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3 Myths about Natural Hair Hygiene

Avatar • May 19, 2014

 

naturalhair styling

 

Before I transitioned to natural hair, I had a set of expectations about I would be able to do with my hair. I believed that once I stopped relaxing, it would take less work to maintain my hair hygiene. However, I was in for a rude awakening. There are some aspects of natural hair hygiene that time and experience have taught me, which simply do not align with what I expected.

1. Washing Frequency

When I was a little girl, I felt that my mother washed my hair as a matter of duty, rather than necessity. Even as I approached middle school and was more involved in the daily styling of my hair, I never experienced build up, dandruff or other indications that my hair needed to be shampooed more than once a month. That all changed when my hair was relaxed. I needed weekly washes and even before then my scalp became oily and my hair became limp. Eight years later when I did the big chop I expected my hair to return to the low maintenance, healthy scalp I enjoyed as a preteen. Boy, was I wrong! While relaxers can damage your scalp (does the term “wait the burn out” remind you of anything?), it doesn’t mean that your scalp completely changes once you wear your hair naturally. Moreover,  if you were like me and had your hair relaxed during puberty you may have experienced hormonal changes that altered your body chemistry. Just as the skin on your face may change during that time in your life, so might your scalp.  It is also important to note that if your friends with thick, coarse hair can go 2 weeks without washing, your fine hair might not do well with a similar regimen.

2. Traditional Shampoos

The issue of shampoo is a pretty hot topic in the natural hair community.  The impact of drying shampoos that strip the hair of its natural oils has been discussed in countless amounts of natural hair literature. The consensus has largely leaned towards the harmful effects of traditional sulfate based cleansers on the hair. While I still agree that sulfate-based shampoos are unhealthy, one doesn’t  have to use shampoos with all or mostly natural ingredients in order to have clean, healthy hair. As you know, the hair market has changed, making it such that all women, whether natural, relaxed, straight or curly now have a variety of options for gentle hair cleansing options . Personally, I enjoy Shea Moisture and Giovanni Direct, products that are reasonably priced and gentle on the scalp and hair.

3. Natural Hair is More Likely to be Dirty

I’m going to go ahead and assume that at least 80% of the readers of this blog don’t believe this silly myth. Sadly, you may have encountered it, especially if you are newly natural. While the fact that natural hair is not inherently dirty isn’t earth shattering news, the fact that some still believe this is quite astonishing. So, to those of you who have heard this please don’t take it personally. It says more about the ignorance of the person saying it, than it does about you.  I’ve heard this myth directed particularly towards women who wear their natural hair in locs and sometimes, sadly, this inaccurate perception came from loose hair naturals! The type of hair a person has does not make it more or less hygienic. How you care for your hair based on your needs, NOT someone else’s standards influences its health. If you hear otherwise, then maybe you’re being told a myth.

What myths have you heard about natural hair and hygiene?

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Puff
6 years ago

I think another two myths are that natural hair is 1) difficult to manage and 2) unproffessional. There is certainly a reeducation or education (I had never really cared for my hair till I went natural) that has to take place but I’ve felt more free than ever when it comes to my hair. I still feel so many people and sadly in our own community, feel that natural hair just isn’t “right” or professional. I’ve been natural for 7 years and it has definitely improved as more and more women feel comfortable going natural but we still have a ways… Read more »

lablooplah
lablooplah
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

Yes!! 1)difficult to manage which is usually spread either by girls with natural hair (eps those with tight curls and kinky curly hair) either natural themselves or afraid to go natural or take care of their hair in its natural state. It drives me insane. Esp when someone with kinky hair like me asks me if it’s hard to manage. and even when i’m like if you make it that way it only takes me 30 minutes to detangle and deep condition, they still come to the same conculsion. Even when i tell them that you might just need to… Read more »

Puff
6 years ago
Reply to  lablooplah

AGREED! We need to not hide our natural hair at work. Even now I mostly wear it in a bun when I’d go to work. A couple times I tried to wear it out and it just got too many comments. Mostly positive but all the attention made me personally feel uncomfortable. I just feel like we should feel just as comfortable to wear our hair out as they feel to wear it down and it’s just not that way. We get the “that’s a distraction” looks.

LBell
LBell
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

I think it depends on the job. I’m about to start a new job in a couple of weeks and I will probably wear my hair in a puff for at least the first few months because even though the dress code is “casual” it’s still an office environment and frankly they ain’t ready for THIS ‘fro, lol. My loose ‘fro absolutely IS a distraction (I mean that in a GOOD way but I’m not exactly objective) and since *I* don’t feel like lobbying any more questions about it than necessary *I* am choosing to wear it in a puff… Read more »

Puff
6 years ago
Reply to  LBell

I see what you are saying but I still question on who is making the rules on “professionalism”. It certainly isn’t black women with natural hair. And when I am around black women who wear their hair out, I am not distracted by them. I can have great conversations with them, work on projects etc because I don’t define them by their hair and I know they aren’t manipulating it to be some sort of aggressive statement like if you came to your office with a green mohawk; it’s just how it grows out of their head. Again, I understand… Read more »

Ardie
Ardie
6 years ago
Reply to  LBell

Just wanted to respond to Puff. I was in the military for 24 years and I was natural for 18 of those years. I only heard comments when I was working with southern soldiers and then it was mostly black males. No problem from African or Latino or Hispanic only black. A friend of mine had locs for about 12 years before she retired and all I ever heard was an occasional reference to Whoopi Goldberg for the first few years. She always laughed it off and never went to EO (Equal Opportunity) to lodge a complaint. This is only… Read more »

Mika
Mika
6 years ago
Reply to  LBell

One of the most annoying myths is the one that BLACK people started and perpetuate in the first place, and make white people think it’s okay to repeat this extremely offensive notion: that black hair is DISTRACTING unless it’s styled down. Give me a break, and put a sock in it. As a women who proudly wears her afro out, I’m often shocked that people have the audacity to come to this sort of conclusion. If it is distracting to you; TO BAD. It’s my natural hair, not your concern!!! I don’t care what you do to your hair, why… Read more »

Mika
Mika
6 years ago
Reply to  LBell

@LBell. No it does not depend on the job unless it poses some sort of safety risk and the same rules are applied to straight hair. Saying that an afro is unprofessional is mind-bogglingly racist and shows the true colors that you even had the nerve to say that. Black women need to let go of the myth that an afro is messy and unprofessional. It’s ridiculous, and just goes to show that black women really have not come far in accepting their hair. That should have been number on one this list.

NaturallyNeesh
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

Yea, I have 4C hair and I tell people all the time that maintaining natural hair is as hard or easy has you make it. Maintaining hair in general is the same…relaxed, weaved, wigged…doesn’t matter lol. Also, I have never had an issue with getting a job while my hair was in it’s natural state. I have even had braids and twists in and had no issues.

People just have a mindset that gets in their way sometimes.

Veronica
Veronica
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

Another common misconception is that women with natural hair are Afrocentric militants that do spoken word poetry. That simply isn’t true. There are all kinds of naturals that wear their hair natural for all kinds of reasons.

Puff
6 years ago

Did anyone else think the two ladies above were twins? Or is this some sort of trick photography? Which by the way would be amazing! I’d love to see a whole series of ladies doing their hair for themselves! 😀

PMS
PMS
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

At least sisters if not twins!

Marra Joelle
6 years ago

That natural hair takes a long time to do (in order for it to be presentable)
That natural hair needs a ton of different products to make it look nice.
https://www.youtube.com/user/myfashionforreal
http://www.jadorejoelle.com

lablooplah
lablooplah
6 years ago
Reply to  Marra Joelle

often perpertuated by naturalistas themselves. I think it has to do with the obsession of curl defining. Like i get it. some of us have harder times getting our curls to clump but let’s be real, accept that your hair has propensity for frizziness and that’s not a bad thing that’s just how your hair is. I speak for myself personaly. and when my curls clump on their own they tend to lock too. it’s really annoying like. Some things concerning natural hair should not be first priority. esp if it takes more work than necessary.

Lo
Lo
6 years ago

I must say that the reason for the change in the way the author’s scalp behaves even after returning to her natural hair could be the fact that she is an adult now as opposed to her scalp as a child. Everything about a woman’s body changes over time especially after puberty and child birth. Relaxing could have and may have contributed or caused the change in her scalp but I’m more willing to believe that would have happened even if she had never had chemical processing. I am not pro relaxer or anything, I just don’t like when people… Read more »

bri
bri
6 years ago
Reply to  Lo

Moreover, if you were like me and had your hair relaxed during puberty you may have experienced hormonal changes that could have altered your body chemistry. Just as the skin on your face may change during that time in your life, so might your scalp.”
I am all for pointing out inconsistencies but the author actually did mention puberty and hormonal changes as a possible culprit as well.

cnj
cnj
6 years ago
Reply to  bri

The author pointed out that relaxed hair coupled with puberty may have caused hormonal changes. Lo is saying even if you didn’t relax your hair you may experience changes to your scalp. So don’t just outright blame relaxers for the changes you notice in your scalp.

bri
bri
6 years ago
Reply to  cnj

.…and the author didn’t do that.

S.
S.
6 years ago

I’ve been transitioning for almost a year. I am experiencing scab hair on the back of my head. Which seems to be a myth b/c of no scientific back up. I was confused b/c I was told that I wasn’t accepting my hair. I knew that was bs. I’ve had relaxers & keratin most of my life but I did go a few years wearing it naturally curly. My hair was never wiry & brittle. Never. 8 months into my transition I noticed smoothness coming from my scalp in the scab area. Scab hair is not a myth. What has… Read more »

S.
S.
6 years ago

I’ve been transitioning for almost a year. I am experiencing scab hair on the back of my head. Which seems to be a myth b/c of no scientific back up. I was confused b/c I was told that I wasn’t accepting my hair. I knew that was bs. I’ve had relaxers & keratin most of my life but I did go a few years wearing it naturally curly. My hair was never wiry & brittle. Never. 8 months into my transition I noticed smoothness coming from my scalp in the scab area. Scab hair is not a myth. What has… Read more »

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

No 1. Natural hair myth that i know is that “Natural hair doesn’t grow” but thankfully, that myth has been BUSTED! The second natural hair myth that i know is that it is difficult to take care of natural hair. I still get questions about how I’m able to come my natural hair and why it doesn’t hurt when i comb it. For me, I’ve taken the time to learn about my natural hair and what it likes and dislikes. Yes, it was difficult at first but now taking care of my natural hair is easy for me and i… Read more »

amor.
amor.
6 years ago

I also think how frequent you wash and whether or not you use shampoo depends on your head of hair. All naturals don’t share the same principles regarding hair care which I think is important above all. Black women and our hair come in all varieties, so people (particularly those not familiar with our hair) should understand that.

Good info nonetheless.

Pat
Pat
6 years ago

I thank God that I’m back to natural because I wash my hair as often as I need to without drama, really glad about that. My hair is always clean.

Karen
6 years ago

My biggest drawback to washing hair is how long it takes to dry!!! The boredom of sitting with a hair dryer brings tears to my eyes not to mention the straw like hair I end up with 🙁

Adía
Adía
6 years ago
Reply to  Karen

maybe your hair dryer is too high/hot

nappy headed black girl

I always laugh at #3. I wash my hair a million times more as a natural than I did when relaxed, and I know many other ladies who do so as well. Whereas before I was trying to “sleep cute” and preserve a style, now I wash to my heart’s content lol

Another hygiene myth is that freeform dreads are nasty. For some reason people seem to think freeform=no maintenance. While it’s true that we don’t manipulate our roots, guess what? We still wash our hair. Low maintenance does not equal no maintenance.

Violet
Violet
6 years ago

I have come across people with locs who’s hair smelled horrendous. This is not all of them, but I have had first hand experience with this stereotype. Everyone has their preferences on hair smells and hair maintenance. Certain natural hair products from back in the day use to smell disgusting to me and I’m sure I’m not the only one who skipped the African Pride and Sulfur 8 in favor of Pantene. Also, there are women who aren’t washing and drying their hair properly and allowing their hair to sour under their braids, weaves, or locs. That’s just bad hygiene… Read more »

Puff
6 years ago
Reply to  Violet

What I think what she was intending to touch on is that Black natural hair is suffering from this stereotype due to people who do not have Black hair and do not understand maintenance. I’m sure we all have stories involving white people reacting to the fact that we don’t wash our hair everyday. I think that has been the main reason for the stereotype to have formed because for white people, not washing everyday equals nasty/smelly hair which just isn’t the case for most people with Black hair. Frankly, there aren’t enough black people with natural hair around white people… Read more »

Ardie
Ardie
6 years ago
Reply to  Violet

Violet you are so right, as locs gained acceptance and was adopted by people not of the Rastafarian culture/religion/lifestyle/practice, I noticed individuals that did not give locs their due reverence. For lots of people it is just a style. Locs can be very dense and the individual may not be able to reach their scalp to cleanse thoroughly. If you can’t get to or afford a salon, it’s time to “Phone A Friend”. Also, there are individuals that go natural, wear weaves, loc up because they think it will be easier to maintain. Rule of thumb, if you didn’t like… Read more »

Puff
6 years ago
Reply to  Ardie

Ardie, there’s a lot going on in your comment here. Some of it is quite loaded. It’s interesting you mention a slave mentality for other Black people when you making accusations that Black people are hostile is very much a slave mindset. Divide and conquer has always been a tactic to destroy cultures. When Black and White slaves started to ban together to revolt against owners in early colonial times, slave owners were quick to create classes of slaves which is where indentured servants were established for poor White people. Then slave owners further did this by creating colorism class… Read more »

Ardie
Ardie
6 years ago
Reply to  Puff

No, I don’t only take steps with my blackness, I have researched my PR, Bajan and Irish ancestors as well. I have researched things like the Metu Neter, The Willie Lynch letter, The Isis’s Papers and this is just to name a few I have been studying since 1997. It was not my intention to come across as if I was referring to all but I have been to many states and quite a few countries while serving in the Military over 24 years. Believe me I don’t have any love for the oppressor, but lest we forget, we did… Read more »

Mika
Mika
6 years ago

The notion that afro-textured hair is ungroomed, messy, uncared for, and distracting unless pinned up, twisted out, braided down or curled up! Perpetuated by many so called naturalists themselves.

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