Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Do You Know About Black Hair?

Dispelling Common Misconceptions about Black Hair

Hello Beautiful Ones,
Before the natural hair movement, there were not many resources to help us understand our hair. We were taught certain practices that have damaged our hair over time. Myths have been perpetuated and have been encouraged so long that many black women do not know the real truths about the hair on their head. Let me dispel some of the most common truths.
·         Black Hair Doesn’t Grow
It is true that black hair in its natural state is more prone to shrinkage, especially when moist or wet. So, it is the perception that most black women have short hair, because their true length is hard to see. Every human being has a predetermined length and predetermined growth rates. Hair grows on average 4-6 inches per year. Most black women have never reach or maintained their terminal length (the longest hair can grow given the length of its growing phase).  Many of us reach a shoulder length plateau. The main cause is due to a general lack of proper care or a lack of a protein/moisture balance in our hair regimen. The good news is black hair can grow and will grow when it is properly cared for and gently handled. Hair preservation and hair retention is the key to getting lengthy locs.
·         Hair is Alive
Technically, hair is dead.  Not just the ends, but the entire strand. There are no living cells above the hair follicle. We sometimes assume it is alive due to lifelike characteristics: shine, elasticity, and resilience. Cathy Howse, author of Ultra Black Hair Growth II, states it best, “That's the reason it does not hurt to cut it”.
·         Hair Grease is Best for Black Hair
I remember sitting in between my mom’s legs as she reached in a jar of grease and scooped a big glop of grease and massaged my scalp with it. The next day my scalp felt suffocated and my hair was weighed down. This is a common tradition in the black household with mothers and daughters, but it is an unhealthy hair practice. Grease is not recommended, especially for daily use because the main ingredient is petroleum or mineral oil. These oils do not penetrate the hair shaft and it blocks moisture from entering the hair shaft which can contribute to an itchy scalp, dryness, and dandruff.
·         Water is Bad for Black Hair
Many black women wash their hair infrequently and stay away from water because we are taught that water will dry out our hair’s natural oils. Water is our hair’s greatest moisturizer. Black hair thrives in environments with high moisture. Water improves the hair’s moisture content because it is encouraged to bind within the hair shaft each time you shampoo and condition your hair.  Water cannot dry your hair. It is the infrequent cleansing and conditioning, improper use of products and the application of harsh products that will dry your hair out.
·         Black Hair is Difficult to Manage & Black Hair is Hard to Style
There is a misconception that black hair is only kinky or tightly coiled and it is always dry and brittle. Because of this myth, people think without a chemical relaxer or treatment, black hair can only be worn as an afro. Black hair is very versatile. Black hair can be healthy with the use of proper hair care techniques.  We are known to style are hair in many different ways. If you are starting your natural hair journey and have a TWA (tiny weenie afro), your styling versatility may be limited. However, as it grows longer you can achieve many more hairstyles, such as: Bantu Knots, Braids, Coils, Cornrows, Curly Afro Puff, Flat twists, French Braids, Locs, Rod Sets, and Two-strand twists.
·         Black Natural Hair is Strong
It appears to be strong, but actually it is very fragile and should be handled with extreme care. In its natural state it bends in many angles along the hair shaft. With black hair, the shape and diameter does remain constant along the entire length of an individual hair strand. These bends and changes along the hair fiber make our hair weaker as opposed to it being uniformly straight from root to end.
·         Brushing Stimulates Growth with Black Hair
Brushing can sometimes stimulate the scalp; however, it causes major damage to the shaft of the hair. Brushes, especially used in a rough manner can strip and rake away the cuticles of the shaft. Moreover, it can lead to extreme breakage or hair loss.
·         Trimming Aids in Black Hair Growth
Hair grows from the scalp, not from your ends. Hair growth occurs from within the scalp at the root. To see progress in your hair growth journey you must preserve the hair strand and retain the hair by protecting the ends, which is the oldest part of your hair. Trimming should be used if you want a neat, even appearance, need to rid the hair of weathered, damaged, or split ends. Also it can be used for single strand knots. Unnecessary trimming works against your hair growth and hair retention.

I hope this cleared up some things you were taught about black hair. Understanding what makes black hair thrive is the key.

Good luck on your healthy hair journey!


Hair Kitty Kitty


1.       Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care, ( Stafford, Texas: Saja Publishing Company, LLC, 2011).
2.       Cathy Howse, Ultra Black Hair Growth II, (UBH Publications, Inc., 2000).
3.       Chicoro, Grow It: How to Grow Afro-Textured Hair to Maximum Lengths in  the Shortest Time, (ChicoroGYA Publishing, 2009).
4.       Photo Credit: madamenoire.com

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