the business of “fake hair”, as you know them, is booming as women the world over flock in beauty shops and hair salons to buy the locks and Namibian women have not been spared from this fever.
The young, the old, the employed and the unemployed women today sport synthetic and or human hair from every direction. It’s no wonder those who sell them earn big [by any standards].
These hair cost between N$1000 and N$3 500, depending on the textures. Local business people who sell synthetic hair, for instance, import them from Nigeria and South Africa. They cost between N$90 and N$1000 at retail.
Indian and Brazilian hair, which are considered natural, on other hand, come from South America and Asia and cost way more than the synthetic hair.
Women, often from poverty-stricken families in those parts of the world, grow their hair to considerable lengths, cut them off and then sell them to the highest bidder for sustenance.
Although the hair are popularly known as Brazilian hair, some of them are derived from women in other South American countries, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru.
The hair trade can get ugly, though. Recently, hair thieves in Venezuela known as “piranhas” (the flesh-eating fish) made international headlines for cutting hair right off women’s heads. The act happens so fast. The unsuspecting women only hear the click sound of the scissors as they lose considerable chunks of their locks.
These thieves sell these hair to beauty shop or hair salon owners for up to US$500 (approximately N$5000), depending on the lengths.
Susan Somuso who owns Susan Beauty Products in Windhoek stocks Brazilian, Indian as well as synthetic hair. She admits to a stiff competition in this business even though her hair pieces are imported directly from Brazil and India.
“The shortest Brazilian hair extensions cost N$800 while the longest can cost up to N$ 3000,” she quips, adding, her synthetic hair pieces cost between N$100 and N$1000, depending on the length and texture of the product.
A certain Patricia Simon also sells Indian hair in the capital. She makes between N$6 000 and N$12 000 in profit monthly: “It depends on the time of the year. During winter, most women prefer to wear weaves for warmth and to protect their natural hair from the extreme weather conditions. So business is usually good. But August is our peak season because of the many weddings that occur.”
Simon is fortunate to have a younger brother who studies in India and sends her the hair. Thus, she does not have to deal with middlemen.
But this booming business comes with genuine as well as fraudulent traders who rip off unsuspecting consumers by selling them fake weaves for less.
Suoma Paulus, who works at Windhoek’s Four Seasons salon says these fraudsters mix Brazilian and Indian hair with other hair textures and then sell them for cheaper prices: “There will always be unsuspecting consumers who end up being deceived because they are desperate. Remember, quality does not come cheap.”
But what’s with the “standard” sky-high prices of these hair?
One Sonja Nangolo (local hairdresser) says the prices reflect nothing compared to how much it actually costs to import the hair: “One has to think of what it takes to import these hair. It costs so much to stay in contact with a dealer, fly in the merchandise and then pick it up or pay someone to do it.”
Nangolo reveals, a return ticket to Brazil ranges from N$18 000 to N$20 000 while its costs a consumer between N$150 and N$3000 to have the weave done, depending on the hairstyle and the credibility [or popularity] of a salon.
Genuine hair extensions can last for up to five years, as long as they are well-maintained, Nangolo concludes.