Now however, hair and beauty salons are mushrooming all over the island as people spend a little extra to look good.
“If you have your own business that’s an answer to all your problems and since the government is unable to provide jobs to everyone you might as well get become self employed,” says Hasini Gunasekara, the course directress at the International Academy of Beauticians and a professional hair dresser and beauty therapist.
The International Academy of Beauticians (IAB) annually trains over 120 students who either migrate or open their own hair and beauty salons.
“Its nothing like doing your own job and so I thought I’ll come here and get qualified and start my own salon to cater to my friends at least for a start,” says Hiranya Weerakody, a student at the academy who used to pay around 100 US dollars in her home town Houston, Texas for a haircut.
She’s extended her holiday here to learn the trade and plans to have her own business when she gets back to US where she could earn up to 2500 dollars monthly working part time.
During the one and a half year course she’ll learn beauty therapy, hair dressing, hair styling and colouring at the academy.“With my diploma I can get a license in the US,” says Weerakody.
Every three months, 20 students join IAB for year of theory and practice topped off with a six month apprenticeship.
“We are government accredited, the diploma’s are world recognize. That’s one reason they come here,” says Hasini Gunasekara.
She says accreditation is important because modern hairdressing involves the use of chemicals for coloring and styling hair.
Only trained and registered practitioners are allowed to handle chemicals in most developed countries.
Here the rules aren’t as tight, but practitioners think it’s a matter of time before regulations are introduced.
“Now there is a lot of standardization and the government and the tertiary and vocational training commission are setting up standards,” added Gunasekara.
Hair and beauty culture is a trade that demands practitioners to have a creative approach.
Qualified and experienced hair dressers can earn good pay.
Manel Athukorala, a mother of two, decided to pursue her interest in beauty culture to gain some financial independence as she now has more free time with her children grown up and living abroad.
“I’m going to start my own place since I have enough time and I like this field,” says Manel Athukorala, a student at IAB.
She is one of several hundred who plan to open hair salons – adding to the over 500 registered ones and an unknown number of unregistered ones.