African American Hair
By Makayla Gillis
Why don't black women wear their natural hair?
Many African American women do not know how to care for their natural hair. They might feel insecure about their hair because it was not like white women's hair. Perms and relaxers were created to make hair straight. But those harsh chemicals can ruin hair. Black women also use weaves to hide their natural hair.
Perms and relaxers cause hair breakage, thinning, frizzy hair, scalp irritation and burns. These stylistic methods have been around since the early 1900s, but they consistently damage African American hair.
Novato High senior Mayana Charles explained how she feels about her natural hair.
“I have always felt different from people regardless of my hair but I think that my hair just adds to it. I feel like my white friends or non-black friends teased me about my hair when I was in the ninth grade, and that just made me want straight hair and that's why I went on to get a relaxer,” Charles said. “I loved my relaxed hair for the first couple of months, but something did not feel right and I started hating my relaxed hair. I decided that i wanted to go back natural a year and a half year ago and I cut off my hair and let it grow natural, and last January, I big chopped! Now I am fully natural.”
Growing up, I would see my older relatives with straight hair and I would wonder why my hair wasn't like that. Unfortunately, many young black girls don't like their natural hair. Hair for black women has changed over the years. Sales of perms and relaxers have decreased and black women are starting to wear their natural hair.
Novato High sophomore Imara Johnson explained why she has always felt different because of her natural hair.
“Growing up or just right now, I guess when you don’t have many women of color around whose hair doesn't look like yours, you could easily feel isolated or very different which is kinda what i feel sometimes,” Johnson said. “But now, I just like my hair straight because i think it looks better on me and slowly I'm trying to embrace my natural hair to be an example of other girls or boys who are also going through the same thing.”
At one point in my life I did not know what to do with my hair. I would straighten it almost everyday ultimately damaging my hair.
This is an ongoing issue for many African American women. But each year we are learning to love our hair more and more.
As an African American woman who has focused on hair issues, one of the influential role models in my life is Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker. She was a major contributor to the world of African American hair products in the early 1900’s, which impacts me greatly to this day. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, civil rights activist and philanthropist from Delta, Louisiana.
She developed a scalp disorder that resulted in tons of hair loss. She was distraught by this. With nothing else to do, she began to experiment with home and store-bought hair products. She sampled Annie Malone products, another African American entrepreneur.
In 1908, Walker opened her own factory and beauty school in Pittsburgh. Her business was very successful with her profits equaling a modern-day $7 million. Not only was Walker a woman, but she was African American and still was able to succeed. She faced many hardships and still prevailed through it all. I am very fascinated in the hair business, and she is one of the few women of her generation who was able to make themselves known and successful.