Today’s dialogue on issues such as politics, culture, and sexuality is unveiling the curtain on perplexing yet stunning phenomenon around the world. In this particular scenario, some women are actually leaving Egypt not because of livelihood, love, or learning – but because of loving their curly hair.

Two years since its inception, the 105,000-strong Hair Addict group has now been motivating women worldwide to appreciate their hair despite the perceived “norms” of their respective cultures. In today’s society where beauty standards are slowly being broken down, the hot issue on hair is finally being straightened out (no pun intended) as well. So where did this all start?


The Hair Migration Issue

curly hairBBC News interviewed young Eman El-Deeb, who was one of those who opted to leave her country because of her curly hair. Eman El-Deeb, now 26, currently lives in Spain where her curly hair is actually admired and not judged. While her decision to migrate was hers, she said she didn’t believe she would have to make the decision to migrate in the first place.

According to the article, she felt like having curly hair was a “curse” in Egypt, where she was apparently being judged by her peers, strangers, and acquaintances because of her hair. One particular circumstance she mentioned was what appears to be a daily occurrence of someone from human resources in her work in an Egyptian bank. They would come and ask her to make sure her hair is straightened.  

Although Eman El-Deeb’s move was a bit drastic even for herself, a lot of Egyptian women – and women worldwide – seemed to resonate with her frustrations. The 105,000-strong Hair Addict group by Doaa Gawish seems to be proof of the desire to move away from perceived beauty standards, especially for hair.


Forcefully Straightening Curly Hair?

Doaa Gawish, 38-years-old, said she also had to straighten her curly hair as she was mocked for it as a child. Currently working as an engineer in a company based in the United States, Doaa Gawish began Hair Addict in Facebook after researching about the negative effects of constantly exposing the hair to heat, especially via straighteners. Some of these side-effects, as elaborated by Style Craze, are as follows:

  • Your hair may become very dry because of excessive straightening. Unfortunately, if your hair is too try, it might lose its natural shine and may even seem frizzy and dull despite your efforts.
  • Another severe effect is potentially having severe hair fall. This is especially if you’re straightening your hair the wrong way, or if you’re using poor chemicals.
  • Aside from the heat itself, applying chemicals to aid straightening may actually be harmful not just to your hair, but to yourself as well. This is because there’s no guarantee that straightening chemicals are actually suited for your hair, or if you’re not allergic to them.

What started as an advocacy group has now grown to become a group where women worldwide are not only sharing their hair stories, but also hairstyle tips, hair-care routines, and others that are sharing tales of slowly going “heat-free” or not conforming to the norm.

fixing curly hairIn fact, when Doaa Gawish and the group started the “Heat-Free Challenge” last 2016, it was well-received by Hair Addict members worldwide. The challenge seeks to motivate women who got used to straightening their hair to leave the straightener alone for as long as they could and be proud of their curly hair.

BBC News interviewed one such participant, named Noran Amr, who has been heat-free for more than a year and was praised for wearing her natural curls in a wedding she attended. Noran Amr’s experience might be just one out of very few in Egypt that had groups be more open to curly hair, but it’s a start.


What Was Then A Culture Of Straight Hair

Interestingly, what Eman El-Deeb mentioned about Egypt’s prevalent beauty standards based on European fashion is something that is happening in a lot of cultures worldwide. This can be problematic especially for some countries, where curly hair may be the predominant trait when it comes to hairstyles. An example of which is Egypt, where a lot – most, if not all – of women have dominantly curly hair.

Unfortunately, this also meant a lot of women around the world experience some form of prejudice or judgment because of their natural hair or hairstyle preference. In fact in Egypt, it appears women are used to straighten their hair at an early age because of standards.

However, it seems the move of these three women above, and the hundreds and thousands more with them, have sparked a “hair revolution” in Egypt. The first curly hair salon in the country has just opened this year, and while it’s appointment-only for now, it does get more than 30 clients weekly, and most of them are young women who want to break out of the shell of perceived beauty standards.