August 2008

Jerry Tyler

Blue Highways | by Jerry Tyler


The Benefits and Challenges of Hair Enhancement Services

Hair enhancement is one of the fastest growing segments of the beauty industry.

It’s important to be aware of the challenges that come with the major benefits and sudden demand which affects both our clients and our fellow licensees.

Most of these issues are already prevalent in parts of the nation; therefore, several states are already dealing with these issues proactively to protect the integrity and professionalism in this segment of the beauty industry.

The financial rewards offered by hair enhancement can be truly amazing. Many hair enhancement technicians charge upward of $100 per hour for their services. A full-head weave can command from $300 to $2,000. Individual strands can cost up to $10 per strand, with 100-300 strands per full head. But with this source of financial potential comes responsibility—both toward the client and for our profession as a whole.

The expansion “hair enhancement” falls into three categories based on the method of attachment. They are multiple strand placement, individual strand and non-surgical hair replacement.

Multiple strand placement involves the placement of a hair weft attached by a sewn in (weave) method, multiple track micro link or latex bond. The advantage of this method is the lateral anchoring of the hair weft, which creates a durable secure bond that holds up to styling.

Individual strand placement involves the placement of individual pre-bonded keratin strands of various dimensions and lengths. Methods of attachment are individual micro link (no heat), fusion method (heat with purging iron) and thermal adhesion (melted keratin and gun method).

The advantage of individual strand placement is that it is more natural and is easier to blend with the natural hair. Attachment of multicolor strands allows the effect of highlighting without the use of hair color.

With over 40 percent of the adult population experiencing some form of hair loss, either due to medical issues or part of the normal aging process, the demand for non-surgical hair replacement is at all time high. Most HMOs and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) now pay for hair replacement as part of their benefits for cancer and other patients who experience hair loss as part of treatment.

The most prevalent forms of hair replacement are lace front units for woman and custom full or partial hairpieces for men. The fabrication of these pieces requires specific training and the results, due to advances in technology, allow for maximum comfort, durability and a realistic look that is hard to detect.

With the elevated demand for these services has come an ever-increasing demand for human hair. The demand is so great the average price for human hair has risen 30 percent in the last few months.

In the last two years, the amount of raw hair purchased for export from India to China went from $51 million to $250 million. Of that hair, 80 percent went to the U.S. market.

In China, where much of the hair is processed, a large portion of the supply has been diverted to create amino acids for food supplements, therefore adding to the shortage of hair available for enhancements—driving global prices upward. Unfortunately, while these prices are going up quality is going down.

With such a high demand, the current shortage and with no real controlling authority, some of the hair sold as human hair is mixed with synthetics or even animal hair. Since most of these suppliers carry an “all sales are final” policy, consumers have no recourse or assurance of quality.

When in the ethnic market, a high percentage of all hair sales are made directly to the client, who then has their hair professional use them as part of their hair extension service. As most synthetic fibers are only heat resistant to 200 degrees, imagine the unsuspecting client who applies a thermal hot iron at 350 degrees to what she thought was human hair. Or imagine the customer with animal allergies who just had animal hair attached to her head, which she though was 100 percent human hair. These are real issues of consumer concern.

The solution to the above issue is simple. All hair sold should have a truth in advertising claim based on the material safety data sheet supplied by the importer, stating the nature of the hair as a certain percentage of human, synthetic or other hair. This way the consumer or licensee purchasing it for attachment knows what they are getting. The sheet should also state the point of origin. In the area of business ethics, a truth in advertising protocol in the sale of hair should be within the scope of regulation.

The various methods of hair enhancement offer untold creative and technical advantages. This true both financially and in offering new and creative services—but only if we address the challenges that come with the territory.

If we assure we use safe techniques that have long lasting results, we can enhance our services without compromising the integrity of the industry we have worked so hard to protect.

Jerry Tyler has been a stylist since 1975 serving as the former artistic director for Vidal Sassoon Academy and currently as Director of Education for Carlton Hair salons. He is also a licensed cosmetology instructor and has served as President of the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.