The thought of many women going through life never discovering their unique beauty is sad. More and more of us are discovering our natural hair, but this only re-emerged in recent years. There are women who have gone their whole lives, from early childhood using relaxers or covering their natural hair constantly with weaves or wigs. Many of the older women in my family have gone natural, not necessarily because they decided to embrace their natural hair but because they were forced to. However, they are happy they did and have vowed to never return to relaxers. As we age our hair naturally thins, in particular after menopause. Hence we see older women in the black community reliant on wigs due to thinning hair. The use of perms is likely to accelerate this process, especially if they are used for decades. Some women at this stage go natural to minimise the risk of baldness or a non-existent hairline.
The only regret I had when I went natural was that I didn’t do it sooner, or remained natural since birth! My confidence or self-esteem growing up would have been greater or at least the same (with everything else being equal) as most of the girls of different races in school, who enjoyed healthy long hair. Embracing my natural hair would have allowed me to see my unique beauty, neither superior nor inferior to other standards of beauty, but just what made me unique.
If we pursue a European standard of beauty our whole lives and adopt terminology such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ hair, spend more time caring for a weave, than we do our real hair, we may go through life looking like a carbon copy of someone else. On my travels and at home I have had people of different races compliment me on my hair and ask me about it. Some ask if it is real or how I get my hair the way it is. When I say it is my natural hair, they seemed to have a ‘ah ha’ moment, realizing that this is what African hair looks like. It’s hard to believe, but many still do not have a clue what Afro-textured hair looks like and its unique features. In fact, Afro-textured hair is the most unique hair in the world and it varies greatly from person to person. No other race of people has hair like ours, yet many end up overwhelmed by its differences and suppress them in order to conform it to what is popular or deemed acceptable in their eyes.
Can you imagine if popular hair vloggers such as; Naptural85, Hair Crush or Mahogany Curls never went natural? or constantly hid their natural hair under weaves and wigs. They wouldn’t be enjoying the healthy, versatile, long and luscious natural hair they showcase today, on their YouTube Channels and in social media. They also wouldn’t have the numerous business opportunities they have benefitted from. They would simply blend in with every other black woman who has a perm or weave. Natural hair not only affects the way we look and view ourselves, it also creates opportunities for us to build and support black own businesses in the hair and beauty industry and beyond. It has allowed us to become producers rather than consumers. Since we spend the most in this industry, it’s only right that we begin to profit from it, on a much larger scale.
Of course if you are perfectly happy with relaxed hair or weaves that’s your personal decision. However, many of us – if not the majority – have experienced damage from relaxers and hair that didn’t grow past a certain point. I believe chemical relaxers are the reason for the stereotype about black woman, not being able to grow long hair. If you are on a health journey and want to avoid chemicals, don’t wait until your hair starts thinning due to age. Do it now while your hair is at its best, to enjoy and experience in all its glory.
~Be unique, be you~
What are your thoughts on this? Do weaves and perms prevent us from discovering our unique beauty? Please share below in the comments section.
Natural hair is so versatile, there are many new styles and techniques to try. The most popular styles of course are braid outs, twists outs, perm rod sets, flexi rods sets or bantu knot outs to name a few. However, when you try these styles for the first time, you may not know how to maintain them, especially when you go to bed. During the relaxed hair days most of us were used to wrapping our hair at night, but this will not work for curly or kinky natural hair. Here are some methods for maintaining your hair at night.
Some women prefer to simply re-twist or re-braid their hair at night, all over again, for maintaining twist/braid outs. This is done on dry hair and you don’t necessarily have to reapply product, so it is usually quicker than the initial styling.
Pros: it is the most effective way to maintain definition and you can continue to wear a braid/twist out for the entire week. Other methods on the other hand may only maintain definition for couple of days. You could also get away with simply doing four or five twists in the front rather than the whole head. This will make your style look as good as new, as the less defined hair in the back will not be noticeable.
Cons: very time-consuming, especially if you’ve had a long day and simply want to get into bed. The existing curl pattern may interfere with the new twists or braids, making the hair harder to shape as desired.
This is simply putting your hair into a loose low bun. Just put your hair in a ponytail and twist the rest of the hair into a bun, following the general direction of the curls.
Pros: It is the quickest method and doesn’t require you to delay going to bed in order to re-style. It also works to stretch the hair, giving you more length and combating shrinkage. Some women even prefer their second day hair as it is more stretched and fuller after bunning their hair at night.
Cons: It may stretch the hair so much, that it soon loses definition. If definition is important to you, you may have to redo the hair after a couple of days.
This method works well for maintaining bantu knot outs or hair that has been straightened. Check out this method.
Pros: a great way to create elongated waves when you have straightened hair. Less time-consuming than redoing bantu knots.
Cons: may not be suitable for maintaining twist outs and braid outs. Requires the use of a lot of bobbi pins.
Putting your hair into a high, loose ponytail and sleeping on a satin pillowcase or wrapping a satin scarf around your edges.
Pros: can be used for maintaining wash and gos, twist outs, braid outs and flexi rod sets. Preserves the curls by keeping them up high on your head, so you don’t lay and rub on them as you sleep. You can simply sleep on a satin pillowcase and avoid wearing a scarf or bonnet. This method may also help to stretch the hair.
Cons: may not be suitable for type 4 kinky hair, which, has a tendency to adopt whatever shape it has been put into overnight. When I try this method, my hair tends to stick up, and I have to spend time getting my hair to fall how I like it to. Type 4 hair also shrinks more. Shrunken hair may be harder to put into a pineapple and even harder to take down. It does not stretch the hair as well as the bunning method.
Re-twisting or braiding the hair in large sections, usually 3 or 4 twists or braids.
Pros: a much quicker method that allows you to get into bed sooner. The general shape and pattern of the curls are maintained.
Cons: not as thorough as re-braiding in smaller sections. More curl definition will be lost by the end of the week, compared to when the hair is re-twisted/braided in smaller sections.
Sleeping on a satin pillow case
This is simply forgetting the satin scarf or bonnet, no re-twisting, just leaving your hair out and sleeping on a satin pillowcase.
Pros: you can go to bed looking your best, which, may not always be the case when you have to wear a satin scarf. Plus, the satin pillowcase works just as well as a scarf, in preserving the moisture of your hair. You can also go straight to bed, no time-consuming hair maintenance before sleeping.
I’ve tried this myself with a flex-rod set and surprisingly, my hair looked great for the next couple of days. However, I did at least pin the front of my hair away from my face. This may also give your hair more volume, rather than making your hair appear flat, as satin scarves tend to do.
Cons: your hair is left to its own devices during the night, so you may wake up with untameable, messy hair in the morning.
The best method for me is the bunning method and re-twisting/braiding in large sections for braid outs and twist outs. I sometimes use the pineapple method for twist outs, braid outs and flexi-rod sets, but never for wash and gos, it simply doesn’t work as well. Check out how I maintain my wash and gos by clicking here.
How do you maintain your hair at night? Please share your ideas below.
When I first went natural there was not as much information online as there is today. Now there are endless numbers of blogs and video tutorials to help you on your journey. There are also numerous products on the market to choose from. All you have to do is Google what you are looking for and you will find a wealth of information from various sources, on natural hair. As much as this is a blessing there is also a downside, information overload!
One of the problems new naturals experience, is the complexity of everything now. When I first went natural, things were simpler. Most of the videos on YouTube were from vloggers who were just starting out on their journey, or only a couple of years ahead of me. Now, these same vloggers have been natural for 5 to 8 years and have waist to hip length hair. Their tutorials have become much more advanced and professional. They work with various cosmetics companies and are always introducing new products. It can all be too much to keep up with. So, here are a few ideas to help you along your way as a new natural to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
1. Start off with the basics when it comes to products
Stick with what you are familiar with, unless it is particularly harmful. You do not necessarily have to throw out your product collection straight away. Many of us were still using products with petroleum and mineral oil during the early stages of going natural. As your knowledge increases about natural products and ingredients you can gradually eliminate the bad stuff. Also, if you purchase some shea butter or coconut oil, you are halfway there. When I had a TWA (teeny-weeny afro), I simply sprayed my hair with water and glycerine to moisturize and bring out my natural curl pattern. That was all I needed, as well as a little oil or shea butter for sealing or smoothing my edges.
2. Focus on developing good techniques
I always stress; it is not the products that bring out the best in your hair but your techniques. Find the best hair regimen for you, which will include: washing, detangling, moisturizing, deep conditioning and styling. If you have a TWA, detangling will not take long at all. As your hair grows you will need to find a technique that suits your hair type and lifestyle. Finger detangling is considered gentler on the hair, especially if you have a kinky hair texture. You can detangle in the shower on wet hair, or on dry hair, using a little oil. Detangling in the shower on wet hair is usually quicker. You will gradually do what comes natural to you. Do not try to follow your favourite hair vlogger’s regimen to the letter, instead take some ideas and adapt them for your hair.
3. Adapt hair tutorials to suit your hair length
If your favourite vloggers have waist length hair don’t be discouraged. They are simply showing you what you have to look forward to. It is still possible to adapt their styles to suit your hair length though. You may need to braid or twist your hair in more sections and use a lot more pins, but it may still be possible to achieve your own version of the style. Take inspiration from them but don’t be down on yourself for not being at the same stage as them. Remember they were once newly natural too, with a TWA or short to medium length hair.
4. Don’t compare yourselves to others
If you have been natural for a year or two you may notice that some naturals have hair that grows at an alarming rate, or their hair may seem easier to manage. Afro textured hair is the most unique hair in the world and is extremely diverse. Without the regular use of harsh chemicals, your hair is likely to reach new lengths, never experienced before. Remember that most people’s hair grows between 2 to 6 years before the strands fall out and begin a new cycle. Even with the shortest growth cycle, the hair can still reach 12 inches, which is usually bra strap length. Hair care experts believe there is no reason why a person should not reach at least armpit length, with good hair care practices. So you may not have waist length hair in 3 years but you may reach the longest length your hair has ever been.
5. Find vloggers who have a similar hair type to your own
It’s great to watch a variety of hair vloggers, whatever their hair type you can find inspiration. However, also include those whose hair is similar to your own. It is quite encouraging to see them demonstrate styles that are likely to work well on your hair and also to share the struggles that you face with your hair type. No two people’s hair is exactly the same but seeing a vlogger with a similar hair type to your own may help you learn more.
6. Go through the archives
Many of the popular YouTube channels and natural hair blogs have been running for years now. Gone are the webcam videos, poor lighting and little to no editing. Now the same channels have become glossier, and the skills demonstrated by such vloggers are a lot more advanced. However, for a newly natural, such videos may seem too complicated for a beginner. Simply click on the YouTube channel and go to the videos or uploads section, click oldest to newest and it will flip their videos around to the very first ones. You will see vloggers with waist length hair back when they had a simple TWA, shea butter and a spray bottle of water. These are the videos that will teach you the basics. Do the same with hair blogs, click on the old articles from the very beginning or search for specific topics using the search tool on their page.
7. Watch flat twisting, two strand twists and cornrow tutorials
Knowing how to cornrow or flat twist is invaluable for women with natural hair. You can get as creative as you want or simply put your hair into a basic protective style any time. There are plenty of tutorials on this. Before you know it you could be helping your friends and relatives do their hair or even make some extra money from doing it. Most importantly you will have even more styling options and enjoy more versatility with your natural hair. I learned how to cornrow my own hair by simply watching styling tutorials for children’s’ hair.
8. Find simple styles that you can do easily
Check out the series: The Versatility of Natural Hair for styling ideas. Find styles that are attainable with your hair length or adaptable to your hair. Roll tuck and pins are simple protective styles that are easy to do. Whenever I’m in doubt, I simply put my hair in a puff. When your hair is short it can be simple to style, especially if you embrace your natural curl pattern. Simply spray your hair with water and glycerine, or water and aloe vera for shine and moisture. Some people like to do twist outs, braid outs, flat twists and coil outs on short to medium length hair. These styles can be time consuming on short hair but you may prefer to do them for versatility. Play around with accessories as well. A sparkly head band may be all you need to dress up a TWA.
9. Stay natural
In time you will reap the benefits of looking after your hair. Avoid using texturisers in an attempt to ‘soften your hair’. These are no different from relaxers. If you stay natural you will find that it was well worth it. Your natural hair simply displays more of your natural beauty. You can’t put a price on that!
What advice would you give to new naturals? If you have any specific questions as a new natural, please ask below?
Two strand twists are a staple style in the natural hair community and can be suitable for different hair lengths. Here are the benefits I have found by regularly styling my hair in this way. Putting your hair in two strand twists does not have to result in you looking like Celie in the color purple, or looking like a school girl. They can be both glamorous as well as practical. Here are six benefits:
Two strand twists are a great protective style
Styling your hair in this way is basically putting it away. There’s not much manipulation (if any) required, once this style is complete. Two strand twists are an excellent style for meeting your hair growth goals. It is very satisfying to see how much length has been retained once the twists are taken down. Even if you decide to wear your twists down, rather than pinning them up into an updo, you will at least be using a low manipulation style. Tucking your ends away will fully protect them and lead to even more length retention.
They are convenient
Although the initial installation of the twists can be time consuming, two strand twists save you time in the mornings. If you have a busy lifestyle and don’t have time to be styling your hair regularly, try two strand twists. If done with the best method, they can last at least two weeks. They also work well for people who work out regularly as they hold up pretty well compared to styles that involve maintaining curls such as braid outs or twist outs. When they start to look a little messy you can easily redo the front twists, rather than taking them all out and starting from scratch. They are also a practical style to do when going on holiday.
It is easier to moisturize your hair in two strand twists
To moisturize, simply spray lightly with water or a leave in conditioner and seal with a natural oil. Your hair is completely accessible with twists and you don’t have to worry about ruining the style. With other protective styles such as weaves and glued on wigs, your hair simply isn’t accessible. Any slight moisture with a twist-out can cause frizz and compromise the longevity of the style. This is not the case with two strand twists. Any frizz created is nothing that some water, aloe vera juice and a satin scarf couldn’t fix.
Two strand twists are very versatile
While your hair is in two strand twists, you can still enjoy many styles. They can be causal, formal, intricate and original. Leave the twists down or pin them up into an updo. Combine the twists with flat twists or install them loosely for volume. They can be done large, medium or small, depending on your preference and how long you want to spend installing them. I enjoy wearing my twists in a bun, using a sock bun or pinning them to the side to create a low side ponytail. You can also try different decorative accessories, like flower clips and stylist head bands. Here are just some variations of two strand twists you can try.
Loose two strand twists
Twisted side bun
This is one of my favourite two strand twist styles. I like to accessorize it with a large flower clip. I also adapted this style to create a low side jumbo braid.
They create a great twist-out at the end of the week
If you have an event to go to, simply take them out gently and you will have a great twist-out. Smaller twists create more definition and larger ones more volume. You could leave your twists in during the week then take them down for the weekend. They don’t have to stop you from enjoying your hair, quite the opposite in fact.
They are relatively easy to maintain
As mentioned before, If your twists start to look messy, simply redo the front ones that are visible. If you want to redo the whole head you can use your existing twists as a template. Re-twisting your existing twists saves you time sectioning and parting your hair all over again. You can extend the life of the style for as long as you choose to, or until your next wash day. Some people even wash their hair in the twists and simply re-twist. This is likely to reduce knots and tangles and make the hair easier to manage during washing.
Here are a few quick tips for maintaining your twists.
Keep your edges neat by spraying them lightly with water and putting your satin scarf on firmly. After 10-15 minutes your edges should be laid flat and neat.
Use aloe vera juice to banish frizz. The Ph level of aloe vera causes the hair cuticles to lay flat on contact. The result is less frizz and more shine. You can use aloe vera gel on your edges or lightly spray the juice all over your twists.
Use a rat-tail comb to part your hair neatly when installing the twists. This will help them appear neat for longer.
It is easier to install them on stretched hair as well, especially if you want length. You can stretch your hair using a blow dryer (try the tension method) or a heatless method.
If your twists start to shrink and you want your length back, wrap your twists at night. This is done in the same way relaxed hair is wrapped. Take a few twist at a time and wrap them in one direction around your head and pin down.
Do you wear two strand twists? Share your styling tips below.
Porsha Williams is yet another celebrity to reveal what’s underneath their weave, on Instagram. The Dish Nation and Real Housewives star took a quick selfie with her natural hair, just before installing her trademark waist length weave, captioning it: “Natural for 2.5 sections”. Many commented rightly on how beautiful her hair was and even how healthy her edges looked. It does make me wonder why many celebrities continue to cover their natural tresses with weaves or wigs of a completely different hair texture. Perhaps their natural afro-textured hair isn’t considered glamorous enough for their world.
Many claim it is simply to ‘protect’ their hair. I understand that weaves and wigs can be a great protective style, and celebrities often manipulate their hair for events, photo shoots etc. However, too much of anything is never good and we have seen the effects of perpetual weaving from such celebrities as Naomi Campbell, Countess Vaughn and Tamar Braxton. The thinning of the hairline or hair in general, can often result, especially if they use chemicals as well. Maybe this is why such celebs take the ‘ real hair’ selfies, to prove that not all of them are balding under their weaves, and they could rock their natural hair if they wanted to. So why don’t they, ever? Of course a person can do whatever they want with their hair, and asking such questions runs the risk of being called a ‘natural hair Nazi’. However I have previously pointed out the benefits of not being over reliant on weaves and wigs and I stand by this.
Porsha currently has her own online business selling weaves called Go Naked Hair – ironically, truly ‘going naked’ would perhaps be to take the weave off – so she obviously has a vested interest in wearing and promoting weaves. Most people would kill to know where their favorite celebrities obtained their weaves! The point is, she is getting paid to wear weaves (it’s her business) and present a certain image of herself. So it’s understandable why she prefers weaves to her natural hair. Many in the entertainment industry such as Beyoncé and Rihanna are getting paid to dress and present themselves a certain way.
Nikki Minaj may not have received as much attention or been considered controversial had she not worn those elaborate, multi-colored weaves for years. Her real hair also appears to be long and healthy but was never seen until her ‘real hair’ selfie. I hope we can teach our young girls to consider this and not be heavily influenced by pop culture, especially when it comes to their appearance. I’m seeing girls younger and younger with waist length Kim Kardashian-esque weaves. Unfortunately, some of us end up looking like we are in costumes every day, emulating celebrities who wear such weaves to perform in shows and on TV.
Porsha’s hair looked beautiful, and many accredited it to using the weave as a protective style. It appears to be natural as well. Some celebs use the term ‘natural hair’ when they are showcasing their chemically straightened hair, but that’s another debate entirely. There are women in the entertainment industry who wear their hair natural, Janelle Monroe, Solange Knowles and Esperanza Spalding for instance. Occasionally we see some of them wear wigs or weaves, including those which match their natural hair texture, but their natural hair is their trademark style. This dispels the myth that we need to rely on weaves to protect our hair, women of other races do not have to do this. It seems to be more to do with image than protective styling. It would be a shame if a person went most of their adult life, never experiencing their natural hair, other than for ‘2.5 seconds’ just before installing yet another weave. Especially when their natural hair is so beautiful.
What do you think of these ‘real hair’ selfies? Share your thoughts below.
Since the Madam CJ Walker’s straightening tools were invented, working out has conflicted with hair styling and maintenance, for many in the black community. People would straighten their kinks and curls, but any slight moisture on the scalp would cause their precious straight hair to revert back. The time and pain experienced during this process, meant that reverting back so quickly was not an option. Parents would warn their little girls to look after their hair, to preserve the style for as long as possible. Even playing outside and running around could pose a threat to the hair. In an 1982 article by Ebony Magazine, reader Pam Proctor recounts the many missed opportunities to swim or participate in sports because her hair would ‘go back’. Then came the years of relaxers, which, are still going on til this day. Some subscribed to this notion of ‘sweating out the perm’. This may be why stereotypes have formed about black women in particular, not participating in swimming. Not wanting to get their hair or weave wet, has typically been a reason given for avoiding it. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but many of these stereotypes started because of hair..
So how have attitudes changed since then? With access to the internet and the growth of the information age, people are becoming more informed about health and fitness. More of us, from all races and backgrounds are learning about prevention rather than cure. People are taking responsibility for their health and know that a lifetime of dependency on prescription drugs and medicines isn’t their only option. Unfortunately, certain diseases are attributed more towards people of African descent (type 2 diabetes, certain cancers for instance). Most health problems are connected to poor diet and a lack of physical activity, Staying active is a huge step towards taking control of your health and breaking the cycle of disease.
Hair should be the last thing that prevents you from working out. For those who don’t want to be another stereotype or statistic; here are some tips on staying motivated to workout and not allowing your hair to get in the way.
Plan your hairstyles around your working out, not the other way around
After styling your hair in a fresh twist out or spending an uncomfortable night with your hair in flexi-rods, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and sweat profusely. A fresh new hairstyle can instantly switch your mind off workout mode. However, you could workout Monday to Friday and do a new style for the weekend. Consider flat ironing your hair as a treat rather than a necessity. Even if you regularly flat-iron, you can still wear curly and wavy styles, don’t be so hung up on achieving that bone straight look all the time. You could even plan your styles around certain workouts that aren’t as strenuous. If it’s cardio day tomorrow, keep the hair in a bun, but if it’s weights day, your hair should not get too frizzy. If you have a special occasion coming up, you could prep your hair after your workout, and it will be ready for the event the next day.
Find your workout hair style
This depends on how you are styling your hair for the week. A protective style is probably the easiest style to manage when working out. Two strand twists, pinned up or put into a ponytail, work well. I prefer to put my hair in a puff, as it is the most convenient style for me. If I want to preserve a twist out or curly style, I work out with my hair in a loose pineapple. Go for a style that keeps the ends of your hair away from your neck and off your forehead, so they remain dry. If your ends remain dry, your twist-out will still be somewhat evident, even if the roots become a little damp or frizzy. I also find wash and gos hold up well when working out. To maintain a wash and go, I put my hair in low pigtails. Then I take them down when I am finished, give the hair a little shake, and I am ready to go.
Keep your hair up for as long as possible, after a workout
Unless you are taking your hair down to wash, perhaps leave it in a puff or pineapple. This will prevent your ends from becoming frizzy while your scalp dries. It will also keep the hair taut at the roots so your hair is more stretched when it is taken down.
Avoid working out with your scarf or bonnet on
Sweating helps to regulate your body temperature by removing excess heat. We usually lose a lot of heat from our head. A scarf may cause you to retain more heat during a workout, as the heat is restricted from escaping. It is important that your scalp remains breathable, so the body does not become overheated. This can end up having a negative impact on your workout overall. If you want to keep your hair sleek, spray your hair with a mist of water after your workout, and then put the scarf on to sleek the hair and edges down. After 15 minutes or so, the hair will appear sleeker once the scarf is removed. From my experience wearing a scarf while working out never really prevented my hair from becoming frizzy anyway.
Practice co-washing more frequently
If you are working out during the week you will want to wash your hair more frequently. Many would want to avoid exposing their hair to frequent shampooing because of the drying effect this can have. Frequent co-washing is considered kinder to the hair and even moisturizing. Wash and gos may also work well for this reason. Check out the post: Stretching and styling your hair after washing for convenient styling ideas.
Focus on the benefits of working out
Frizzy hair is not as serious as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stress or depression. Just a few health issues exercise has been proven to prevent or treat. The hair challenges that exercise may present, are minor in relation to the benefits. Such benefits will not be seen unless you workout consistently and make it a lifestyle rather than just a New Year fad. People who exercise also have a longer life expectancy and generally are better off physically and mentally. Besides, when you take care of your body, your hair and skin will thank you for it!
We have all been guilty of it at some point. How do you manage your hair when working out? Share your tips below.
It has been reported that Halle Berry has taken Gabriel Aubrey to court, claiming that he has straightened their daughter’s naturally curly hair. Halle is reported to be furious that Gabriel has straightened their six-year-old daughter’s hair and has appeared to have lightened it with highlights. She is convinced it’s because he does not want their daughter to appear African-American. Court papers also reveal allegations that Aubry made racial slurs towards Halle in the past.
In court documents, Halle said, as a result, Aubry has caused Nahla ‘potential psychological and physical damage’. It could also cause her to wonder ‘why her natural appearance is not good enough’. The judge ruled that both parents must allow their daughter’s hair to grow back naturally and are not allowed to change its natural state.
The couple split in 2010 and have had various court battles over custody and child support. They have joint custody of Nahla and Halle currently pays Aubry $16 000 a month in child support.
What are your thoughts on this? Many have commented, by saying that the girl is far too young to have her hair straightened or touched with chemicals, in any way. I would have to agree. However, chemical relaxers and heat straightening (remember the hot combs?) are the norm for young girls in the black community. If we are outraged when white people do it, we should be equally outraged when we hear about girls- younger than Nahla- subjected to much more drastic measures, within the black community. All to fit a European standard of beauty.
I remember when the choice of hair weaves for black women were limited. At the local beauty supply, you would find the obvious synthetic hair, and brands labelled ‘human hair’. But such hair was actually made from synthetic fibers, designed to mimic human hair. Whether this was clever marketing or blatant false advertising, such companies managed to get away with this. Today, with the wealth of hair extensions now available, the choice has definitely improved. Unfortunately, the deceptive marketing still exists.
Asian, Brazilian and Russian hair are well sought after. Many weave wearers envision women in other countries, with hip length hair, going to an organization to sell or donate their hair and have it carefully removed. Many are under this illusion that such hair is handled meticulously with the highest standard of care, before reaching worldwide markets. This couldn’t be further from the reality. Sam Piranty, for his article: the salons that hope you can’t tell goats and humans apart, traveled to China to examine the hair extension industry. He found that most of the hair, produced in Hunan province, is a mixture of human and goat hair. This hair is mainly sold to African clients; including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Congolese and South Africans. He interviewed a Chinese shop owner, who said that such hair use to be sold in Europe and America. “We say it is Indian hair or Brazilian hair, but in fact it is normally Chinese hair or even goat hair. They never realize. This is the only way we can keep things cheap”, said Lilly, a Chinese beauty supply owner.
Riqua Hailes, owner of Just Extensions in Los Angeles and The Weave Express in Washington D.C, traveled to various Asian countries, to see firsthand where the hair comes from. She was prompted to do this after finding inconsistencies in the hair extensions she received from suppliers. She traveled to China, Cambodia, Malaysia and India. She will also be travelling to Brazil and Russia later in the year.
Most human hair extensions or weaves are labelled with the names of various countries, indicating the origin. Many women today are choosing to spend more money on weaves, hair extensions and wigs. Rather than buying synthetic hair, which doesn’t last as long and knots easily, many are choosing to invest hundreds of dollars in human hair. When a packet of hair extensions is labelled Brazilian, Malaysian or Indian, people are willing to pay a lot more money for it. Women like the option of curling their weaves, applying heat and wetting the hair. All of which isn’t always possible with cheaper synthetic hair. Manufacturers know that these labels create an image of quality. “Chinese hair is often considered cheap in the extensions industry, because it isn’t donated hair” says Hailes. “So in order to be on the same playing field as other exporters, they will market it as Brazilian or Malaysian hair, which can go for twice the money”.
The hair that comes from China is imported from India. But it is not from women who come forward to donate the hair. Neither is it removed meticulously and stored in the best conditions. It is simply collected shed hair, gathered from the salon floors and, hair brushes. Hair of this kind is referred to as non-Remy hair. “Non-Remy hair is less desirable in the extensions industry. But China collects this hair, cleans it and mislabels it as being from a higher-quality hair extension source like Brazil, Russia or India”, says Hailes. So such hair can come from a number of different people, be gathered from the floor, combs or hair brushes in India or China, and be labeled Brazilian hair.
Another point to remember is that the standards of hygiene in developing countries will not be as strict as they are in Western Countries, like the United States. Strict regulations for how such products are cleaned, stored, transported and produced are unlikely to exist or be enforced. So don’t be taken in by the glossy packaging and the picture on the front. You have no way of knowing for sure what the hair has been exposed to or even where or who it came from. The hair is usually treated with chemicals, the effects of which are unknown until a person has a reaction to them.
In Cambodia, Hailes found women who sold their hair, for as little as $5 to $8. Many felt like they had no choice and were doing it to feed their families. In India thousands of pilgrims visit community temples to donate their hair. Shaving their heads symbolizes washing away the past and a fresh start. Hindus believe sacrificing their hair to the gods will lead to their prayers being answered. Some do this once, while others may do it annually. The hair is auctioned off and some of the money goes towards funding community projects. You may remember seeing images of this in the Chris Rock movie Good Hair. Check the labels of your weaves and hair extensions. If it is labelled Indian, Malaysian or Brazilian but says it is distributed from China, it is probably deceptive. Smell the hair as well, as shed hair will have a smell of acid and silicone.
Upon travelling to Malaysia, she concluded that ‘Malaysian hair’ doesn’t exist. Hair labelled ‘Malaysian’ is typically purchased directly from China. There is unlikely to be one distinct feature of Malaysian or Brazilian hair anyway. Both countries consist of people from different ethnic origins and backgrounds. As a Brazilian person can have African, European or Asian ancestry, what would constitute Brazilian hair? You will find many different hair types there; from Afro-kinky to straight hair. In Malaysia, there are different ethnic groups, including Chinese and Indian, all of which may vary in hair textures. I await her report from her visit to Brazil, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she comes to the same conclusion. The hair is produced and shipped from China, but simply labelled Malaysian or Brazilian, to make it competitive and give the illusion of better quality.
1. Wash your hair extensions or wigs before use.
The reality is, most hair extensions are produced in countries that do not have the same laws and sanctions for production practice that exist in western countries. To ensure that the hair is clean, gently co-wash it and allow it to air dry before use. If it is human hair and of the quality it claims to be, this should not damage the hair.
2. Read labels
If the hair claims to be from India, Russia or Brazil, check the shipping information. If it was shipped from China, it is likely to be misleading information and is probably hair produced there. Remember that Malaysian hair was found to not exist.
3. Don’t fall for gimmicks
The texture and quality of the hair speak for itself. The shipping information tell you where the hair really came from. Unfortunately, when it comes to hair extensions, you don’t always get what you pay for. Don’t be so quick to part with your money just because clever or even deceptive marketing is used. Hair produced in China is often shed hair collected from brushes and salon floors, labelled to deceived consumers and charge twice as much as it is worth. They are even willing to sell goat hair as human hair. Do not be deceived.
4. Examine your hair extensions closely
Remember to take note of the feel and smell of the hair. Hair that has been put through chemical cleaning will have a harsher texture. It will also have a strong chemical and silicone odor. These are signs of hair that has been produced in China using the practices mentioned previously.
5. Treat weave or extensions as an occasional luxury, not a necessity
No one, who is in good health, should have to depend on weaves or hair extensions. When there is a dependency, there is a certain desperation to have it. Black women fund this industry more than any other group, yet most of this money doesn’t even go to black owned businesses. The growth in the natural hair industry has seen a growth in black owned businesses within the hair and beauty sector. More and more women are learning to love their natural afro textured hair. We are even producing and purchasing wigs, weaves and hair extensions that reflect our natural hair, rather than sourcing Asian or Brazilian hair that may not look as natural on us.
Be sure to check out both articles:
The salons that hope you can’t tell goats and humans apart. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28894757
The real story behind where your hair extensions come from.
I am excited to introduce you to my new travel blog – naturalfantastictravel.com. All of my travel features and photography has been moved to this website. Not everyone who reads my travel posts is interested in hair and beauty, so it was inevitable that I would need two blogs. This new blog is exclusively about travel and adventure, so click on the link and follow, if that is your interest. If you like both topics please follow the new blog as well to keep up to date with the latest travel posts. I appreciate each and every person who has taken the time to read, like, comment, and follow my blogs.
Check out the Instagram page as well – @naturalfantastictravel
Wash day can be just that, a whole day. However, we shouldn’t have to draw a line through the day just to wash our hair. I am now able to wash my hair and go out to dinner within the hour. Washing your hair should not have to result in a night in front of the TV, waiting for our hair to dry in twists. Some of us avoid swimming because of the time spent washing and detangling our hair afterwards. Here are some styles that are appropriate to do after washing. They allow you to wash, style and go. Plus, they have the added bonus of stretching the hair, making it easy to re-style the next day.
Roll, tuck and pin
Kimmytube first introduced me to this style. It is simply rolling the hair around the head and pinning. This is a great style for medium length hair, which, may not be long enough to put into a bun. It also helps to stretch the hair, as it is pulled taut to roll and shape. Use hair pins or bobby pins to secure the style. Cover hair with a satin scarf and leave for five minutes to smooth your edges down.
Pigtails are easier than putting the hair into a bun, as you only need to style one half of the head at a time. This works well for thick hair, which, can be difficult to put into a ponytail, especially when wet and shrunken. I don’t worry about doing the perfect part down the middle. I simply use my fingers. If you want to do a neat part use a rat-tail comb. All you will need are two snag proof hair bands.
This style can be modified in three ways:
1. If your hair is short to medium length , you can leave it in pigtails. The front will be pulled taut and be stretched from the roots.
2. If your hair is medium to long, you can put each pigtail into a bun. Twist each one and roll into a bun. Pin to secure or use another hair band to hold the buns in place.
3. You can braid each pigtail, creating two jumbo braids. This will stretch out the hair the most. If you are worried about looking like a school girl, pin both braids up and across from each other, to create a more mature style. This is demonstrated in the video below.
Check out whoissugar’s after washing styles and, styling ideas for the following day.
Put the hair in a high ponytail and pin into a bun. The ponytail can be twisted or braided. This will make it easier to shape, and protect the hair as it is manipulated. Or, shape the bun loosely, in whichever way you desire. Be gentle when styling wet hair, as it is more fragile. This is an easy style to do. It still looks good even when it is a little messy. So you don’t necessarily have to worry about obtaining the sleek look and smoothing down your edges.
A low bun
This is great for medium to long hair and, looks elegant for going out later. To ensure that the hair looks as sleek as possible, use the palm of your hands to smooth your edges. If you use a product for smoothing add accordingly. I use my homemade flaxseed (linseed) gel to hold my edges down, if necessary. The most important step is covering your head firmly with a satin scarf. Leave it on as you finish getting ready (10 minutes or so). When you take if off the hair should looker sleeker. You can also use a donut to fill out the bun, which, could also be made using an old sock.
Two french braids
Split the hair in two and put each side into a French braid. Again splitting the hair will make it easier to manipulate. Sleek down the edges with some product or water and cover with a satin scarf. The next day the hair should be stretched and wavy. I have worn my hair out in this stretched out style before.
A Jumbo Braid
My favorite after washing style is the jumbo braid. Just put your hair into a low ponytail. Divide the ponytail into three and braid down. I find this stretches my hair the most and leaves it wavy when taken down. This is the quickest and most convenient after washing style to do. Add some flaxseed gel to smooth your edges and use your satin scarf.
If you have gone swimming in a pool that has chlorine, it is best to use a clarifying shampoo (if not that day then later during the week). Immediately follow this with a conditioner to relieve that squeaky clean feeling. Co-washing is even quicker, as there are fewer steps. Take a medium-sized section of hair, detangle and remove shed hair with the conditioner in. Add your leave in and/or oil for sealing, to that section of hair. Twist it to prevent it from getting tangled again. By the end, you should have four to six large twists. Cover the hair with a t-shirt to remove the excess water. Then you can style the hair using any of the above methods, if you have somewhere to go afterwards. If your hair needs to be deep conditioned or requires extra care and attention, this can be done at home later.
Two important tools
A satin scarf and t-shirt are crucial. Loosely wrap your head with the t-shirt to remove the excess water. It only has to be on for a few minutes. This will ensure that your hair is not soaking wet when styling, making it easier and safer to manipulate. Do not leave your hair to dry completely before styling. Use the satin scarf to smooth down your edges. Smooth your edges with the palms of your hand. Place the scarf on firmly and continue to get ready for the day. After about 10 minutes your edges should be a lot smoother and, the style will appear less frizzy overall. The longer you leave the scarf on the better.
After washing and styling, your hair will still be a little damp but look presentable. This will enable you to continue on with your day. Obviously, if you want to do a braid out or twist out, you should put your hair in braids or twists after washing. Some women like to wear their hair in large twists or braids as a style. This is another option. For those who are not a fan of this look, it usually means staying in for the day or covering your hair with a scarf or hat. The above styles allow you to style your hair quickly after washing and, still look presentable. Then you can do a braid or twist out on stretched hair another day. I no longer dedicate a whole day to washing my hair, unless I want to.
How do you style your hair after washing? Share your ideas below.