Renowned within London’s beauty circles for her magic touch when it comes to afro hair, Charlotte Mensah is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to serious hair know-how. (In fact, she was recently named UK Afro Hairdresser of the Year for 2017!) So, when we found out we were sampling Charlotte’s revolutionary Manketti Hair Oil in some of our January Birchboxes, we couldn’t wait to catch up with the lady herself to chat styling secrets, hair care tips, and her story so far…
Congratulations on winning the UK Afro Hairdresser of the Year award! Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the industry?
I started doing my three-year-old sister’s hair after our mum passed away when I was 13. Like many teenagers, my sister and I were always interested in fashion and visuals, so I started looking at magazines for styles to practice. When a careers officer visited my school, I realised that I wanted to pursue hairdressing as a professional career and they recommended a work-based training course.
I was very fortunate to be offered an apprenticeship in London’s leading Afro salon in the late 1980s, under the tutelage of the legendary and the late Winston Isaacs. I thank both my grandparents who were an important inspiration to me when I was growing up in Ghana. They taught me the importance of a strong work ethic which has remained with me to this day. My grandmother was an amazing lady; she could do everything from sewing, cooking, and hair, but never took any of her skills to a professional level. Now, with over 30 years of experience under my belt, if I’m not in Africa training young hairdressers in the art of hairdressing then you’ll find me either working in my salon – Hair Lounge in London’s Portobello Road – or working with some of the most famous names in the world of entertainment, high finance and business.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
I’ve had many but winning Afro Hairdresser of The Year at the British Hairdressing Awards for the third time has to be one of my career highlights. I felt that my hard work and dedication had paid off and the sacrifices, that I made along the way were all worth it. To see people inspired by my work meant so much to me. Also, having my Manketti Oil in the January Birchbox X Ohh Deer is a proud moment for me.
What would you say has been your greatest challenge?
There have been so many challenges that I’ve encountered to get to this point. However, I’ve always believed that I could succeed and find ways through these. I’m thankful to God for giving me the strength, wisdom and guidance, and I always stand by these 3 tips; keep challenging yourself, have a vision for something and a desire to create it, and believe that you can succeed!
What are the biggest misconceptions about caring for Afro hair?
Not knowing how to grow and maintain healthy hair. Daily maintenance, including massaging and moisturising, using shampoo and conditioning treatments, and trimming your hair on a regular basis will all help.
We’re sampling your incredible Manketti Hair Oil in January, can you tell us what inspired you to start your own range of hair care products?
Being in the industry for over 30 years I’d noticed that there was a real need for a premium product that kept your hair moisturised but without the heavy, oily finish found with existing ranges. When I discovered Manketti oil (which has been used in Africa for centuries and is one of the most hydrating ingredients that nature has to offer) I knew that this was the oil that could achieve what I was looking for. I decided that it would be a key feature in my range. Now, after 6 years of research, development, and testing my product range is designed to deliver moisture, softness, definition and shine to Afro, and all curly hair types – whilst still allowing weightless movement.
Can you give us your top tips on how to use the Manketti Hair Oil?
1. When it comes to application a little goes a very long way!
2. For defining curly hair – apply two to three drops in your palms and distribute evenly through wet or dry hair.
3. It’s excellent as a scalp pre-treatment. Separate your hair into four sections and apply two to three drops onto your scalp. Massage in and leave for 10 minutes, then shampoo, condition and style as normal.
4. Use it as protection before colouring your hair. Apply two to three drops – or more depending on your hair type – directly to dry hair to help even out and allow colour to be applied more evenly.
5. An extra inside tip! Use it on dry skin and lips too – you will benefit from its moisture-boosting power!
What hair trend are you most looking forward to in 2018?
There will be a greater focus on natural hair this year. Rather than a styled natural look it will be about easy-wearing effortless hair, but with a strong cut that’s tailored to the individual.
What does the future hold for Charlotte Mensah?
More exciting new hair products and international workshops focusing on maintaining and promoting healthy hair. I’m also currently in the final development stages of setting up the Charlotte Mensah Academy. The aim of the academy is to offer less fortunate young Ghanaians an opportunity to learn a vocational skill that will enhance their lives and the lives of their families. Also, close to my heart is my charity L.O.V.E (Life of Visionary Empowerment) that I set-up in honour of my late Mother. This benevolent fund is aimed at furthering the education and empowerment of young people in Africa.