The Natural Choice for Hair

June 2013

Octavia Hooks, a recent graduate of the Graham School Leadership in Sustainability Management program and hair salon owner, is on a mission to promote and provide natural hair care services to her local community. Along the way she is educating her clients on healthy lifestyle choices, sustainable green spaces, energy efficiency, and urban gardening.

By day, Hooks is a Manager in Community Affairs at the Museum of Science and Industry; by night she is a licensed barber, natural hair stylist, and "locktician." Hooks has been running a natural hair care salon out of her home in Country Club Hills since 2007 and is currently in the process of securing new space in the Southland area to expand her services and create a community center for sustainability initiatives. Hooks' natural hair care philosophy is centered around the 'locks' hairstyle. A locks hairstyle is achieved by parting, sectioning, and twisting hair into tendrils of various thicknesses. Hooks describes this as, "a very old way of taking care of your hair that's been around for centuries."

Why is natural hair a good alternative?

More and more people with textured hair are embracing the natural hair trend because chemical processes can be damaging to the hair and skin. To make textured hair straighter, women commonly turn to chemical straighteners, known as relaxers. The relaxers contain lye, a chemical that can severely burn the scalp as well as the hands of the stylist applying the straightener. People with hair extensions that are braided into their scalp are also at a high-risk of developing alopecia because they put so much strain on existing hair follicles.

Women who use relaxers and hair extensions have to follow strict hair regimens and generally visit their hair stylists at least once a week to maintain the style. The locks style that Hooks is advocating for require only monthly maintenance and regular shampooing. "Having locks is not just a hairstyle, but a lifestyle. You're not married to going to get your hair done every week," says Hooks. This video from her website further explores the benefits of natural hair.

Next Steps

As part of the Leadership in Sustainability Management Certificate Program she developed a business plan centered on economic, social, and environmental principles. Hooks' vision is to spread awareness about natural hair care, sustainable lifestyles and organic gardening to the under-served population of Southside Chicago and its southwest suburbs. As Hooks' sees it, "the problem is communicating environmental awareness to the Southside community and for them to see it as an opportunity instead of a challenge."

In addition to her at-home natural hair care salon, she has planted a small organic garden in her backyard to teach the community about urban gardening and created a line of natural essential oils, soaps, and aromatherapy products for healthy skin and hair. She has created a temporary community space in her backyard by hosting Earth Day events and inviting community members to help her expand her garden. To foster sustainable purchasing and the principle of reuse, Hooks also allows her customers to bring back empty bottles of essential oil and refill them for half of the original price.

You can learn more about her work and how to get involved on her website,