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Award-winning Afro stylist shares powers of manketti oil

STICKING TO HER ROOTS: Award-winning hairstylist Charlotte Mensah

ANYONE WHO has curly, frizzy hair or naturally dry hair knows how hard it is to tame and keep it moisturised. Over the years, coconut, Moroccan, jojoba and Argan oils have been hailed hair saviours when it comes to achieving and maintaining locks full of life.

But now there’s a new super ‘hairo’ ingredient on the market – manketti oil – which is being backed by two-time British Afro Hairdresser of the Year winner, Charlotte Mensah.

The Londoner recently launched her self-titled debut haircare collection, and the ethical and sustainably-sourced oil from Africa is her star ingredient.

Drawn from the manketti nut, which grows on mongongo trees in northern Namibia, manketti oil is loaded with Vitamin E and a plethora of nutrients including calcium, magnesium, protein, zinc and copper.

Having discovered that manketti oil, which has been used in Africa for centuries, is one of the richest, most hydrating ingredients that nature has to offer, Mensah knew it had to be a key feature.

Now, after years of research, development and testing at the most prestigious formulation houses with the stylist involved at every stage, the collection is poised to deliver moisture, softness, definition and shine to Afro, mixed-race and all curl patterns, whilst still allowing weightless movement.

Proving that dedication and hard work pays off, Mensah completely self-funded her product range, and it’s taken six years for her to complete.

TALENT: Charlotte Mensah manketti oil range [Photo credit: John Rawson]

“I feel like I’ve been pregnant for six years, and now I’ve finally given birth,” jokes Mensah, who has run a successful Afro hair salon on Portobello Road in west London for the last 13 years.

“Because everything was self-funded, it was difficult to do everything in one go,” she continues. “I didn’t have investors, or a loan, I just had to work really hard and save up a lot.”

Pouring over 26 years of expertise into the line, Mensah believes stylists know best when it comes to choosing the best products for customers’ tresses.

“I felt there was a need for an Afro hairstylist to come up with a range,” she explains. “We do the hair, so we get the first hand knowledge. We hear our client’s needs and see how their hair responds to certain products.”

She adds: “Everyone wants the same thing – healthy, shiny, beautiful hair – and that’s what they can get with my manketti oil range.”

Born in London, Mensah grew up with her grandparents in Accra, Ghana – a place she describes as home just as much as the UK.

“My grandmother was a very lovely Christian woman who could do everything – she sewed, she cooked, she did hair. But she never took any of it to a professional level. It made me think a lot about my own future.”

TALENT: An examples of her work

Aged 11, she returned to the UK to live with her mother, who passed away two years later. With her mum gone, it was left up to teenager Mensah to take care of her three-year-old sister’s hair.

“I loved reading Jet and Ebony magazine and loved looking at the beautiful black women and girls, she recalls. “I would try and recreate their hairstyles on my little sister. I was able to get really creative and it was a really good bonding time too.”

After discovering her love of hair styling, Mensah went on to study at the London College of Fashion. She also began working part-time at Splinters – London’s first Afro hair salon.

Taken under the wing of the salon’s late owner, Winston Issacs, the hair fanatic began to hone her skills.
“Working at Splinters was just so, so amazing,” she gushes. “It was a real eye-opener.

“It opened my eyes a lot as to how far you can go in the hair industry.”

STUNNING: A model shows off a unique cut

At 25, with a young son in tow, Mensah decided that it was time to go at it alone. She rented out a chair in a European salon, where her clientele list grew from a small handful to over 400. It was then that she approached the Prince’s Trust where she was offered a grant to open up her very own hair salon, Hair Lounge in 1999.

“Through loving hair, being consistent and determined, I’ve been able to win more than 15 awards. It’s all to do with being determined,” she affirms.

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