Why Do Africans Like Wearing Wigs?
Wigs are one of the most popular products globally, especially among African consumers. In Africa, wig shops are as dense as snack bars, with the majority of people not using their natural hair for styling but bringing wigs to hair salons for hairstyling. High-quality wigs can easily fetch prices of several thousand dollars, earning the title of "black gold" for their remarkable value.
It is said that from a young age, as long as they have the economic means, both young and old Africans start wearing wigs. Among beauty enthusiasts, especially working professionals, it's common for each person to own three to four wigs. Prominent figures like former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Rihanna are typical representatives of wig wearers. They visit hair salons every two weeks to a month for hair maintenance. Even Rihanna, as the world's richest female singer, reportedly spends millions on hair each year. In some economically better-off African countries, a woman may be willing to spend 30% or even 50% of her income on wig maintenance.
For African women, wigs are like lipsticks to Chinese women; many won't leave their homes without wearing wigs, just like Chinese women wouldn't leave without makeup, feeling like something is missing.
Currently, from a global perspective, the African market has become the world's second-largest wig consumer market, second only to the United States. But if we consider skin color, black people have the highest purchasing power for wigs worldwide. Even in the United States, the consumer base is mostly comprised of people of African descent. With the increase in income levels among Africans, Africa is poised to surpass the U.S. and become the world's largest wig consumer market.
So why do Africans have such a preference for wigs? Here are some reasons:
Limited Malleability of Natural Hair
Due to the influence of the African climate on their genes, African hair grows relatively slowly. To facilitate heat dissipation, hair tends to curl and become fluffy during the growth process, leading to hair fall after reaching a certain length. Typically, the length of the natural hair of local people might be only 1-2 cm, resulting in low hair malleability. Therefore, when economic development came, wigs became highly sought after in the African market.
Convenient Hair Care: Protecting Natural Hair and Saving Time
Living in Africa, hair can become dry, fragile, and prone to breakage and even "explosive" hair if slightly longer. Using straighteners, hair gel, and relaxers can have side effects on hair. Wigs provide an extra layer of protection for natural black hair, avoiding issues like insects nesting in hair during summer. Wearing wigs feels more comfortable and cooler than with untamed curly hair. Local people can change hairstyles at will without worrying about the destructive effects of chemicals or heat styling.
In addition, wigs offer an alternative for those who spend a lot of time styling their natural curly or wavy hair. For African women with naturally curly or wavy hair, the process of combing and styling can be time-consuming, but wigs can save them a lot of time and effort in the morning.
Concealing Hair Loss
It is estimated that around 50% of men and 25% of women worldwide experience some degree of hair loss during their lifetime. Male pattern baldness is more common in men, while hair thinning is more common in women. Androgenetic alopecia is a common form of hair loss in both women and men.
According to Dr. Crystal Ugochi Aguh, Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Director of the Ethnic Skin Program at Johns Hopkins University, nearly half of black women experience some form of hair loss during their lifetime, with traction alopecia being a common reason. Therefore, it's no surprise that wigs, which can help conceal hair loss, have become so popular.
Expression of Style and Personality
In addition to covering hair loss, wigs are also used for beautification and self-expression.
For many African women, wigs represent fashion and art, providing a way to express their personality. Wigs offer versatility and freedom, allowing them to try different colors, textures, and lengths of hair that may not be possible with natural hair.
Moreover, black men also use hair products to pursue individualized images, and their desire for hair products far surpasses that of other racial groups.
Today, more and more industries in fashion and entertainment are using wigs, and celebrities' use of wigs has dispelled some traditional prejudices against them. Wigs are no longer just a necessity for middle-aged and elderly people with hair problems; they have become a symbol of fashion and a trendsetter for the streets.
Implication of Identity
Wigs are also a symbol of identity.
It is estimated that the ancient Egyptians in Africa started using wigs more than four thousand years ago, making them the earliest wig users in the world. At that time,