What’s Up With Black Women’s Hair?

ARE black women vain about their hair that they have to spend so much time and money for literally a thousand hair styles in any given year only to look good and stylish?

Or have black women been so conditioned to have a disdain for their natural and fabulously kinky hair. Is it self-hate expressed in a desire for wavy, long, lustrous hair or simply a manifestation of ultimate choice? Or black women are simply under pressure to look pretty that they squander so much on hair.

Black hair is particularly prone to damage as it is quite delicate and needs gentle handling. But it appears that few black women are uncomfortable wearing their hair in its natural form despite the fact that it’s an obvious healthy choice. And, of course, there are vultures that cash in on it.

From chemical straightening that burns the hair and scalp, colouring, permings, balding, braiding, weavings and wigs, legions of black women’s hair has never really known natural freedom.

The dollar value of the industry that churns out black women’s hair products is estimated to be $9 billion with weaves and relaxers being the cash cow. And surprisingly much of it originates from India where women shave their hair as a religious expression. That hair is cleaned, processed and packaged and sold to black women across the world. Next to software, hair targeted at black women is a big export in India.

“You cannot touch a black woman’s hair. You are conditioned not to even go there,” quipped popular US comedian Chris Rock who was intrigued by his daughter’s fascination that he made a whole documentary titled “Good Hair“.

Across the globe, it appears most black women are against letting their hair express its natural waves and curls.

In fact, there seems to be a lack of desire to experiment with natural hair.

“There’s always this sort of pressure within the black community like, if you have good hair, you’re prettier or better than the brown-skinned girl that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle,” says actress Nia Long in the film “Good Hair”

The pressure is quite apparent judging by how much black women keep their hair covered in braids and weaves.

Sodium hydroxide, an ingredient in relaxers, is said to be so strong that it can burn a woman’s hair off.  Maybe, its time that black women redefined what beautiful hair means, gain a sense of pride in their natural hair, and save their time and money is endless salon visits.

There is also the politics of image involved: wearing natural hair can be seen as intimidating in some circles. However, the biggest problem is that black women are conditioned to do all sorts of things to their hair from when they are young. And with most black women, the whole natural hair argument is difficult to win.


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