In grade school, my schoolmate asked me why my hair was so weird. Growing up with just a couple other black families in New Hampshire, I answered many a question about being black. Now, I generally believe that there are no stupid questions, but I'm going to be real with you — some of them were pretty stupid, as if underneath brown skin didn't lie the same organs and blood running through our veins. This particular question, however, was a very good one, albeit, phrased in a mildly offensive way. Since I didn't care to ever have a conversation with the aforementioned classmate again, I don't think I ever gave her an answer or found out for myself. Once I chopped off all my hair, I found that many of my relaxed pals were under the impression my hair would be short forever — that natural hair could not grow. This obviously was alarming, so I realized I needed to get some answers as to "why my hair was so weird" and how I could get more people to embrace their natural hair state.
Black hair, when not altered by hot-combs, relaxers, or straighteners, will grow in a tiny springy shaped curl varying in pattern. Often, the coarser the hair the more matte or dry in appearance and because of the spirally shape it can be more prone to breakage. It certainly may appear to be the thickest hair type, but in actuality it has fewer hair shafts in comparison to straight hair.
There are a bunch of interesting theories as to why black hair is so unique; one being the fact that the hair evolved to sustain the African heat. The light density combined with the coil shape give off an airy effect that makes the hair able to retain its springiness under moisture such as sweat or humidity. This is pretty solid info, since one major tip when shampooing natural hair is to rinse your hair under warm water for up to 10 minutes. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in from the rain only to find my hair completely dry! The basic theory is that the hair was able to maintain comfort under super hot conditions. Not going to lie, I'm pretty hot under all this hair, regardless.
One major complaint I hear from my relaxed pals is that they just don't have the time to maintain healthy natural hair and the common fear is breakage. Puh-leeeeeaze, if you have three hours to spend on monthly relaxers or the half hour it takes to unwrap your locks and style accordingly each day, then you have time to be natural. I like to think of it as project management for my hair. "What will my hair get up to this week?" I ask myself, then plan accordingly. Here are some serious hair myths that need addressing!
Relaxed Hair is Easier to Manage
Untrue. As stated above, natural hair does involve a little bit of planning and TLC. I never thought I could be a good mother, aunt, or caretaker of any kind until I got an afro. I grocery shop for my hair, and listen to its wants and needs daily. Oh, you don't feel like coming out today? That's no problem! We'll wear a fancy hat and you can take a couple days off. You suddenly hate avocado? But two weeks ago, you said you only wanted avocado... Ok, fine! Let's try an egg. This is how you should be treating your natural or relaxed hair. If your hair isn't responding well to heat then don't put heat on it. Both types of strands can suffer serious breakage if not well-nourished and properly maintained.
Hair Shouldn't be Washed Often
This is a common myth that most of us believe. When I first chopped off my hair, my hairdresser told me to wash my hair with my body in the shower. I told her that I showered daily and sometimes twice; she looked at me like I was crazy. Black hair loves water; washing often helps remove product and oil-buildup as well as cleaning the scalp to make those hair follicles strong and stimulate hair growth. By the way, when I say "daily washing," I don't necessarily mean you have to use shampoo every day — antiseptic oils are often just as effective. I definitely struggle with the desire to have longer locks verses giving my hair daily drinks of water. Water will shrink your curls and make it appear shorter, but fight the urge to skip rinses with the notion that the stronger your curls are the more likely you are able to grow your hair to your desired length. Embrace your shrinkage by rinsing often and keeping your mane clean — it will pay off.
Greasing the scalp makes hair grow faster
No. Greasing your scalp is a terrible idea and it will not make your hair grow. In fact, petroleum or mineral oil based products tend to smother the hair shaft and diminish the amount of toxins your mane can fight off. If you're looking to give yourself a solid scalp treatment to treat the root of a growth problem, use castor oil or an all-natural carrier oil that can put the moisture back into your scalp with little negative side effects.
Black Hair is Strong
The woman under the 'do may be strong, but the hair itself is not. Hence, my many baby analogies about my own 'fro. The curls in natural black hair are super tight, and research has shown that the tighter the curls the dryer and weaker the hair can be due to the delicate hair structure.
Braids are the Best Protective Style
I love me some twists and braids, so much so that sometimes I have to take a break. Twisting and braiding my hair nightly just to take it out in the AM to get some serious length to my fro is a regular part of my hair routine. Sadly, braids and weaves will pull your hair, making the strands weak and subject to breakage. The best way to avoid this? Make sure your braids aren't too tight and you don't leave them in for too long. Also, alternating parts in your hair and braid styles will ensure that your hair isn't being pulled in the same place constantly. And remember: Just because that 'fro is put away, doesn't mean you shouldn't be adding moisture and water to it regularly.