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Meet Janine Van Throo: A pioneer of education for natural black hair care

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Introducing Janine Van Throo: the hair care therapist committed to raising awareness and education surrounding the maintenance of natural black hair. After discovering the damage chemical straightening treatments were causing to her locks, Janine decided to start over and embrace her natural afro curls.

Upon seeking advice on how to care for her natural hair, it soon became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy journey. Salons weren’t educated on how to treat natural hair, and quite frankly weren’t interested in learning. This led to years of trial and error and embarking on a journey of self-education.

Fast forward 15 years and Janine is now an established hair therapist with her own product range, hair consultation business and luscious head of hair. I was lucky enough to get to chat with Janine and learn more about her story.

Image Credit: High Profile Club

Expanding our knowledge on black hair...

I was curious to know more about the salons and schools that refused to extend their knowledge of black hair past chemical straightening treatments, and why Janine felt this was. “I think the reason why there is no education specifically for how to treat natural hair in its natural state is because there is no awareness. I had been discussing this for many years whilst I was living in The Netherlands. I’ve tried to get the established salons and salon educational schools to incorporate that into their curriculum and they always told me ’we already have a black hair section’ and I’d explain to them that black hair and the way it feels is not the same as natural hair. Black hair to me is, for instance, afro hair. What they were teaching people is how to chemically treat the afro hair. To them that is black hair and to them that was enough, but there’s even more. You can take that even further, keep afro hair in its natural state and teach people how to work with that.”

A lot has changed in 15 years. Social media provides endless opportunities for people to speak out on such issues and promote the knowledge they have gained. When asked if she had noticed a shift in attitudes towards afro hair over the years, Janine responded, “I do think that there is a shift, but it’s not a tremendous shift. It’s not like women going from not being able to vote, to vote now. It’s growing really gradually because the education is still not there and the education that is being given is mostly ‘this is what I tried for myself and this works’. You see that on a lot of Youtube videos. There is basically no one that is looking further than the ‘DIY’ thing. There is no scientific background attached to it, it’s mostly people that are trying something and their hair grows so they think that they have found the answer.”

The downsides to social media...

Although social media has its upsides when it comes to raising awareness, it is also responsible for the circulation of misleading information. I asked Janine what she believes is the most damaging mistake people make with their hair, and she claimed it was exactly this. “The worst thing I see is when people believe just about everything, and this is specifically aimed at black women. I am in several African facebook groups and I have seen things like people advising others to wash their hair with Coke, with marijuana, with Sunlight soap - very strange things and there are a lot of people doing it. Once during an interview, I said that black women love to be lied to and people got offended - but I managed to grow my hair and if I now got up to tell people that I used bird poop to grow it, I am sure that there will be enough women that will try it!”

Admittedly, I think we’re all guilty of falling for information at some time or another. It’s so easy to believe everything that is in front of you, whether it be hair care advice or political rumours. The truth is, we should be fact checking all posts, even if they’re seemingly harmless. That ‘foolproof hair-saving hack‘ you saw on Facebook could be causing irreparable damage.

Sisay Cosmetics...

Moving on to Janine’s product line, Sisay Cosmetics, which includes a wide range of lotions and potions created for specific hair needs, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. I was keen to know what goes on behind the scenes of this, so asked Janine about the formulation and testing process used to guarantee quality products.

“The first thing is that I look at what the product should do - do I want it to moisturise? Do I want it to condition? Then I analyse what ingredients would give the best results and then I look at what kind of hair I formulate this for - so I’m doing some sort of reverse engineering," she says. "So for instance, my hair is less dry than my daughter’s hair, so if I’m formulating something for my daughter’s hair, that needs more oil.

“Once I’ve formulated it I give it to a couple of people to test and based on their reactions I either tweak it a little bit or if the majority people come back with good results and good reactions then I send it to the manufacturer with my formula and they manufacture it.” 

Formulating products is no doubt a long process, and this is only one of the many aspects of Janine’s career. She is also a speaker, writer, and founder of Just Natural Consulting, offering programmes to train other natural hair therapists and offer the education she has gathered throughout her journey.

However, it’s the workshops she runs that Janine cites as the most rewarding opportunity she’s encountered: “For me, that’s instant gratification; I instantly see how I can help people and how I help people. I have been doing a lot of workshops in The Netherlands - lately not as much as I would want to, but I’m starting again and I also want to expand to other countries. Out of workshops some customers even become friends, so it’s a really rewarding way of getting back - a real heartwarming way of getting back.”

Raising awareness...

When it comes to future goals, Janine plans to continue her journey of raising awareness and inspire others to follow. “Basically my aim is to create lots of natural hair therapists. Not just because of being a natural hair therapist but because of offering, specifically women - of course, men can join as well - a way to become more finically independent and offering them a way to earn their own money. Because for me, this was a way to earn money and it’s really simple to duplicate. What I do think is very important is that when you go out there, to go out there with the right knowledge and not with what I call ‘Google knowledge’. That is why I offer the education, the courses and the certification programme.”

And of course, above all, at the heart of what Janine does is the drive to fight for inclusivity. “For me, as a black woman, I think that I should be able to walk into any salon and they should know how to work with my natural hair, but today that is absolutely not the case. Not only for me, but also for mixed hair children. I have a situation that there’s this mother, and she has a daughter with an African man but they divorce and she then has two white children. With her two white children, she goes to the salon, but with her mixed-race child, she has to send her to a specific salon. To me, when I heard that it was devastating, because what message do you give that child from the beginning? That she doesn’t belong, and actually doesn’t belong to that family.

"Without even realising it it’s the whole society that is giving the same message. A lot of people will think ‘well it’s just a hairdresser, or it’s just hair’ but it goes further than that because that girl grows up with the knowledge, that even though it is her mother, that she is different. She can not have the mommy-daughter day at the hair salon with her siblings.”

This story really puts into perspective the bigger issue that comes from the blatant ignorance of salons not catering to all hair types. It’s already bad enough having to spend the time and money finding a specialist hair salon who is educated enough to treat the hair you were born with, but throw in the feeling of exclusion and a lack of belonging and ‘inconvenience’ soon becomes an emotional attack.

With inspiring women like Janine speaking out and paving the way for the future of natural hair care, this is hopefully an issue that will be a thing of the past for women longing to embrace their afro curls.

You can keep up to date with Janine’s journey through her social media channels and find out more about Sisay Cosmetics and Just Natural Consulting on their official websites:

Twitter - @JanineVanThroo

Instagram - @justnatural_consulting

Facebook - @justnaturalconsulting

justnaturalconsulting.com

sisay.eu

Lead Image Credit: High Profile Club




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