Charlotte Mensah is the name in afro hair. She’s won Afro Hairdresser of the Year three times in a row and counts Erykah Badu, Zadie Smith, and Edward Enninful as close friends and clients. Adding to her many accolades, Mensah has recently been inducted into The British Hairdressing Awards Hall Of Fame.
British-Ghanaian Mensah got her start at the London College of Fashion. She then interned at the legendary afro hair salon Splinters under the apprenticeship of renowned hairstylist Winston Isaacs. Once she’d built up a rapport within the British hair industry, Mensah decided to launch her very own salon, The Hair Lounge, on Portobello Road in London.
The Hair Lounge offers a wide range of unique treatments for afro and multitextured hair, including shiatsu head massages, salt scrubs, and hair steams. With help from The Prince’s Trust, the rapid growth of The Hair Lounge inspired Mensah to launch The Charlotte Mensah Academy. The academy aims to educate young single mothers in Ghana, empowering them with the entrepreneurial skills to support themselves and their families.
Mensah is also the proud founder of the award-winning Manketti Oil Luxury Hair Care range. The line is specifically formulated for afro and multitextured hair, using the effective but light ingredient Manketti oil. She’s also launching some exciting new products this September. Mensah recently sat down with POPSUGAR to discuss how she became one of the biggest names in afro hair in the UK, plus one of the most sought after hairstylists in the industry.
Charlotte Mensah on Getting Started in the Hair Business
“When I was a kid, I never thought that I was going to be a hairdresser. Shortly after I returned to the UK from Ghana at age 11, my mum passed away. My younger sister was 3 years old at the time, so I used to be the one that would just love doing her hair. And I think because of what happened, I didn’t do as well in my exams. So when the careers officer came around at the age of 15, it was just something that I felt like I was so good at.”
On the Iconic Hairstyles That Inspired Her Love For the Business
“Because it was the ’70s, there were a lot of wigs. A lot of those big, voluminous wigs that looked a bit like The Three Degrees (pictured). It was sort of that full Gladys Knight look. And then just before I came to the UK, there was a very big look on Grace Jones and Anita Baker.
The short back and sides. So I saw a lot of that as well being around aunties and cousins at family gatherings. They would really do their hair, and from a young age, I would notice these things.”
On the Success of Her Manketti Oil Haircare Range
“The Manketti oil was such a good find. It was just incredible how the whole thing happened, because for a very long time, growing up in Ghana, I knew a lot about shea butter. And I’ve worked for many brands from Aveda and Mizani to L’Oréal and KeraCare.
And I always felt like clients had something to complain about. They’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s too greasy. I don’t like the smell. I don’t like the texture. Oh, look at the packaging.’ The kind of women that come to my salon, they just felt like it wasn’t part of their lifestyle. And if they wanted to buy into something, they wanted something that was really special with a refined aesthetic.
You go out, and you’re like, ‘why do all of the Afro products look so basic?’ I was very fortunate to travel to the Serengeti to do my client’s hair for a wedding. While I was there, I got some free time and got a head massage. Although I initially had shea butter as my main ingredient to produce the products, the massage therapist used Manketti oil, and I was like, ‘This is incredible’. So I kept that secret to myself, and I began to research. I realised that Manketti oil has existed for more than centuries in Africa.
And it has so many benefits. It’s healing, and it’s great for promoting hair growth. It’s brilliant for moisturising curly hair as it’s loaded with vitamin E and calcium.
But the best part is the weightlessness of it and the fact that I would be the first to bring it to the West. It was so well-received. Initially, people were like, ‘What is this? Where’s it from? Let me research it.’ It’s also great that the people from that region are now getting noticed as well. They’ve been using this oil for so long, and no one’s ever taken any notice. To let the world know that there are all these other incredible, ethically sourced ingredients that do wonders for curly hair is a great feeling.”
On Her Favourite Celebrity Clients
“I love Erykah Badu. I kind of see her like a sister. She’s such a special gift to the world. And she has so much knowledge as well, about everything in life. Like last Sunday, she said, ‘Oh, come and meet me.’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got a lot to do the next day. I can only spend like half an hour.’ I ended up staying with her till 3 a.m. just talking because she has a lot of wisdom, lots of spirituality. She’s a very honest woman.”
“I also like Zadie Smith. She’s someone I really love talking to, because she’s very intelligent. Also, she has a lot of wisdom. Eve also comes in quite a lot when she’s in London. She lives in the area, so it’s just like a local salon. I think all my clients are special, not just the celebrities, because everybody has a story, and it’s all so inspiring. Everyone has a way of how they navigate their way through this life.”
On Her Celebrity Hair Crushes
“I love Tracee Ellis Ross. I love that everything looks great. Everything. Even if she just put her headwrap on. She’s just fun, you know? She just looks like she has no care in the world. She’s just carefree. She just gets up and just makes it happen. Whatever the day is, she makes it work. She always makes my day. Even if I’m down, she always makes me laugh.”
|| Charlotte Mensah Black Hairstylists in the UK ||