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What Should I Know About African-American Hair Care?

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  • Written By: G. Melanson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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African-American hair, or black hair, is typically characterized by very thick, curly, and delicate strands. Sebum, which is the oil secreted by the scalp, often has a harder time reaching the roots of African-American hair, as the outer layer of the hair strands can be up to twice as thick as Caucasian hair. Because of this, African-American hair care requires special products that help to prevent breakage and maintain moisture.

Wide-tooth combs, picks, and natural boar brushes are optimal tools for African-American hair care. Fine tooth combs and brushes with plastic bristles are more prone to break or snag curly strands. Preventing breakage can also be done in the nighttime as part of a before-bed hair care regiment, which includes either braiding the hair in sections, tying it up gently in a ponytail, or wrapping it in a scarf. Sleeping on a satin pillowcase can also minimize the friction that would occur from sleeping against a cotton pillowcase, possibly causing breakage to the hair.

Products which contain alcohol and other drying ingredients, such as gels and hairsprays, should generally be avoided in African-American hair care, along with products that contain mineral oil or petroleum, which can block pores. It is especially crucial to avoid products which contain drying ingredients on hair that has been relaxed, as the process of relaxing African-American hair strips the hair of its ability to self-moisturize.

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The best products to use for African-American hair care include hydrating shampoos, deep-penetrating moisturizers, pomades, lotions, and leave-in conditioners. Products which contain pomegranate seed oil, Shea butter, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and other natural ingredients also work well on African-American hair. Products which specifically state on the label that they are for black or ethnic hair are the best choices for African-American hair care.

Unlike other types of hair, African-American hair generally does not need to be washed daily, but rather once a week to every ten days on average, in order to allow the scalp’s natural sebum to penetrate the hair. The spectrum of recommended washing frequencies varies with African-American hair care and depends on the individual’s unique hair type. For example, a person of mixed race may find that her hair becomes oily more quickly than another individual with African-American hair. Rinsing the hair with water every day is recommended, as is blotting the hair gently with a towel rather than twisting or wringing the hair out, which can cause breakage.

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kentuckycat
Post 3

@stl156 - You are absolutely correct. I have read historical accounts concerning hair care products and African Americans and some were said to use them in such a way to either mock the white man or even the opposite to act more white.

There are accounts of African Americans using the Murray's Pomade to straighten their hair in such a way that is was to mock whites haircuts, much like zoot suits were created to mock whites dress.

There is even an account from Malcolm X that says that him and his friends would use the pomades that were available to straighten their hair and try to act more white. This is a fairly interesting thing to say considering some would use it for the opposite effect, but it does definitely show that hair care was something that was important to African American culture no matter how one interpreted it.

stl156
Post 2

I do not know very much about African American hair care, but I do know from an historical sense about certain hair care products that were targeted at African Americans and their impact on society.

There is one hair care product specifically targeted at African Americans, which is called Murray's Pomade, which has been used for decades and even has the same logo as it did in the 1930's, which depicts African Americans on the cans.

This of course leaves absolutely no doubt to who the people that make this product are targeting it to and what their niche is.

I have also heard that this type of hair care product was seen as a symbol against racial oppression and was done in such a way that it was to take a shot at the white establishment.

anon133223
Post 1

Shea butter is great also. along with unrefined coconut oil.

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