Hats off to the May Sister Spokesman event with the theme of “Loving Your Hair.” Many women shared the feedback that bringing attention to hair care in that forum was fun, educational, informative and appreciated.
I was in the house as well, and the panel had the women engaged, responding to questions from hair history to learning the value of understanding product ingredients going into the body internally and externally, all in pursuit of having healthier hair. Loved that!
I have to admit, I was very surprised, yet pleased, that I did not hear anyone comment or ask about “good hair” or “bad hair.” It gives me hope that we are releasing the old tapes and negative stigma of “Afro-textured hair” as being unmanageable, not beautiful, and un-kept.
When asked my definition of “good hair” or “bad hair,” I ponder the question each time. Before I tell you why, I will briefly highlight the structure of hair to provide full hair clarity.
Your hair is comprised of three layers regardless of ethnicity or hair texture: the medulla (inner layer), the cortex (the middle layer), and the cuticle (the outer layer). Our primary goal is to keep our hair moisturized to allow the cuticle to do its most important job of protecting the cortex, which is the layer of the hair that gives hair elasticity, holds the most keratin/protein, and helps to keep a strand strong.
That is my brief, non-scientific definition. When the cuticle, which lies like fish scales or shingles on a roof, becomes damaged, your strand is at risk and unprotected because your cortex is exposed to so many elements and stresses.
The challenge facing Afro-textured hair and retaining moisture is our tightly curled hair pattern that rotates in a circular, coily manner. Given the coiled and curly hair strand, the natural oils from our body lose the ability to easily slide down the shaft of curls, preventing the moisture from being retained in the hair strand.
The coiled structure also causes natural lifting of the cuticle layer. However, a straight strand of hair can easily allow the natural oils to glide down the strand of hair, which helps retain the moisture in the cuticle and help protect the health of the cortex; thus the hair retains the length.
The solution for Afro-textured hair is being “intentional” about adding moisture back into the hair like water and hair conditioner, leave-in or regular. Then you seal in the moisture with oil or with butter with a strong emphasis on applying to the ends of the hair first, which is the oldest part of the hair strand.
Good hair is healthy hair — hair that is not dry, receives proper moisture, and obtains limited-to-no split or broken ends. Once the hair strand comes through the scalp — again, regardless of ethnicity or hair type — it is dead! So one can conclude that “good hair” is truly caring for the dead hair on our head as it grows through the hair’s life cycle. Sorry to sound so brutal. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing to say — just a real thing!
I can recall all the attention on the two-year documentary done by the comedian and actor Chris Rock in 2009 titled Good Hair. I was impressed to know his motivation to do the research came from a statement from his young daughter, under five years old, who said, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?”
The documentary became quite controversial and evoked strong emotional, psychological and political feelings and connotations on hair. Based on an article in USA Today, the documentary’s purpose was to explore the historical concept of “good hair,” which for African Americans is burdened by the legacies of slavery and racism. He wanted to know why Black women spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars in hair salons to make their hair straighter and silkier. Is it because they want to look White?
The topic of “Good Hair” became more explosive because Chris Rock revealed hidden secrets of African American women’s beauty spending habits, hair weaving frequency and technique, and their fondness for using what he called “creamy crack” (relaxer)!
In 2009, you could turn on many talk shows, including Oprah, Larry King, The View and Tyra, having countless guests dissecting the documentary and African American women’s hair experiences. Through the many conversations, those who watched received Black Hair Talk 101.
Trust and believe, the dialogues on “good hair” will continue. However, please keep in mind that “good hair” is having “healthy hair,” which is the ultimate goal. Nature got it right the first time!
Keep in mind that being pro-natural does not mean you are anti-relaxer. I like mine Fro Real No Lye!
Natural hair coach and enthusiast Kelley Eubanks welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.