September 26, 2012

Black Hair

Sometimes I get questions about how to daily care for black hair.  All of the following is from personal experience.

Most girls and women desire to have long hair because it is a mark of our femininity in the current culture and has been, probably since Creation.  The best way, and for many the only way, black females are able to grow their hair is to let it remain natural.  By natural I mean without chemical additives that permanently damage the hair.  She would always wear it as an afro.  As soon as she begins to process her hair with chemicals and heat, the strength is compromised, it becomes very fragile and breaks very easily.  If a black woman keeps her hair natural, then it is actually very easy to maintain on a daily basis.  Using a wide-toothed comb she might part her hair into sections, comb or brush each section and braid them individually or style into afro puffs.  She might like cornrows, twists, dreds or even braided extensions.  These former styles can last up to several weeks or years (dreds) if washed carefully.  Daily apply some grease (it's like a translucent solid oil, like see-through Crisco or petroleum jelly) or braid oil spray and style as desired.

Do not wash black hair daily.  This robs the hair of essential oils as the texture is dry and brittle.  Once a week is sufficient but no more than twice a week.  Rinsing the hair might be okay if no cleansers are applied (I don't have a beautician's license, so ask a professional if you have further questions.)

Once the black woman begins to chemically treat her hair, then much more maintenance is required so that it will not break off.  I have a permanent relaxer that I apply to my roots every 6 weeks or so.  When I wash my hair, no more than twice weekly, I use a moisturizing shampoo for treated/damaged hair.  I follow that with a deep penetrating conditioning reconstructor that I rinse out after 5 - 10 minutes, then I use a leave-in conditioner.  Before blow drying my hair I apply an oil moisturizer while it's still a little damp so that the oil can have more even coverage.  I let my hair air dry for a while for two reasons: 1. From start to finish, it takes a lot of time that a busy momma just can't risk leaving her small children unattended for so long if they're awake; and 2. To minimize the amount of heat applied to the hair.  After blow drying I will use a hot curling iron to turn the ends under.  At night I will cover my head with a silk scarf to prevent elastic bands from further breaking my hair.  The curls will stay intact if I avoid humidity until it's next washing.  Daily I apply an oil moisturizer before combing to my desired style.

It sounds like a lot of work.  Maintaining a relaxed style is a lot of work especially when I touch up my roots and when I wash it.  But my natural texture is a very thick afro that I affectionately call my "rat's nest."  To me, I really enjoy being able to comb my hair.  With a natural head of hair, combing is not possible.  As soon as I comb or brush the knots out of a section of hair, it just gets knotted back up in less than ten seconds unless I cornrow or braid it.  Plus, my husband prefers to be able to run his fingers through my hair, which would be impossible if I maintained an afro.  Maybe one day, when I reach 50, I'll forsake the perm and go natural with a feminine afro and accent with some flowers, jewels or large gold hoop earrings.  If you do see a black woman with a beautifully shaped afro, be kind and don't go poke a hole in it or scrunch it with your hands.  It probably took her 20 minutes to get it to look that way.

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