“It’s a company that wants all women to love themselves enough to stand their ground and to leave their hair natural and to take care of it in a natural, sustainable way,” says Doaa Gawish, founder of The Hair Addict.
Over the last couple of years, the taboos around natural and curly hair have been increasingly addressed, with people taking their power back. The Hair Addict, an Egypt-based startup in Cycle 3 of Womentum by Womena and Standard Chartered’s Women in Tech, is a key player in the region when it comes to the conversation.
Through their online platforms, The Hair Addict provides tips, tools, and hair care products to guide women back to their natural hair and shatter traditional beauty standards that disconnected women in the region from their roots.
“When people describe The Hair Addict, they describe it as a community. They don’t describe it as a business. For me, this is a success because it makes people love us and it makes people stand for us and talk about us very positively and be connected to the brand,” says Doaa.
Back in 2016, despite years of being successful in her corporate job, Doaa felt no passion for what she was doing and would count the hours until she could get home. The one thing she enjoyed was taking care of her hair with homemade natural products.
Her engineering education gave her the knowledge she needed to mix ingredients that were out of the norm. She wanted to be a part of something where she could share this passion, and so she began her own Facebook group in 2016.
She shared her homemade formulas for natural hair care, opened discussions around the different challenges women were facing with their hair, and started “The heat-free challenge,” which went viral and brought the natural hair movement in Egypt to the fore.
“People started experimenting because the science convinced them and because some of them thought I had nice hair so they wanted to have that. They started posting on their own and encouraging other group members. Before I knew it, the group started getting bigger and bigger.”
Doaa began to question why she got constant blowouts, visiting the hairdresser two times a week, straying far away from her natural curls. “I found a lot of psychological damage in relation to my hair. I did that to my hair two times a week even if I have no time, even if I’m sick, even if I have super important stuff, I always prioritized relaxing my hair.”
Relaxing hair and many other harmful chemical-based hair treatments are common and even encouraged, and Egypt was no exception. Older family members see natural hair as messy and unruly, forcing younger women to conform to society’s idea of beauty without a question.
“We’re so independent. We have our own careers, we choose our own spouses and we do everything that we want in most cases but we don’t have the liberty to live in our hair naturally?”
The Hair Addict helped change the standards over the years, and in many ways created beauty trends that empowered women, and now men as well. A more recent campaign addressed and educated moms on why it’s important to talk to kids about natural beauty to empower them, build character, and more importantly how to stop carrying the generational taboos and scrutiny around natural hair.
“Recently, we launched a campaign called ‘My daughter will never know relaxers.’ I know it’s an extreme term but if we are raising them to be outgoing and independent, I cannot control whether she will use relaxers later on in life but at least not on my watch, not when she’s young, at least while I can help it.”
With a highly engaged online community and with no financial investment, The Hair Addict has amassed half a million followers and generated $1.1 million in revenue since launching. In 2020, they expanded to the UAE, and are optimistic about expanding to North America, Latin America, and Europe in the coming years.
“For us here at The Hair Addict…I know that a lot of startups are very passionate about going fast and achieving a lot of milestones in a very short amount of time which is something that we want to do but at the same time, we always do things with quality. We’re very keen on growing with a good structure, with a very good process to protect us, and to make us scalable in whatever country we go to. That’s it.”