Tuesday, 2 January 2007

'Hair' Me Out

Hair is an emotive subject for many black women. When the terms 'good hair' and 'bad hair' have been used, they have often meant long, straight, soft and silky (Caucasian-like) hair; and short, coarse and tightly curled ('kinky', 'nappy', Afro) hair respectively.

From the pressing combs to the earlier straighteners, permanent relaxers, jheri curls and more recent weaves, black women everywhere have sought to make their hair 'more manageable'. Although so called 'natural styles' are increasingly being sported, most black women have their hair chemically processed in some way. For many years I had my hair processed despite extreme pain, discomfort and hair loss. Then ten years ago I made the decision to stop processing my hair. I continued to use vegetable dyes to cover grey hair (I went grey in my teens) until recently.

I remember when I first started wearing my hair in locks some years ago. A few black women, one of whom was a very close relative, made disparaging remarks and tried to talk me into wearing a more 'acceptable' hairstyle. Acceptable to whom? I told them it was my hair and I could choose what I did with it. And I believe that's true for everyone. I'm not going around telling women who choose to process their hair to go natural. The safety of the ingredients contained in many hair products, particularly those marketed to black women, have not been determined. And so I am careful about what I use on my hair.

Now I will get off my soap box. Below is some information you may find interesting.

I was inspired to write this post by an article that was forwarded to me by a friend (thanks, Mary). The article is by Debbie Norrell, a 15-year breast cancer survivor. You can read it Center of Environmental Oncology in Pittsburgh, U.S. has studied the links between personal care products and cancer. Their findings show a possible link between the use of certain products containing hormones like placenta and the greater incidence of breast cancer in black women under 40 (when compared to white women). You can read about the Center's research here.

I admit to using placenta-based products myself many years ago, and I shudder to think that I used them without thinking. Now I have questions like: how is the placenta obtained? What possibly unethical practices was I encouraging by my purchase of hormone-containing products?

While browsing the Center of Environmental Oncology's website, I also came across another interesting article. They have investigated the earlier onset of puberty in African-American girls (when compared to European- American girls) and while the causes have not been determined, it is thought that hormone-containing hair products used by black girls and their mothers may be a factor. You can read more about this here.

I found all of the above information interesting and wanted to share it with you, regardless of how you choose to wear your hair. You can forward this post to others by clicking on the envelope icon below. I will be updating this blog daily so you can either bookmark this page or click on the 'subscribe' link at the end of this post and you will be notified of updates.

I'd like to hear your comments. So if you've got an opinion on the subject, please share it by clicking on the 'comments' link below. Select 'Other' (not 'Anonymous if you want to enter the draw), enter your name and then type in your comment. As an incentive, everyone who sends in a comment by Saturday midnight GMT will have their name entered into a draw. The prize is a natural hair product, free of hormones, of course.

I hope you have a 'good hair' day.


Mary Kanu said...

It's crazy what African women do in the name of beauty. As for me, I am through with chemicals on my hair - placenta or not.

Lo said...

Hey Chi Chi--

Congrats on your new blog.

I, too, have stopped processing my hair. It always made sense to me that using chemicals strong enough to alter the texture of one's hair might also be able to alter the texture of one's ....

If you have a natural hair style, I recommend using shea butter to keep it conditioned. Shea butter leaves your hair soft and manageable. It is also excellent for the skin.

I have a shea butter blog at: http://shea-skins-hut.blogspot.com and a main site at http://shea-butter-negroes.com/

Check it out when you have a moment. The most popular article on my main site is called "Managing African American Natural Hair" or something like that. So I know that women of color are looking for a viable alternative to chemically processed hair.

Thanks for letting me know about your blog.

I'm wishing you all the best in the new Gregorian year.

"The Shea Butter Lady"

yvette, Virginia, USA said...

Black women and their struggle to straighten their hair will continue until the last pack of weaving hair is sold. We've been told that our hair is not accpetable so we constantly seek ways to cover it up to fit into the non-Black world.