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Egyptian-style Hair Salons: The Round Brush Technique Keeps Em’ Coming Back

Moshe Khoshibi left Iraq in 1986 on a whim. The 47-year-old Iraqi said he wasn’t fleeing Saddam or the political turmoil that has gripped his country since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Like many immigrants, Khoshibi came to America to pursue a dream. His dream was to own a hair salon.

And he’s now living out that dream. The big salon, called Ossama’s and Days Hair Salon, is painted in burnt orange. It was nearly empty on a Tuesday afternoon. Khoshibi and one other stylist, Arick Griggs, had clients in their chairs. Everyone else hung around. A stylist, Samir, hung out by the light colored wooden receptionist desk. He answered a few calls for appointments until about 5:30 p.m. just when the salon on the corner of Dearborn and Van Buren streets got flooded with customers.

An older lady was getting a hair-cut. A young girl was getting her hair spiral curled and another young girl’s hair was being blow-dryed. And there were two more clients in the back getting their hair washed while clients walking in the door were being seated in the salon’s long leather couch. Samir, Kohsibi, and the other three stylists were up and styling. The smell of freshly conditioned, blow-dryed hair filled the salon.

Although he is Iraqi, Khoshibi runs an Egyptian-style hair salon that is popular throughout the Middle East. Egyptian-style hair salons, like Ossama’s and Days Hair Salon, the one Khoshibi has owned for the last 10 years, are scattered in and around Chicagoland. With hair-dos ranging from 45 to 55 dollars a pop in most salons, they are the “it” place to get dolled up and an overall hot attraction. But the relatively cheap prices is not the only thing that makes them so hot.

“We have different technique,” said Khoshibi about what keeps clients coming back.

Khoshibi is talking about the round brush, a tool and technique that has been part of Egyptian hair culture forever, said the self-proclaimed “Shop Diva” at Ossama’s, Johnny Spigner.

Spigner, a Hyde Park-native has known Khoshibi for nearly 20 years, almost as many years both men have been styling hair.

Round brushing includes using a rounded brush to gradually brush hair that has just been washed  from the scalp out to the end of the hair follicles while blow drying. Round brushing works on all textures including relaxed or non-relaxed hair.

Moshe Khoshibi and the round brush

Round brushing is typically used on ethnic hair, said Spigner, and that’s why women and men of all nationalities are clients, but African American women make up the majority.

Some 85 percent of the clientele at Khoshibi’s shop are African American women, Signer said.

African American women usually get their hair flat brushed, he said, but the “round brush keeps it fluffier,” adding more body and movement.

“Round brushing looks like you got a fresh relaxer—no oils,” he said. “Nice, clean, fluffy hair.”

He also said, contrary to belief, African American hair is similar in texture to people of Jordanian backgrounds among many others, and stylist at Egyptian salons are more familiar with how to properly treat and care for the hair versus other types of salons.

“I love it,” said 22-year-old Jendayi Howell, an African American who has routinely gone to Egyptian Hair Design on the southeast side of Chicago since she was 15-years-old. “I love the way they do it.”

Howell said she has a regular appointment every two weeks, and it makes it easier for her to manage her hair when she does it on her own.

Far from the misconception of using a lot of heat to condition, blow dry, and style hair, Egyptian salons instead use steam which is part of their hair care treatment. Egyptian salons also refrain from using a lot of chemicals.

“[I] don’t like a lot of chemical with the hair,” said salon owner Khoshibi.

Jessica Johnson, 22, who is mixed race used to be a faithful customer to an Egyptian hair salon in Chicago. Amongst some major issues she had with her former stylist of five years, she stopped going because she realized her hair wasn’t cared for properly.

From her experience, Johnson attested to the fact that Egyptian salon’s use of steam over heat was natural, locking in the hair’s nutrients which allowed it to grow, but contrarily, there was too much heat used to blow dry her hair. In fact, even with really long thick hair, she noticed that the heat made her hair thinner.

Though the wattage of blow dryers varies brand to brand, Jessica said she has done her research and a normal blow dryer ranges from 1100 to 1200 watts.

The blow dryers used at Ossama’s are 1600 watts, said Spigner.

Spigner and Khoshibi said round brushing with the blow dryer and putting clients under the steamer for 10 to 20 minutes ensures that hairstyle will last a long time and makes the hair stay straight for a long time; another feature that attracts clients.

Johnson said this is true but because of this, it’s now hard for her to wear her hair naturally curly because it’s trained to be so straight.

“Water can get on it and it would still be straight,” she said. “I just wanted straight hair so bad, I said I would deal with whatever to get straight hair.”

Veronica Coriano, has extremely long hair like Jessica Johnson. She said she started going to an Egyptian salon in the south suburbs of Chicago because her older sister went there and she “decided to give it a try.”

She didn’t go that often but stopped going because she felt that there was a lot of heat being used. It didn’t damage her hair though. She also wanted to take a break and do her hair on her own. Coriano added that she enjoyed going to Egyptian salons and her hair was definitely “straighter and shinier when they did it.”

Khoshibi is strong on hair care and vows that the Egyptian-style hair salon’s technique is the best for any woman or man; after all, it’s why his clients keep coming back.

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