Quite a few people have asked and are wondering why African-American hair is so different. Some are also wondering why so many women (and some men) choose to wear braids, or keep their hair short. Here are some of those reasons.
All of the differences between African-American and non African-American hair start beneath the scalp. Under the scalp of every person’s hair are sebaceous glands. These glands secrete sebum (oil) that nourish the hair follicle and the skin surface. Non African-American glands secrete larger amounts of this oil which require it to be washed away on usually a daily basis. However, this is not the case with black hair.
Black hair oil secretion is actually considerably lower. Due to this, black hair is very delicate and can be prone to breakage if not moisturized or hydrated properly. This is why moisture is added to black hair. With the use of oil and other hydrating products the desired level of hydration is achieved. Also due to the fact that moisture must be added, the need to wash away oil and build up isn’t as often as most. In fact too much washing, or stripping away of oils can also cause considerable amounts of breakage due to dryness.
This is an idea of what someone with “black hair” would go through on a daily basis.
- Shampoo- A hydrating shampoo is essential to prevent dryness and breakage. In most cases only a small amount of shampoo should be used (approximately the size of a quarter).
- Conditioner- Again hydration is key, but a considerable amount more of conditioner is necessary than shampoo (in some cases about 1/4 cup).
- Oil or hydrate with an additional moisturizer- This is massaged into the hair and scalp.
- Blow dry or wrap- If blow drying is the preference this is accomplished by the dividing the hair into equal parts (usually 4) and then blow drying the hair piece by piece and section by section. If a wrap is preferred (usually done at night) a wrapping lotion is usually used and the hair is wrapped in a circular motion around the head and secured with an actual wrap or scarf. This is the best way to avoid dryness and maintain moisture. However, there are women who prefer not to sleep with anything on their head and therefore opt to sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase to help maintain moisture. *Cotton pillowcases can by drying and damaging.
- Styling- Depending upon the style there are different tools used for this. Curling irons, flat irons, and heated rollers can all be damaging. Knowing this there are women that will occasionally choose a straight style look that can be obtained simply just by blow drying.
And all of this must be repeated every time the hair gets wet. Either by showering, shampooing, going swimming, or rain.
In order to avoid the above process some will choose to wear their hair in braids. The convenience is extraordinary and is my own personal choice. Braids allow more freedom with your time and money (especially if you do the braids yourself). It allows you to shampoo, condition, add moisture and avoid the styling process. It also provides convenience when going to bed since all that is needed is the appropriate pillow case.
Contrary to popular believe women with “black hair” are capable of growing their hair long. However the process becomes lengthier and lengthier depending upon the length of the hair. To avoid making this process so time consuming some have also made the decision to cut their hair short. It cuts more than half of the time down when having to do ones hair.
Another way of making this process a little easier is by relaxing/perming the hair. Black hair is 85% keratin and protein. Relaxers are a cream based chemical that will break down that protein permanently which straightens the hair. This needs to be reapplied every so often as the hair grows, but does make for easier styling and offers more choices than with natural/unrelaxed hair.