t look good, it’s not natural and they don’t have confidence on women who puts HR extension and it’s too expensive for such developing nation. When you sit down with them and bring the conversation, some of the participants admitted that they have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy with their ladies. They don’t ask, knowing there is a high probability of having HR+ in their house.

But most of these men start the discussion of HR with soft disagreement. They constantly make fun out of it. They even asked me if I was referring to 40%/60% of applying HR. (which means using 40% of the women natural hair and the rest 60% HR extension)

They are not clearly interested in seeing it in anyone. Some of them even said I prefer a nicely shaved girl with full of confidence than the one putting HR extension.  For these men the message is “I am not good enough or my natural hair is not good enough so I am using HR extension”.

Another interesting point mentioned by most of the men is the overrated price of human hair. Some tried to complain when the price of oil goes down why the HR extension price is still shooting. Many are not pleasant to talk about their share on accommodating their ladies hair.

For many of these anti HR men extension is highly associated with overrated cosmetics and price, and is a sign of low self-esteem and idleness.  

They said it is one of the most expensive fashion commodities they have to accommodate in order to please the ladies.  From their bitter conversation, it is clear that they are cursing the invention of HR extension and the availability of it in the market. 

The middle player men: This group of men has a middle ground stand. Some sincerely said that they don’t dislike it as long as it blends well with the natural hair and looks good on their ladies or any other ladies. For this group of men it’s just about the matter of good choice and harmonization, otherwise they don’t mind at all.

One of these middle men exposed an interesting view and amazingly many agreed. He said that I like it on other ladies if it looks good but it’s not something I want to show off with my spouse. But having it for your girlfriend is okey, it gives a societal validation. We got the societal appreciation of looking good and affording the expensive item. With your spouse, it’s different. You no more seek that validation as you used to and you will be occupied by other important matters of life.

Pro HR Men: these men do not care about anything as long as it looks good. They said it’s just a matter of individual choice and test. As long as it looks good on the ladies, it doesn’t matter whether they applied HR or anything that is cosmetically constructive.

However, most of the anti, middle player men and pro,  agree that many women don’t apply a good type of HR extension or they don’t blend it well with their natural hair or doesn’t go with their physicality, so they found it not appealing.

Many of the men I have interviewed “think” or they don’t actually like HR extension. However, none of them did not have the smallest courage to be completely honest to say "I don’t like it", when their loved ones apply human hair extension.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     What the dermatologist says about using HR?

Dermatologist Dr Ruth Likassa, with more than 30 years of experience on the field, said that it is very difficult to say, if you have a healthy hair or so, you shouldn’t be using human hair. It is because one needs to respect individual choices. However, when we look in to the positive side, human hair can be temporarily useful for people who have low self esteem because of hair loss or very damaged hair.

The most common side effect I have observed due to using human hair is forehead boldness, hair loss, and skin irritation (from extended time of using and pulling to make braid). If there is existing skin problem, it will worsen it because, it pulls the hair root unnecessarily and it is not usually clean from the inside. Few things must be taken in to consideration while using human hair. One it shouldn’t be left for more than a week without washing and combing. Second it shouldn’t pull your hair unnecessarily which may cost your natural hair loss.  If it must, you may consider using easy types of human hair applying like clipping or the like.





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