By Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty
It’s no secret that African American hair seems completely different from the hair of other ethnicities. As Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, highlighted for the world, black women spend enormous amounts of time and money to maintain their hair. But why?? In most cases, the answer is not vanity. African American hair requires special products and techniques for these 3 reasons:
Reason 1: Kinks, coils, and curls
Doctors and cosmetic scientists have studied African American hair in depth over the past decade. They have found that natural hair of “African descent” is special because it is uniquely curly and fragile. Not “nappy”, just extremely curly and coily. Any type of curly hair experiences dryness because natural oil from the scalp can’t travel down the hair shaft to keep it moisturized. There are just too many “bumps in the road”. Since African American hair is curlier than the hair of any other ethnicity, it is drier than that of any other ethnicity.
Reason 2: Curly hair is fragile.
Hair is made up of keratin (the same type of protein found in your skin). Naturally curly hair with no chemical treatments and no heat related damage is relatively strong, but still weaker than straight hair. The kinks in each curl make the hair porous and prone to damage. Once you start washing, drying, combing, relaxing, coloring, and heating curly hair, it starts to get very weak, very quickly. Hair that is weak eventually splits and then breaks off instead of reaching its longest length. The damage accumulates with every process and because African American hair is dry and fragile by nature, it starts breaking as quickly as it grows. An inch gained at the root, an inch lost at the end, perpetually keeps damaged hair the same length.
Reason 3: “Extremely Curly” to “Perfectly Straight” is not easy.
It’s been a long time since the Cosby women were on primetime showcasing the beauty of natural hair. Since the mid ‘90s, straight hairstyles have dominated African American culture and entertainment. Unfortunately, many black women achieve that “perfectly straight” look by using relaxers and extreme heat (over 350°F). That combination would lead to damage for any hair type, but it’s especially tough on black hair. Feel free to embrace whatever style makes you feel beautiful. Just remember that your hair requires high-quality products and gentle care.
Ladies, what are your thoughts on this?
Franbourg A, Hallegot P, Baltenneck F, Toutain C, Leroy F (2003) Current research on ethnic hair. J Am Acad Dermatol 48:S115-S119. Retrieved from http://www.eblue.org/article/PIIS0190962203701170
McMichael Amy J. Hair Breakage in Normal and Weathered Hair: Focus on the Black Patient. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings (2007) 12, 6–9. doi:10.1038/sj.jidsymp.5650047
Syed A, Kuhajda A, Ayoub H, et al African-American hair: its physical properties and differences relative to Caucasian hair. Cosmet Toil. 1995; 110:39–48
Taylor, Susan C. (2008) Dr. Susan Taylor’s Rx for Brown Skin: Your Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks