The Business of Looking Good

The Human Hair Wig Business Grows Despite the Ban

Human hair has traditionally been utilised for weddings or on women with short or thin hair who don’t have beautiful hair. But now that human hair is fashionable, even women with long and thick hair are wearing human hair to alter their looks. In recent years, human hair wigs have grown in popularity, giving women a stunning appearance. Human hair wigs have become one of the most popular beauty and makeover choices in Addis Ababa and other major towns. In this article, EBR’s Hemen Asmare tells a story of how the human hair business is still growing despite the government’s ban on its import.  

Currently, if a girl with long hair appears in any situation, in that case, it is assumed to be human hair because it has reached the level of fashion. Many women favour human hair wigs since they are in various colours, styles, and lengths. Human hair is now a significant industry in Addis Ababa and beyond, not just because it is attractive to women. The abundance of beauty salons that serves human hair extension services throughout Addis Ababa’s neighbourhoods and malls is evidence of the industry’s rapid expansion. At the same time, the price of human hair has skyrocketed due to a surge in demand, exchange rate escalations and the illicit nature of the importation.

A top-quality human hair wig costs about ETB80,000 – 100,000. Still, the highest quality and most expensive wigs can cost over ETB250,000, making them exceedingly expensive. The initial investment of a human hair wig is higher than a synthetic wig; however, their high quality and lengthy lifespan offset the expense.

The use of human hair is a growing global trend. Many countries have taken this as an opportunity to build export revenues. According to, an international trade data compiler, more than 70 countries will be engaged in the export of human hair in 2021. India earned USD 165 million, almost twice the value of Ethiopia’s meat export in the year, accounting for bout 92Pct of the total human hair wig exports in 2021 globally. With USD 4.1 million and USD 2.2 million, Hong Kong and Pakistan are second and third in the exporters’ list.

A mother of two, Hirut Ayele, 34, owns a leather goods store at Kazanchis, a downtown business neighbourhood in Kirkos District, central Addis Ababa. She claims that in the past, she has worn synthetic or human hair wigs for special occasions and wedding programmes. Still, it has been three years since she started using human hair. She claims that the initial purchase of Indian human hair cost her ETB 10,000.

“Lately, I have become addicted to human hair because I think I look better while wearing the wig,” She told EBR. “Now, I got so much used to it and couldn’t give it up, because I don’t have the confidence to face life without a human hair wig.”

The price of human hair is increasing each day. Hirut claims she bought an Indian human hair ETB 50,000 five months ago.

“In my opinion, when a person is dissatisfied with how they look, human hair can help fill in what they think is missing in the way they look,” says Endale Alene, a hair professional and the owner of Gami Professional Salon and Makeup, located at CMC area in Lemi Kura District. “Moreover, human hair is increasingly becoming a manifestation of better social status.”

The human hair business is also supporting professionals in generating income. When Endale does women’s natural hair, his beauty salon’s minimum and maximum prices are ETB 150 and ETB 300, respectively. However, when women want human hair extensions, there is an additional payment for sewing. The price ranges with a minimum of ETB 500. The human hair sales further bring him extra income.

The excessive use of human hair wigs is not all rosy; it has several drawbacks. “Using human hair frequently damages the user’s own hair; it diminishes the sense of self-worth and confidence, an impediment to using their hair later. This negatively affects their psychological feeling. I advise using one’s hair,” Endale told EBR.

Sirgut Guale is another middle-aged woman making a living in the human hair business. Eight months ago, she consulted with her husband and wanted to go out and start a business, which led her to human hair. Now she owns Queen’s Human Hair at Bole Tropical Mall in the bustling business neighbourhood of Addis Ababa.

Sirgut imports human hair wigs from Peru, India and Brazil and serves young girls who pay much attention to looks. The product most of her customers choose is the Brazilian grade 12A. This particular brand of human hair is said to be thick from top to bottom, making it more durable. The price of products at Sirgut’s shop depends on the length of the hair and the number of bundles. Two pieces of human hair will sell for ETB 16,000 to ETB 20,000, and three parts will cost close to ETB 30,000.

“It is always good to give your natural hair a rest once in a while,” Sirgut explains the benefit of wearing human hair. “Otherwise, it is just burning your natural hair with fire every time you want to look good.”

The human hair supply business has had its ups and downs in recent years as the government has banned its importations formally due to the worsening situation of foreign currency shortage. The exchange rate and the illicit nature of the import have also made it very expensive. However, it is still very profitable as many affluent Addis Ababans are willing to pay dearly.

Studies show that using human hair wigs has different benefits; the most common is the infinite variety of styles available. Users can choose a human hair wig that complements natural hair or go bold with a new look ranging from platinum pixie cuts to brunette bobs. The best part is that it’s all temporary; there are no long-term commitments, and your human hair wig collection can grow and change with your sense of identity and style.

Human hair looks and feels natural. A hair replacement’s success depends on the ability to restore the person’s desired natural appearance. As a result of its realistic appearance, human hair is generally the best hair extension that ladies prefer.

Wigs made of human hair last relatively a very long time. Human hair wigs can last up to three years if properly cared for. This hair type offers excellent value for money and a wide range of attractive styles and colours without necessarily harming natural hair. Since they are lightweight and straightforward, wearing a human hair wig is typically more uncomplicated and comfortable.

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