African American Hair

One type of hair that has rarely has fit into America’s culturally accepted norm is black, as in African American hair,. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the Afro was popular; a style that allowed hair to be ‘au natural’. Unfortunately, this was short lived. We need only to look at the past decades of Oprah shows to see what black women go through to make their hair look as ‘white’ as possible. According to women of color, most of them want hair that is silky straight.

This desire is rooted in a self-deprecating mentality that believes their hair worn naturally is unacceptable. The first perm, to relax the kinks, is like a rite of passage for a young black woman. There is no set age at which this must happen, but there is a belief that waiting too long could retard a girl’s social progress. This early and frequent exposure to chemical processing begets breakage, scalp inflammation, and the invisible damage of those chemicals being picked up by the capillaries and more than likely, transported to the brain.

Black men also use chemicals, but often resort to cornrows, doo-rags, cutting it very short, like our President, or shaving it all off. Because African-Americans have dealt with this challenge through the ages, many have claimed the term “hair trauma” as theirs; including a reality TV series, websites, and a feature film on the subject.