The politics of Natural African Hair

6 Min Read

Natural Africa hair is truly beautiful and unique, in its texture and versatility. Relaxers which change the composition of the hair, have been linked to increased fibroids in black women, and because there is so little research that has been done on the dangers of relaxers, there’s all the more reason to avoid it.

Zadie Smith in her book: White Teeth, stated a very useful fact.  You would be hard put to find a any white woman who wouldn’t sue a company if she had had a  relaxer that burnt her scalp the way, relaxers burn black women’s hair, this is besides thinking about the sometimes permanent hair loss that some black women have had to endure.  So why do black women tolerate such painful and potentially harmful/ maiming treatments?

Relaxers also make the hair thin and cause it to become extremely fragile, often fly away, so it can be difficult to understand why still so many sisters choose to put their hair through so much trauma.

Some say that its a desire to conform to western standards of beauty, black hair is political, whilst some others claim that their hair is too unruly, and unmanageable to keep it in its natural state.

Texturizing is an option, but also researching on how traditional African women took care of their hair, after all, in many African cultures, African women grew their hair long and there were no hair steamers in those days!

Whilst one cannot generalise, one wonders whether poor social confidence isn’t a factor as to why some black women relax their hair.

Perhaps its the desire for acceptance, wanting to conform, not wanting to stand out, fear of spouse disapproval or fear of not being valued, lack of exposure or confidence, feeling that our natural hair isn’t attractive/glamorous enough, not knowing how to style it, an absence of personal pride and so on.

These sometimes have something to do with the way we see ourselves, our self belief or perhaps how society may perceive us.  Many women may fail to see the fact that it is our individuality, what makes us different that attracts others to us, even our mates.

What we hear nowadays, is to avoid sulphates and anything cone, such as silicone in hair care products including magnesium based creams, and to moisturise hair regularly to seal in moisture. However this shouldn’t stop anyone from going natural.

For instance I haven’t stopped using my regular hair care products since learning about this, I just reduce my frequency of usage of creams and hair lotions such as pink oil to once a fortnight or every 10 days, and my hair hasn’t suffered any ill effects.

Whilst I am no expert, I have been natural hair for about 9 years, though I’ve only grown it for about a little over 3 years and not only is it low maintenance, its also much cheaper, more unique, beautiful and I get to keep my hair instead of going bald or loosing hair around my hair line! My hair was very short closed cropped when I started growing it and now it’s close to medium length.

Not only is my hair now in far better condition, it has thickened and lengthened in a way that I thought I  wouldn’t see again, after many bad experiences with relaxers.  My routine is to wash and condition my hair every 10 to 14 days.

I use a steam cap to condition my hair.  Also every other day I oil my scalp, hair and especially the ends.  I use almond oil and natural 100% Shea butter oil from Ghana for this purpose.  I’ve also previously used jojoba hair oil and Coconut oil.  (i mix olive oil with my Shea butter).

I’ve found that it is indeed best to experiment with what hair care product best suit your individual hair type, and not to follow what others are using as all good hair dressers will tell you.

I avoid too much heat on my hair and I blow dry it once every 10-14 days and only when I wash it. At night I plait and cover it with a scarf, undo and style it in the morning and I’m ready to go.  Moreover I only braid it every 2 ½ to 3 ½ months, except in winter when ill try and braid it more often.

I’ve attended a few natural hair shows and events, where I learnt some useful tips about natural hair maintenance, and I also bought a useful hair guide by Diane Hall called How I grew it Long.  Whilst i don’t use the products she uses, her hair guide was very useful to me.

Yet more and more black women are choosing to go natural, even though it isn’t still quite the norm, yet we hope that with more people showing the beauty of hair in its natural state this will make more lasting changes in black women’s hair and beauty regimes.

Share This Article