Cape Town – Muslims have been banned from using one of the most popular hair smoothing treatments in South Africa.
This comes after an SA National Halaal Authority (Sanha) probe declared it interfered with the obligatory ablution and ritual bathing necessary before prayers or other acts of worship.
The treatment, Brasil Cacau, offers frizz-free, shiny and easy-to-manage hair, but Sanha said it wasn’t halaal because it created an “impermeable coating” which prevented water from reaching the hair shaft.
The issue has been referred to Islamic jurists across South Africa and, once their rulings are made, Sanha’s theological committee will make a formal pronouncement, its spokesman confirmed.
In the interim, it has advised Muslims to avoid the product.
The warning is likely to have a negative impact on South Africa’s hair industry.
Stats SA says Islam makes up the country’s largest minority religion.
Aron Collins, spokeswoman for Hair Health and Beauty in Johannesburg which imports the brand, said Brasil Cacau was the most widely used treatment of its kind in South Africa.
While BR Beauty Cosmeticos in Brazil and the Brasil Cacau international store disputed that the product coated the hair, Collins said: “Keratin smoothing does, when first applied, form a coating on the hair which limits the amount of water that is allowed to penetrate the hair.”
But the coating was only partially impervious, she said.
“As a consequence, when rinsed in water, the hair still gets adequately wet and can be washed.
“If it were an impervious coating, water would run off the hair and it would remain dry.
“That is not the case as hair does get wet and the hair acts like wet hair, much the same as if it had not had the keratin treatment.”
She said the coating started to wear off one to two weeks after application and, “with that, water penetration into the hair increases”.
Wear and tear and the use of purifying or clarifying shampoos could speed the process.
Of Cacau’s ECOkeratin treatment, which is marketed as formaldehyde free, Collins said keratin systems worked in a similar manner. Sanha’s decision was based on information obtained from the manufacturers, spokesman Ebi Lockhat said this week.
“The information was supplied by the manufacturer’s agent in South Africa following our inquiry directly to the manufacturer in Brazil.
“With the language barrier and the need for technical information, they believed their agent was best placed to discuss and supply the information.
“After discussions and meetings, we accepted (the product’s) non-permeability.” He said Sanha had reconfirmed the facts with them a week ago.
Other brands of keratin treatments and methods of hair straightening were still being investigated.
“In Islam, the golden rule is to exercise caution where there is doubt,” said Lockhat.
“We have accordingly been asking people to abstain while we await a response.”
Cornel Botha, who has trained stylists on the Brasil Cacau application process, has used the brand for six years.
She said other options could include relaxers, a device named a Steampod which straightens hair using a continuous flow of high pressure steam, flat irons with keratin-infused plates, nano hairdryers, ionic hairdryers or thermal styling brushes.
But she conceded these would not produce the same results as keratin smoothing treatments.
She said some of the newer relaxers did not contain the harsh chemicals of the older ones.
For women wanting to strip Brasil Cacau from the hair, she suggested using a shampoo containing salt, swimming in the sea or a salt water pool, or using an Epsom salts solution to rinse the hair.
The more often salt was used, the quicker the product would be removed. Jonathan Lieman of Marica Solutions said most Brazilian treatments worked similarly, but there were differences in the formula between brands.
“The idea of a keratin-based treatment is for the hair to absorb the extra keratin in order to strengthen the hair and, therefore, achieve less frizz and healthier, shinier hair.
“There are chemicals in the treatment that are said to coat the hair during application, but this is more in a sense of sealing the cuticles to avoid the keratin from coming out of the hair.
“When the hair stylist uses the iron at the end of the treatment to seal the hair, they are locking in the treatment and not ironing the treatment to the surface of the hair.”
He conceded, however, Sanha was the authority on how this seal affected Muslims.
The Inoar brand works on the same principle as the Cacau brand, according to the company’s national sales and marketing manager, Karen Botha, but the coating created could be penetrated by water.
While she conceded Inoar was not certified halaal, she said she would look into the possibility of having the brand scrutinised by halaal authorities.
She added the brand was used in the Middle East, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries with large Muslim populations.