'Coronavirus hairstyle' booms in popularity in East Africa

‘Coronavirus hairstyle’ booms in popularity in East Africa as hairdressers spread awareness of the disease with braided spikes replicating the virus’ shape

  • Braided spike hairstyle which echoes shape of coronavirus has been revived 
  • Style is growing in popularity in East Africa because it is  inexpensive 
  • Shareon Refa, 24, from Nairobi, is using hairstyle to spread awareness of disease
  • Said: ‘Some don’t believe that coronavirus is real…that is why we came up with it’
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The coronavirus has revived a hairstyle in East Africa, one with braided spikes that echo the virus’ distinctive shape.

The style’s growing popularity is in part due to economic hardships linked to virus restrictions and to the goal of spreading awareness that the coronavirus is real.

In a makeshift salon beside a busy road in Kibera, a slum in the heart of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, 24-year-old hairdresser Sharon Refa has been braiding young girls’ hair into the antennae-like spikes that people call the ‘coronavirus hairstyle.’

She revealed: ‘Some grown-ups don’t believe that the coronavirus is real, but then most young children appear keen to sanitize their hands and wear masks…So many adults do not do this, and that is why we came up with the corona hairstyle.’

The ‘coronavirus hairstyle’ has boomed in popularity in East Africa as people braid their hair in antennae-like spikes

Some are opting for the hairstyle because it is inexpensive, while others are trying to spread awareness with the style  

 Hairdressers across East Africa are seeing a boom in popularity for the spiked  braids (pictured, one seven-year-old arrives home in Kibera with the style) 

Mothers like Margaret Andeya, who is struggling to make ends meet, said the coronavirus hairstyle suits her daughters’ styling needs and her pocket.  

Virus-related restrictions have stifled the daily work for millions of people with little or no savings.

‘This hairstyle is much more affordable for people like me who cannot afford to pay for the more expensive hairstyles out there and yet we want our kids to look stylish,’ Andeya said.

Meanwhile Mariam Rashid, 26, said: ‘COVID-19 has destroyed the economy, taken our jobs from us, and now money is scarce.    

The hairstyle has seen a rise in popularity as hairdressers use the style to promote awareness of the disease 

Stacy Ayuma, 8, is seen after plaiting with the ‘coronavirus’ hairstyle, designed to emulate the prickly appearance of the virus under a microscope

‘I therefore decided to have my child’s hair done up like this at an affordable 50 shillings, and she looks good.

‘The hairstyle also helps in communicating with the public about the virus.’

It costs 50 shillings, or about 50 U.S. cents, to get the braids while the average hairdo costs 300 to 500 shillings ($3 to $5). That’s money most people in Kibera cannot afford at the moment. 

Gettrueth Ambio, 12, left, and her friend Jane Mbone, 7, arrive home after having their hair styled in the shape of the new coronavirus at the Mama Brayo Beauty Salon in the Kibera slum

The technique used in braiding the coronavirus hairstyle is threading, which uses yarn instead of synthetic hair braids. This is the secret to making it affordable, residents said.

The hairstyle had gone out of fashion in recent years as imported real and synthetic hair from India, China and Brazil began to flood the market and demand by local women increased. 

Pictures of the flowing or braided imported styles are tacked up in beauty salons across much of Africa.

Gettrueth Ambio, 12, has her hair styled in the shape of the new coronavirus, at the Mama Brayo Beauty Salon in the Kibera slum

Kenya’s number of confirmed virus cases was nearing 700 as of Monday. 

With the widespread shortage of testing materials, however, the real number of cases could be higher. 

 Health officials are especially worried about the possible spread of the virus in crowded slums.

Margaret Andeya takes her daughter Gettrueth Ambio, 12, right, and her neighbor’s daughter Jane Mbone, 7, left, back home after having their hair styled in the shape of the new coronavirus at the Mama Brayo Beauty Salon

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