By Nicole Harmon of Hair Liberty

It’s no secret that African American hair seems completely different from the hair of other ethnicities. As Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, highlighted for the world, black women spend enormous amounts of time and money to maintain their hair. But why?? In most cases, the answer is not vanity. African American hair requires special products and techniques for these 3 reasons:

Reason 1: Kinks, coils, and curls

Doctors and cosmetic scientists have studied African American hair in depth over the past decade. They have found that natural hair of “African descent” is special because it is uniquely curly and fragile. Not “nappy”, just extremely curly and coily. Any type of curly hair experiences dryness because natural oil from the scalp can’t travel down the hair shaft to keep it moisturized. There are just too many “bumps in the road”. Since African American hair is curlier than the hair of any other ethnicity, it is drier than that of any other ethnicity.

Reason 2: Curly hair is fragile.

Hair is made up of keratin (the same type of protein found in your skin). Naturally curly hair with no chemical treatments and no heat related damage is relatively strong, but still weaker than straight hair. The kinks in each curl make the hair porous and prone to damage. Once you start washing, drying, combing, relaxing, coloring, and heating curly hair, it starts to get very weak, very quickly. Hair that is weak eventually splits and then breaks off instead of reaching its longest length. The damage accumulates with every process and because African American hair is dry and fragile by nature, it starts breaking as quickly as it grows. An inch gained at the root, an inch lost at the end, perpetually keeps damaged hair the same length.

Reason 3: “Extremely Curly” to “Perfectly Straight” is not easy.

It’s been a long time since the Cosby women were on primetime showcasing the beauty of natural hair. Since the mid ’90s, straight hairstyles have dominated African American culture and entertainment. Unfortunately, many black women achieve that “perfectly straight” look by using relaxers and extreme heat (over 350°F). That combination would lead to damage for any hair type, but it’s especially tough on black hair. Feel free to embrace whatever style makes you feel beautiful. Just remember that your hair requires high-quality products and gentle care.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on this?

REFERENCES:
Franbourg A, Hallegot P, Baltenneck F, Toutain C, Leroy F (2003) Current research on ethnic hair. J Am Acad Dermatol 48:S115-S119. Retrieved from http://www.eblue.org/article/PIIS0190962203701170
McMichael Amy J. Hair Breakage in Normal and Weathered Hair: Focus on the Black Patient. Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings (2007) 12, 6-9. doi:10.1038/sj.jidsymp.5650047
Syed A, Kuhajda A, Ayoub H, et al African-American hair: its physical properties and differences relative to Caucasian hair. Cosmet Toil. 1995; 110:39–48
Taylor, Susan C. (2008) Dr. Susan Taylor’s Rx for Brown Skin: Your Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails. New York, NY: Harper Paperbacks

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Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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31 Comments on "Vanity or Necessity? 3 Reasons Black Women Spend More Time & Money on Their Hair"

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[…] for your hair think about weather its animal tested and and how you feel about this. According to Nicole Harmon, black women spend enormous amounts of time and money to maintain their hair. This is often […]

Brianna Nicolas

Who says we do? Also im pretty sure other races do their hair as well.

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[…] hair hopped straight from the motherland and onto my scalp. It also means that my hair type is naturally the most dry and most brittle. To retain length, I have to keep my hair stretched so that it does not create SSKs (single strand […]

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Certainly a fantastic piece of work … It has relevant information. Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so interesting and very informative.Thanks sharing. Definitely a great piece of work Thanks for your work.

askvivi

If I leave my hair natural I have to take care of it a lot! One great product, in my experience, for keeping hair healthy is argan oil. I have Pro Naturals Moroccan Argan Oil and it deeply conditions and hydrates my hair, plus it leaves it smooth and shiny. Recommend it!

FrizzyBobbedCutie

I would say both, because…

NECESSITY: not wanting my hair to turn into messy freeform dreads so I do a painfully simple routine of finger combing daily, wash&detangle weekly with african black soap.

VANITY: Adding condish, oils and butters to define & moisturize my beautiful 3b curls. Twists outs to reduce frizz, braid outs at night to avoid a bird’s nest in the morning, cute styles and accessories, products to make my hair the sexiest thing ever and ETC ETC ETC!

That’s the difference. Even though necessity to me is more important, the vanity is there to make my hair more attractive.

EngProf
Although I do agree with the reasons presented in the article in relation to caring for my hair, I disagree with whatever research blah, blah, blah that continually contends that black women spend SO much more time and money on their hair. Any woman, black, white, asian, hispanic, who gives a care about the the health and appearance of her hair, spends a good amount of time AND money on it. I mean really, if you go to any mainstream store, who are most of the products catered to/targeted towards. If they weren’t buying the products, stores wouldn’t continue to… Read more »
Natalie
Sorry, but the claims are not negative tom foolery. Black women do spend more on their hair this can be seen by the value of the black hair market, why are white companies now jumping on the band wagon, because they have realised it too. In the UK companies have recognised the power of the pink pound, as in gay and lesbians who have more disposable income as they are less likely to have children. Of course women of other colours spend thousands of pounds on their hair but black women are more likely to spend this amount on their… Read more »
Teli8
+100!!! So right- I totally agree with that. Most hair products (and hair product advertising) is directed at caucasian women with long straight hair- which is why so many of us fall into that “brainwashed by the media” trap of always wanting the same. How many product ads do you see targeting black women with natural hair? None. We buy our products yes- but “fragility” is really not a problem when we take good care of our hair. I’m so tired of that whole “treat your afro textured hair like a ‘silk blouse’ ” as one site put it. My… Read more »
LP
The reasons why Black female spend alot of money on hair care natural or not is attract the males most desire which are Black males. If Black males decided tomorrow that 4 textured hair was beautiful and only desired it it would change Black people. Give it about a month to catch on and and a lot of Black females would be natural and those who do not have 4 textured hair would alter their hair to get it. It’s really that simple. Most females alter their looks to attract the male they desire. When a female doesn’t want to… Read more »
Leah

Honestly I don’t wear my natural hair to attract guys and I didn’t perm my hair to attract guys either
I have 3c/4a hair and I was able to attract black men with straight hair and when I went natural . I do admit that going natural got rid of all the gpod for nothing black men and I usually have conscious single good black men coming up to me now as well as other races .

LP

I apologize for English, for any grammatical and spelling errors I have made.

Landry

Natural hair is as complicated as you make it to be…when I first went natural, I was so excited that I went overboard with products. Now that I have found what works for me, I actually don’t use many products at all and I have a lot of left over products that I will end up giving away.

Less is more!

merry

Reason 4:

because our hair is so different from everyone else’s, black women are more self-conscious about their hair and making themselves look “appropriate” or “more acceptable” to others.

so, we jump through more hoops, sometimes needlessly.

Natalie
Merry, Completely agree with you there. I jumped off the relaxer band wagon when I was 22 I’d left university, didn’t have a job and could not afford the maintenance, I just shaved my entire head and had a short cut for about a year, although I went back to the relaxer again once I had a job I soon regretted it, the maintenance of hot combing my hair and the evil hairdressers was just too much for me. I used to dream about having a super straight Halle Berry style but this was only achieved in the hair dresser,… Read more »
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[…] this article: Vanity or Necessity? 3 Reasons Black Women Spend More Time … ← Conditioners for Naturally Curly Hair Care | Natural Hair Stylist – Hair […]

Coco
This article doesn’t explain why some women are willing to spend hundreds of dollars per month on hair care. My kinks, coils and curls cost me less money now than when I was relaxed. This article does absolutely nothing to address the vanity and necessity of hair incorporated in the black community. These may be legit excuses for some, but certainly not for most. Curly, fragile hair doesn’t explain why some women spends hundreds of dollars on weave, sorry it just doesn’t. There are deeper issues that this article doesn’t even skim the issue of black hair. Also, the tone… Read more »
Afrochelle
IMHO, dryness and fragility have nothing to do with why black women spend so much money on hair. Kitchen oils and patience are all we really need to tackle those, not $$$. The blame rests squarely on reason #3: Too many black women are obsessed with trying to transform their hair into the opposite of what it naturally is, requiring frequent salon visits and expensive weaves. To all the naturals out there who are breaking the bank trying to nourish their God-given strands: With time and experience, you’ll realize that HAIR CARE DOES NOT NEED TO BE EXPENSIVE. You CAN… Read more »
Coco

+1
Well said.

honeybrown1976

When you want something done right, you invest the required time and money.

anastasia
The three reasons given are satisfactory, but not complete IMHO. Is it just me or does this article read as if its’ intended audience are those who frequently use heat or chemicals? To the question: I think the principle reasons many spend too much of their income on hair products/salons are: Limited or erroneous knowledge of one’s own hair, historical factors (400 years of massive brainwashing and propaganda (which has affected both males and females), socio-economic mobility, ‘everybody perms’ (bandwagon),social pressure), and until recently, a limited representation of the diversity of ‘blackness’ and ‘black’ beauty. Initially, many new naturalistas are… Read more »
df
“I do not need to look as if I just stepped out of a music video, a magazine, a porno, or somebody’s wet dream (Ok-maybe on the weekend at an evening soiree or for my hubby, lol). Maybe we need to get away from that media-hyped mindset of always wearing “swingin-free” and loose hair.” ” I’m tellin’ you ladies, most women throughout history have always worn their hair in protective styles. The loose styles were for special occasions and one’s significant other.” This is extremely poignant right here….very true that women of ALL races usually wore their hair in protective… Read more »
Annie L.

+1

Cacey
i am getting to where i like my hair again. i’m starting to love it. so much body and bounce, and almost no split ends ever since i learned how to take care of it. or, rather, relearn. years of flat ironing your hair can make you forget how to nurture it properly. now that i am, i’m so happy with it. i feel like it’s stronger, and now i don’t get hardly any breakage whatever. that’s the key, is care. and what works for you might not work for me. i don’t think a lotta black women could use… Read more »
Annie L.

Awesome! PS I have a ‘spontaneous’ routine too but I finally love it.

Lele
I don’t spend as much time on my hair as I did when I first stopped straightening, but I do find that my hair takes more effort to retain length, which means more gentleness and tlc. I hate to say it, but I do find myself getting frustrated more often because it is more challenging to style my natural hair than when it was straight. When it was relaxed, it was 1)wrap and apply hair lotion at night, and 2)comb down in the morning. Now unless it is twisted/braided, I have to moisturize, seal, braid, unbraid in the morning, and… Read more »
B

Why does everything about our natural hair has to be so darn negative?!!?
Dryness, Breakage and heat damage, can we get an article high lighting the positives..and we wonder why some of us are so negative about natural hair!!

Shamaia Veira

Read more articles hun!! This site has great positive articles on natural hair!! But it is important to highlight “negative” realities with wearing out hair natural. I thought this particular article positively defended the time and money black women spend on our hair!

df

You want negative? Check out this “fun” post: http://www.curlynikki.com/2012/06/friday-fun-share-your-least-fav-hair.html

I honestly had to stay away from the natural community for a bit because I felt it was like people complaining about how hard it was to take care of their hair nonstop.

Stephanie Thornton
The article was to be negative, there’s nothing negative about natural hair. The article is stating the truth about our hair type. Something we need to know because majority of us new naturals have never known the “Truth” about our hair. Like it said in the the first paragraph its “NOT Nappy” . As African American’s that is what we would call our hair, when in all truth its not true. This article is teaching us why are hair is the way it is, and we can take those helpful tips and us them to our benefit. I’m greatful to… Read more »
Kitty
I, for one, loooove to spend time, money and energy on my hair because it is one of the few ways that I actually get to pamper myself. I look forward to my weekly hair regimen (wash, condition, leave-in, braiding sessions). For me, it feels like a “treatment”. I also agree with the reasons listed above. My hair (in particular) is relatively fragile and it is not always easy to work with. S.N. – there was an exhibit in a museum in Harlem a few years ago called “Black Hair” that had beauiful combs (made from wood, ivory and metal)on… Read more »
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