|This is all me, baby!|
Hair and black women are two things that when put in the same sentence will automatically trigger a firestorm. Due to the issues with black hair, it’s rare to see black females with natural hair.
Because blacks (people of African descent) and some other groups, such as some Pacific Islanders, have the type of hair that is nearly unmanageable, they often resort to all sorts of madness and experiments that have only created more drama.
Many people may not understand the hang-up blacks, particularly black females, have when it comes to hair, so I’ll try to break it down.
|Meagan Good’s relaxed hair weave|
The most common type of hair in the world is straight hair. Straight hair is more genetically dominant than curly hair, also. It’s also more desired in society. Most ethno-racial groups have straight hair as the dominant type (East, South, West Asians, Europeans and Native Americans). This is not true for people of Indigenous African descent (blacks). Most blacks have what is generally grouped as “black hair,” thought of as ‘tightly curled’ hair that breaks off and dries out easily.
See the three types of black hair.
This doesn’t seem like much of a problem on its own, and in African cultures removed from the pressures of Western Society, it isn’t a problem at all.
However, in an ethno-culturally integrated world, and particularly, a society obsessed with beauty and glamor, it’s a problem.
Females are judged for their beauty and hair is very much apart of that. Where the ideal for beautiful hair is long, flowing (and blond) hair, black females are put on the bottom of the pedestal. Furthermore, long hair is ascribed as a feminine trait, and as I mentioned, black hair doesn’t grow that long.
The combination of social pressure, and natural feminine desire has virtually made black females slaves to their hair, which in turn plays a major role in their self-esteem issues.
Often, to live up to the expectations, black females use chemically dangerous products called relaxers, or [hair] cream in the Caribbean. The process of ‘relaxing’ black hair, called lanthionization, became the solution that many black females use to fit society’s ideal.
The relaxer was first developed by Garrett A. Morgan Sr. in the 19th century. Its main ingredient is sodium hydroxide (NaOH), mixed with oil, water and other minerals. When applied to the hair, it loosens the protein structure of the hair, which in turn loosens the tight coils, creating the straightened look. Other types of relaxers exist, but are not widely known or used. (see Meagan Good above for relaxed hair.)
The problem with relaxer is the main ingredient-sodium hydroxide, which makes up between 5 and 15 percent of the relaxer’s content. The chemical is unstable and is known for causing permanent chemical burns and blindness if it gets in the eyes. It is flammable, too. It’s also the same chemical used in pipe drainers. And yes, black females use it in their hair.
|Mary J. asks: can you see the lacefront?|
While relaxers take care of the “texture” of black hair, wigs, weaves and extensions give black hair length and fullness, which helps them to achieve full social approval. However, like the relaxer, wigs, weaves and extensions bring their own troubles. A full head weave or wig that’s popular is the lace-front.This variety is common among celebrities like Tyra Banks and Beyonce.
A good example of lace front weave on singer Mary J. Blige (left).
|Naomi is losing it (hair)|
Generally, females prefer weaves and extensions. Weaves and extensions can be sewn in or glued into the natural hair. This is not good for the natural hair since it often destroys natural hair follicles and lead not only to thinning hair, but full blown alopecia (permanent hair loss or bald patches in the head). Model Naomi Campbell, right, is believed to suffer from alopecia due to dependency on weaving. You can see the bald patches below the weave she wears.
|Various styles of braids|
The general alternative to wigs, weaves and extensions are braids. Braids are slightly better than weaves and extensions, and often involve braiding or plaiting fake or natural human hair (bought from India) into one’s own natural hair. Braids can last up to three months in good conditions, but like weaves and extensions, they can cause bald patches and hair loss, if done too tightly.
|Tina Turner wears a wig|
Nonetheless, these techniques remain popular. Many black females get their hair relaxed from an early age, and it’s rare to find a black female who has not tried at least two of the previously mentioned hair techniques I have mentioned. Soul-Rock icon Tina Turner (right) lost all her hair after a chemical accident with relaxers and dye as a young woman.
This is the price many black females, both famous and non-famous, are willing to pay for good hair, which is considered the key to fitting into the feminine beauty standards.