Black care specialists get inundated with a lot of concerns as it pertains to African American hair. Some of the questions asked the most are the following:
Why is my / my daughter’s hair so dull?
Why is my / my daughter’s hair so dry?
These questions and others are addressed in this article. The bad news is that I cannot relay to you exactly what is the ideal solution for you or for your child. This is because proper care maintenance is less like a science and more like an art.
Every individual’s hair is unique, therefore requiring a slightly altered maintenance routine. Even my two daughters have very unique hair. This is evident because I’ll go out and buy an oil that is great for one but doesn’t work for the other. It took years of trial and error to develop routines that work best for all three of us, and yet I still find myself changing these when I find new products and as I gain more experience.
Our publication is starting to get many more requests from white mothers who have children of black descent and are totally blind-sided when it comes to taking care of black hair. Black hair has a large range of textures and needs.
Here are some common expectations for African American hair:
The number one complaint we get about black hair is that it looks dry or dull. Before you go too far to make your natural hair full of sheen and shine, it’s best to have the proper expectation. Natural Black or African hair will not be as shiny as permed hair or Caucasian hair.
A major part of what makes hair shiny is the structure of the hair, not just the amount of oil or moisture it contains. If the cuticles lay flat (smooth hair), the hair will reflect light better (translated will appear shiny). If the cuticles are raised, the hair will absorb light (translated will appear more dull).
Unless you change the structure of the hair (as in getting a perm or relaxer for us African Americans), black hair will only be so shiny. The practice of applying a bunch of grease to make it shinier, can actually end up damaging the hair. Having said that, natural African hair can appear healthy, smooth and have a nice healthy sheen.
Another complaint we sometimes get (again it seems usually from White mothers) is that their child’s hair is too curly or too frizzy. There are some things you can do to control frizziness and curliness.
But, if you want to effect “permanent” (permanent until it grows out anyway) changes, you are looking at a chemical process. One thing we often advise mothers about though is please do not expect your child’s hair to be like yours. And, please do not make her feel as though something is wrong with her hair because it’s “frizzy” or curly.
You should picture your child’s hair as a collection of fine fibers. You should treat it as gently as you would a fine washable silk blouse. The better you treat her hair, the easier it will be to grow and the better it will look. You should be aware that African hair and biracial hair tends to be drier than Caucasian hair.
The structure of our hair makes it more difficult for the oils to work their way from the scalp to the ends of the hair. Because our hair is kinky, it tends to tangle more and pulling these tangles out can cause breakage. In spite of appearances, black hair and biracial hair tends to be more fragile than Caucasian hair.
The lack of moisture and elasticity and the kinks that get grabbed when styling or combing make for hair that can be broken easily. Someone once asked me if natural hair is meant to be combed. Actually, the answer probably is no. I don’t think our hair was structured to be combed at all. So, as long as we’re going to do it, we have to do it causing the least amount of damage possible.
Both of my daughters have natural hair. We receive a lot of compliments about their hair. We have a mixed heritage (as do most African Americans). But, many of the same things I do for them can be adapted for biracial hair care. Here are my “secrets”.