My favorite vlogger Jennifer from What Lies Beneath the Weave puts it so well in her Weave to Waist-length Hair Story: [paraphrased] We just don’t know about our natural hair! Seriously, we don’t!
The hair professionals concentrate on styling – either they don’t know much about natural hair or they don’t share the information with us as clients. What happens most of the time is we are told to relax (chemically straighten) our hair to make it more manageable – if we are told anything at all. If we decide to keep our hair natural we are made to feel like this is a bad decision for our hair and is adding a burden to the hairdresser’s, and our, lives.
I don’t blame the hair professionals though. For those that have gone to school for hair I suspect the focus in class is on working with straight hair because that’s where the money is (at least in South Africa). And of course straight hair is the standard of beauty and professionalism. If anyone goes into a salon they are obviously paying money to be made “beautiful” (read: westernised) or to look good (again read: westernised) for an important event or something along those lines.
Another side of me also wants to argue that hair professionals at some point were probably inundated with requests for chemical relaxer and that they simply conformed to the trend. Whilst doing so the wealth of generational knowledge about working with natural hair was lost. But thank God there is a movement in the opposite direction – the natural hair movement (or as I call it The Natural Project).
What really shocks me as a natural is when I get asked by other black people whether I have cut my hair when I am experiencing really bad shrinkage, and the comments about how my hair has grown when I stretch it. The comments can be made by the same people in the space of a week. When I say my hair was simply in an afro on one day and straightened the next – you wouldn’t believe how amazed people are. I will never forget the time I asked my friend who I spent nearly every day with – who saw my natural hair in various states – to cut the extension part of my braids so I could undo the rest. I distinctly said to her, “Cut where you see my hair” and then she took a big chunk of hair, inspected it (I suppose – she was behind me so I will never really know) and then SNIP SNIP. The extensions fell into my lap and I was horrified. I screamed “You cut my HAIR!” And she was convinced she hadn’t. When I undid the pieces she cut to reveal how much of my own hair had been severed with the extension she was incredulous. She said she had seen my hair before and thought it was this long (showing me a 5 cm gap between her thumb and index finger). I had to explain to her that that was how short my hair looked when it was shrunken NOT how long it really was especially when stretched for braiding. What was most distressing was that she cut at the front of my head and now I have a constant reminder of how little we know about our natural hair where everyone else can see it too…
So to combat our lack of knowledge here are some pointers of what you need to know (if you don’t already):
- Learn your hair type – there are 12 categories going from 1a/b/c to 4a/b/c (http://www.curls.biz/curly-hair-type-guide.html)
- Find out about your porosity – that’s how easily your hair absorbs moisture (http://www.naturallycurly.com/texture-typing/hair-porosity)
- Do you have high or low density (thick or thin) hair ? – that means, are there lots of hairs or a small number of hairs on your head?(http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/wavy-hair-type-2/3-ways-to-figure-out-your-hair-density-once-and-for-all/)
- Is your hair fine or coarse? – not to be confused with density – this means are the individual strands of hair thick in diameter or thin (like you can barely see an individual hair when its not in your head (http://trialsntresses.com/natural-hair/thin-hair-vs-fine-hair)
I have 4c, low porosity, thin, fine hair.
It’s a mouthful, I know. But it’s important to know because this information guides me on what products and processes are good for my hair. You need to know it too so that we can achieve and retain length! #TailboneInTen