(WMC-TV) – Black hair care is big business in this country. It is a $9 billion industry and black women make up the majority of the customers.
But a movement is afoot. Many of those women are going back to their roots, the natural way. And for some, it is just what the doctor ordered.
From celebrities to everyday women, African-Americans are increasingly choosing their natural curls over straightened tresses.
Chemical hair relaxers date back to the 1800s.
"They want it, they crave it. It's like a drug. It really is," said Dr. Lisa Akbari, World Trichology Institute.
But in this information era, women are learning the mishaps that come with processed hair are not so rare.
Just ask working woman Kaye Barnes.
"Saw all my friends in the neighborhood with Jheri curls. I wanted one too. Two weeks later, I was bald," she said.
Action News 5's Kontji Anthony also had a hair scare. Her hair came out in clumps right before a newscast in 2010 after a beautician tried to bleach black dye out of her hair.
If it wasn't for World Trichology Founder Doctor Lisa Akbari, Kontji would have lost her hair.
Dr. Akbari says the fear of losing hair is the top reason women are weaning away from harsh chemicals.
"A lot of women do believe they can manage their straighter hair better, but they're losing hair with the straighter head, so they're running towards natural," she said.
Chemical hair care manufacturers say their products are safe, if you follow the instructions.
But Dr. Akbari says many women combine damaging factors, like product build-up, too much heat, perming too frequently, and over-shampooing, all of which can cause the hair shaft to break down.
"The hair is now aging and literally falling apart before its natural shedding cycle," said Dr. Akbari.
Dr. Akbari uses microscopes to analyze scalp and strand damage. She says African-American women are not her only clients.
"Some of my patients who are Caucasian or Asian or Latino are having the same problem. It's the overuse of these products and these tools," she explained.
After years of damage, LaQuisha Watson is transitioning to natural hair with Dr. Akbari's help.
"I can see my hair is growing back, so that's amazing," said Watson.
What is also amazing is the amount of time and money saved by going natural. Black women currently make one-third of all hair care product purchases.
Dr. Akbari says the bottom line is creating healthy hair, whether processed or natural.
It is a hair trend that is truly transformative.
"Once we get to the point that we accept ourselves and what God has created, from root to tip, it starts from the inside out," she said. "God made our hair in its shape, the shape of our follicles. And God makes no mistakes."
Dr. Akbari is holding a natural hair round table at the Trichology Institute on Sycamore View July 28.
On July 28, there will be a Natural in the City Hair and Wellness Expo at the Esplanade.