It was the wise fashion designer and businesswoman by the name of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (a.k.a. Coco Chanel) who said: “A woman who changes her hair is about to change her life.” Great hair can brighten one’s day, whether it’s a new color or newly permed tips. But what if your hair can also make an impact on someone else’s life?

This is the thesis of the L’Oreal Foundation’s Beauty For a Better Life program which they brought here in the Philippines after successful runs in more than 20 countries. The program provides free three‑month certified hairdressing training for women in vulnerable social or economic situations, young people experiencing family problems or difficulties at school, or are victims of conflict and violence.

In the Philippines, L’Oreal partnered with corporate‑led non‑profit foundation Philippine Business for Social Progress, which selected 25 out of 75 interested men and women (mostly women) from Barangay Sto. Niño in Marikina City.

While the principle of the program seems simple, it’s actually more difficult than just bringing 25 people to school for three months. For one, the scholars may already have their own families. And giving up their entire afternoon means risking their time to work or take care of their children. In fact, out of 25 students, 10 ended up dropping out because they couldn’t handle the demands.

To make this more efficient, L’Oreal hauled a mobile school right in the neighborhood basketball court, which carried all the necessary tools to teach hairdressing at a non‑salon.

Art Erka Capili Inciong

Foldable black and silver salon‑type chairs were set up in a modest room, where there were individual stations for each of the students and their respective guinea pigs. Each station had its own large vanity mirror in front of the client and a beauty cart for the student or trainee which had all the necessary items needed for the particular service to be done.

For demonstration sessions, a large black table served as the “master table” where all the products for the particular hair service were placed. Packets of developers and dyes, as well as mixing bowls and spoons were arranged there.

All students were required to wear a uniform: the standard black polo embossed with the Beauty for a Better Life symbol given by L’Oreal, jeans, and closed shoes. They also had the tools of the trade: individual aprons, gloves, towels, flat irons, shampoo bottles, etc.

Two L’Oreal Professionnel trainers taught a global module on hairdressing, but customized for the Philippine market. The students also got to take an internship at the metro’s top salons, including Azta Urban Salon at Eastwood City Libis.

Art Erka Capili Inciong

“What we realized with a neighborhood is that if you are all coming from the same area, there is a greater peer involvement. That contributes also to the willingness to learn, if my peers are my neighbors,” L’Oreal’s Carmel Valencia happily told SparkUp. at the graduation of the first batch of students last July 25 at the Marikina Convention Center.

With one batch finally being able to take a bow, it seems that the model works. The only major problem the management encountered was the huge number of drop‑outs, which was caused by domestic issues. Ms Valencia said that the management is working hard to resolve that issue for future batches to come.