Tuesday, April 11th 2006
Did you know that in this country, anyone can open up a hair-dressing salon?
You don't need a licence,and incredibly there is no one to educate you on the hygiene practices or the basic health standards to which a hair stylist must abide.
Unfortunately, for most, if you know how to shampoo, cut and style - then you are considered a hair stylist.Â
These are the sentiments expressed by Marcia Chan Pak, accredited hair stylist and one of the eight trichologists in Trinidad and Tobago.
(Trichology is the study of the structure, functions and diseases of the hair.)
Chan Pak started out in the hair-dressing business like any other. At 17, while waiting for her O'Level results, her mother encouraged her to do something with her time. "Getting involved in the beauty industry was a means to an end.
I started because I had nothing else to do, but once I was taught the basics, it really caught my interest and there was no turning back I decided to perfect it."
She explained:"Back then there was no registered school that I knew of, but I wanted to educate myself. Therefore I felt it was my duty to make myself available to attend every workshop and seminar to learn about the local and international industry."Â
At 19, she worked in a salon under the guidance of an experienced stylist, Maureen Ramkisson, until she felt it was time to open her own salon.
As a stylist she felt it was important to build relationships with the local distributors who supplied her with the latest hair products. In 1992, she got the opportunity to work as a local technical consultant for Soft Sheen (now Soft Sheen Carson).
She was sent to St Lucia for training. Â
After just two years of working with Soft Sheen Carson, Chan Pak was sent to Chicago and Jamaica for company training, and as a personal promise to herself, she ventured to Italy for even further personal training.
She learnt from people like Olive Benson, Floyd Kenny Arthur (platform stylist for Paul Mitchell) and the very British Patrick Cameroon.
She has come a long way, from dabbling in the art of hair to studying the science of hair.
A technical consultant with Soft Sheen for the past 14 years, Chan Pak was recently honoured with a Long Service Award from the Soft Sheen Carson Jamaica chapter. She is a member of the Caribbean Association of Professional Trichologists (CAPT), and a certified Trichologist from the Institute of Trichology in Alabama. She is currently pursuing her doctorate of Trichology, doing her dissertation on Tinieacapitis, a contagious skin disease commonly known as scalp ringworm.
It was a major coincidence when, two weeks ago, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, out of concern for the people in the area, called on Chan Pak to educate and raise the awareness of this skin malady.
Under the umbrella of CAPT, Chan Pak put together modules to educate the public. Her main focus being the inspection of hair salons and preventative measures of the spread of scalp ringworm. Chan Pak is very worried, as she knows the seriousness of the diseases out there.
"This education opportunity was the first of its kind. But barbers and stylists need to educate themselves more on their clients and on-shop hygiene.
CAPT wants to educate them so they can help in the health of the customer and, by extension, the society.
A hair-dresser should be able to tell you what's wrong with your scalp should they see white patches. Every abnormality is not dandruff."
She pointed out: "Even if you don't need a licence to open a hair salon you definitely need to maintain high standards."
When people go to the hairdresser, they don't know if the combs, brushes or shaving blades have been sterilised or just wiped with a cloth. They don't know if the person who used the combs before them had lice or dandruff. Right now, you are at the mercy of the conscience of your hairdresser or barber.
"We are hoping very soon to introduce standards and regulations under the presidency of Don Khan of the Trinidad and Tobago Cosmetology Association. Because the beauty industry in Trinidad is hungry for rules and regulations, my main goal now is to make a contribution to the Industry; to make it better than when I first started, especially for the hair stylist who can't afford to travel and be academically certified. Travelling opened up my eyes. I came back to give back and educate.
But for Chan Pak, her academic ambitions do not stop at her doctorate.
She excitedly revealed:."My ultimate goal is to attend Pivot Point International a school for hair and beauty education in the United States, the Harvard of hair dressing. Extensive training can cost up to US $15,000 to become a hair stylist at Pivot Point. It is the place to go to, the epitome of cosmetology; there is no compromising of standards there."
I don't want to stand behind a work station all my life, that's why I branched out into Trichology. I now have the knowledge and education to teach others interested in the field. I want to bring the outside world to them. It's important for me to give back.
I feel truly blessed to have had all the opportunities in my lifetime but I would be so happy to educate those who can't afford to travel to get an education in this business. So at the end of the day, we as hair stylists can be respected in Trinidad."