WEST ENGLEWOOD —A South Side community organizer said anyone tired of spending a lot of money buying products from beauty supply stores or going to hair salons may want to consider attending her second annual "Curl Clinic."
The free seminar will run from 4-7 p.m. Saturday in the community room of the Englewood District police station, 1438 W. 63rd St.
Last year 75 people attended the seminar, intended to persuade black women not to use chemicals, such as mineral oil and petroleum-based products, in their hair. Such products rob the hair of moisture and can cause it to break off, said seminar host Sonya Harper.
"You notice how women are afraid of getting their hair wet when they leave the shop?" asked Harper, 32. "But water is what is needed for the hair to grow."
"As a culture, black women have been taught to wear weaves, wigs and get perms to look better. But there's nothing wrong with wearing your natural, curly hair," said Harper. "I am not knocking those who choose to wear weave and use straightening combs. I am just saying there are better and less expensive ways to wear your hair."
Harper, a longtime Englewood resident, is the outreach manager for the Growing Home farm in Englewood.
"That's where I got the idea to do a hair seminar. When I was teaching a gardening class for Growing Home, women kept asking me what could they do to make sure their hair did not get messed up while gardening," Harper said.
Harper contends that society encourages women to use chemicals in their hair if they want to look beautiful.
"Go by any beauty supply store in the black community, and you will see window advertisements showing women wearing weaves and processed hair, but rarely will you see photos of women wearing their natural hair, like afros," Harper said.
The seminar is open to men, too, she said.
"Anyone who wants to learn how to maintain their natural hair should plan on attending," Harper said. "The younger generation has it bad when it comes using chemicals on their hair. I shake my head every time I see young women walk around with a head full of weave."
Eddie Chle, who manages a beauty supply store at 1634 W. 63rd St., said about 70 percent of the women who come in normally buy chemical products, weaves or wigs.
"And there's nothing wrong with that. Some women suffer from medical conditions that caused their hair to [fall out] and need to wear a wig. A woman gains greater confidence about herself if she feels good about her hair," Chle said. "I disagree with [Harper] and anyone who thinks it is something wrong with a woman fixing up her hair to feel good."
Besides hair weaves, wigs and other chemical hair products, Chle's store also sells products for natural hairstyles.
Harper said multibillion dollar business built around the chemical treatment of hair and hair extensions would suffer if most women started wearing their hair naturally.
"People [wearing natural hairstyles] are still going to need to buy shampoo and hair spray, but at least they won't be spending extra money buying other expensive products or going to hair salons every week," she said.
Hairstylists said they see nothing wrong with women who wear weaves.
"I tried wearing a natural hairstyle, but in the end I still needed a perm to get the kinks out," said Felecia Brittman, a 34-year-old beautician at Greg's Barber & Beauty Salon in Roseland. "I do have limits though. One thing I would never do is a perm on little girls [under 10 years old]. I think that's too young to get that type of hair treatment."
Harper has a 4-year-old daughter who has never been to a hair salon.
"I do her hair myself, and it looks naturally fabulous," she boasted.
But sometimes a woman's hair is easier to manage when it has weave in it, said Annette Kimmons, a 48-year-old beautician at La-Ree's Beauty Salon in South Chicago.
"I agree that natural hair is in, but you can style your hair better when it has been straightened," Kimmons said. "All this talk about going natural means beauticians must 'step up their game' if they don't want to lose customers. But I am not worried because 70 percent of my clients come in for some kind of weave job."
Harper stopped going to hair salons in 2010 when she began wearing her hair naturally.
"The last time I had my hair permed was in 2007. Now I am loving my natural hair," Harper said.