All Articles Tagged "black hair"

5 Secrets To Getting Happy And Healthy Hair

October 17th, 2014 - By LaKrishia Armour
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Shutterstock

 

Much of how we perceive ourselves physically, and for many of us, the confidence that we have in our looks, begins with how we feel about our hair. Negative thoughts—even passing ones—can wilt our flowers of self-esteem as we journey into developing a carefree attitude toward our hair. Whether you’re first going natural, years in, or struggling with relaxed strands, many of us often feel discontent with our locks when they don’t do what we want them to. But here are five things to remember in order to get happy about your hair and make those strands happy.

Progress doesn’t always equal perfection.

Take pride in your progress and don’t worry so much about having perfect hair. A quick inventory will prove that you’ve taken steps toward your hair goals. Okay, so you had a few too many wonky braid outs than you would have liked over the last two months, but through those struggles you learned what works for your hair and eventually started seeing the perfect crinkles you wanted to. Think of the times before when you had no idea what you were doing! Yes, you’ve come a long way. Small wins lead to bigger ones. Now celebrate your success!

Healthy
hair is happy hair.

Create a simple daily or weekly routine that works for you and your lifestyle. As long as it creates a healthy result that improves your hair, or simply slashes time on wash day, it’s worth repeating. A superb conditioner and consistent nighttime routine works wonders against dryness and breakage. Moisture is your hair’s best friend–give your strands what they need.

Try new styles as often as you want.

Put a flower in your hair. Part it on the opposite side. Try a style you saw on Pinterest. To boost your confidence in locks, have fun with new hair adventures. Allow yourself the space to flow in and out of your comfort zone with your look. Let your inner beautician play instead of forcing her to remain on stand-by while you fashion your hair into a dry top knot for the sixth day in a row. A few flexi-rods, hair clips and a vision of tousled, no-heat mermaid waves will get your creative mojo going (As will a packet of bleach, leftover weave and a bottle of dye).

Become your hair’s hype woman.

When you feel yourself getting discouraged, choose to hype up the good things about your hair. Think instead about what you’re learning about your strands as opposed to allowing yourself to get super stressed about things your hair isn’t doing to cooperate. There are more good qualities your hair exhibits than terrible ones. There’s nothing silly about a little hair affirmation. If all you do is roll your eyes in the mirror and giggle after repeating the phrase, “Today is the best hair day of my life” three times, the affirmation worked!

Let your hair be.

Accept the head of hair you have. More importantly, appreciate and love that head of hair. Wear it proudly. Swing your relaxed mane, fluff up your ‘fro or let your spirals bounce in the wind. Play up what you’ve got. Your hair, relaxed or natural, will become “good” enough when you break the habit of comparing your hair to others, and you’ll be happier with how it behaves. You’ll realize you’ve got the best head of hair—a happy one.

Black Hair Care Innovator, Comer Cottrell, Creator Of The Curly Kit, Has Died

October 13th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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One of the most famous Jheri Curls of all time on one of the best characters the movies has ever seen, Samuel L. Jackson's Jules Winnfield from "Pulp Fiction."

One of the most famous Jheri Curls of all time on one of the best characters the movies has ever seen, Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield from “Pulp Fiction.”

There was a time when Jheri Curls were all the rage. Comer Cottrell, creator of the Curly Kit, helped make the hairstyle even more popular and in the process built a Black hair care empire. Cottrell died on October 10 at the age of 82.

The Curly Kit, an in-home hair treatment, let people get the Jheri Curl hairstyle popularized by Michael Jackson at an affordable price instead of going to a salon. But there was more to Cottrell’s Black hair company than just Jheri Curls.

Cottrell started Pro-Line Corp. in 1972 and it grew from an initial investment of $600 to more than $10 million in annual sales. “Along with his brother, James, and another partner, Cottrell opened the Pro-Line Corporation in downtown Los Angeles in 1970. They rented a small warehouse, borrowed a typewriter from Comer Cottrell’s daughter, took $600 from savings and started mixing hair-care products by hand,” reports The New York Times.  “The partners came up with a way to replicate a hair style called the Jheri curl — named for Jheri Redding, who invented it — that involved softening the hair with one solution and curling it with another.”

Pro-Line’s kit was innovative. “With the release of its signature Curly Kit in 1979, the company ‘democratized the Jheri curl,’ according to Lori L. Tharps, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. Cottrell’s Curly Kit allowed African-Americans to fashion their own hair in the popular style for just $8; salon prices at the time of its release often cost upwards of $200,” reports The Grio.

“We looked at the curl process and saw it really was a simple process and people could do it themselves. It was no secret,” Cottrell told the Dallas Observer in 1996. In 2000, Cottrell sold Pro-Line for $80 million to Alberto Culver, according to the Daily Mail.

Cottrell was also a philanthropist and activist, serving as the leader of the Los Angeles Black Businessman’s Association in the 1970s. The organization helped local African-American businesses land federal contracts. He bought Bishop College for $3 million, renovated its campus, and helped move historically black Paul Quinn College to 144 acres just south of Dallas. In politics, Cottrell leaned Republican, helping the 1995 election of Ron Kirk, Dallas’ first Black mayor.

In 1980, Cottrell moved to Dallas, later becoming the first Black owner of a Major League Baseball team in 1989, co-owning the Texas Rangers with an investing group that included future President George W. Bush.

Sisters Break Into Challenging Hair Industry To Open Beauty Supply Store

September 10th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Most of us know that 9 times out of 10 when you go to the Beauty Supply, the owners and operators of the store are Korean-American. Despite residing in predominately Black neighborhoods and selling to predominately Black clientele, the store owners rarely reflect the demographic they serve.

This is why sisters Judian and Kadeian Brown’s store is so different. These two Black women, who are also licensed beauticians, own and operate Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon located off of Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Judian told the New York Times that she often encounters patrons who are surprised to learn that she and her sister own the store instead of just working there.

“I go, ‘Look at all the faces on the boxes. Who should be owning these stores?”

While we could all agree that more Black people should own these stores, that’s not the case around the nation. Of around 10,000 stores that sell hair products to Black women, only a handful of them are owned by Blacks.

According to the Times, Korean- Americans have owned and operated beauty supply stores in Black neighborhoods since as early as the 1960s. These ownerships fueled tensions between the consumers and business owners. There were complaints of racist Korean-American owners following Black customers around the store, assuming that they were going to shoplift. And others took issue because they see Korean dominance in the industry as a way to profit off of Blacks while simultaneously disenfranchising them.

Yet, historically and even today, that discontent has rarely resulted in Black consumers choosing to shop and support Black owned beauty supplies in large numbers, across the nation.

And in many cases, Blacks who were trying to break into the market, faced enormous challenges.

Black store owners ran into problems because wholesalers, who are often Korean, require retailers to buy in bulk to qualify for discounts. Where first-time Korean owners can join forces to split the costs among several store owners, the network of Black beauty supply owners is much smaller.

In Detroit, Princess Hill explained that she would have to order 10,000 berets to get a 50 percent discount and free shipping. But in reality, she might only sell 100 berets in a year.

The inability to get a discount up front often accounts for the higher costs Black owners have to charge their patrons, leading consumers to shop elsewhere and business owners to struggle and eventually close while Korean-owned stores thrive.

But Kaysong Lee, the publisher Beauty Times, says Korea-Americans shouldn’t be demonized for their enterprise.

Lori Tharps, co-author of Hair Story, said before the influx of Korean-American shop owners, there was no one serving the African American market in this way. Instead, Blacks often bought their hair care products from salesmen who traveled door to door.

“A lot of people think these people were taking it away from Black owners, but that’s not the case. They were creating new businesses. And they were doing it in places where nobody wanted to open a store.”

The challenges of breaking into a tough market, make Judian and Kadeian’s story all the more inspiring.

If you’re in the New York City area, you can visit their beauty supply and salon, Black Girls Divine at 3904 Church Ave in Brooklyn, New York.

Ask Dr. Renee: Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

September 5th, 2014 - By Dr. Renee Matthews
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

September is Alopecia areata awareness month. Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune skin disease that causes loss of hair on the body. It usually presents as one or two small, round, smooth patches on the scalp and can progress to total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis). It affects about 6.5 million people in the United States. The disease is unpredictable, hair can grow back in or fall out again at any time. Another form of alopecia that is not due to the autoimmune skin disease effects many people in our community.

What Is Traction Alopecia?

In 2014, there are many ladies that have worn weaves in the past or are currently wearing them. Another popular protective style for naturalista’s are braid hairstyles. When any type of tension is applied heavily to the scalp it leaves room for traction alopecia to appear. Traction alopecia is reversible if diagnosed early, but may lead to permanent hair loss if it is undetected for a protracted period. Hair loss is often in the frontal and temporal regions, but also depends on the hairstyle. With those who wear cornrows, the area most commonly affected is that adjacent to the area that is braided. This condition can also be seen in constant ponytail wearers that pull the hair too tight. Traction Alopecia can also occur due to overprocessing of the hair. Chemical treatment of hair with dyes, bleaches, or straighteners disrupts the keratin structure in a manner that reduces its tensile strength. The hair can become fragile and heavy fall out can occur with brushing or combing.

The use of thermal or chemical hair straightening, and hair braiding or weaving are examples of styling techniques that place African American women at high risk for various “traumatic” alopecias. It is very important if you notice that your edges are becoming thin you change your hairstyle so that less pressure is being applied to your hair. If you don’t you may permanently lose your hair and the only treatment would be a hair transplant.

What Is Hair Transplant Surgery?

Hair transplant surgery uses the follicular unit hair grafts to provide new hair growth to those areas affected by traction alopecia. Donor hair is harvested from the back and sides of the head and transplanted to areas where there is hair loss. The result is new hair growth that is both permanent, and natural looking. After surgery it is important that you not wear your hair in the style that caused the traction alopecia or it will return.

My Story

This condition is very personal to me. On December 9, 2009 my maternal grandmother died, February 9, 2010 my paternal grandmother died. I noticed somewhere around January/February that my hair had completely fallen out in 2 half dollar sized sections in the front of my hair. The bald spots were so clean it appeared as if my hair was NEVER going to grow back. I regularly got my hair done at the salon and my stylist had no explanation for the hair loss. We both agreed I needed to go to the dermatologist and find out exactly what was happening to my hair. The dermatologist took a biopsy of my scalp and the results were non-scarring alopecia. The hair loss is believed to be due to the stress of losing my two grandmothers 60 days apart. She prescribed some drugs and I immediately started treating the areas. A couple months passed and I was wearing headbands to hide the spots because nothing was happening. I had heard about a specific over-the-counter treatment but had ignored it for sometime. I finally did some research and decided that this OTC treatment may work. I saw results in 10 days, my hairstylist saw it as well. When I returned to the dermatologist she was very impressed that my treatment worked.

What Did I Use?

I used miconazole nitrate 2%, this drug is found in every drugstore. Miconazole nitrate is an antifungal drug; if you have a fungus on your scalp this will definitely treat the condition. It will also oxidize your hair follicles, which will promote them to grow. I used a pea sized amount on each bald spot, once in the morning and again at night. In a couple months my hair had grown back to the same length as the surrounding hair and no one could tell I ever had alopecia.

I recommend that when you get any hairstyle that will cause pulling your hair you see a professional. I know sometimes we want to save money by paying a young college student or another person that is not a licensed cosmetologist to do our hair. If someone pulls your hair so tight that you have to take pain medicine to fall asleep or you can not lay down without being in pain, it is TOO tight. It is very important to take care of your edges no matter what style you have. If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to Ask Dr. Renee.

 

Source: Ask Dr. Renee

Source: Ask Dr. Renee

 

Dr. Renee Matthews has appeared on television shows such as “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and WGN’s “People to People”  where she discussed different health topics. She started her media career with her own radio show on ReachMD, a programming source for health professionals. In addition Dr. Renee has been a featured medical correspondent on Sirius XM’s “Sway in the Morning.” 

Dr. Renee earned her undergraduate degree in 1999 and her Medical Doctorate in 2005. She spent the early part of her medical career as an educator for numerous hospitals and attending staff on cord blood. 

Twitter: @AskDrRenee

Facebook.com/AskDrRenee

 

I Am Sick Of Talking (Reading) About Black Hair – And Here’s Why…

September 3rd, 2014 - By Ezinne Ukoha
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Shutterstock

I am sick of talking about Black hair because there is nothing you can say that I haven’t heard before. All the main topics for discussion have been analyzed, scrutinized and summarized in endless ways; and quite frankly, I am appalled at the idea that we need to be mercilessly reminded that “natural hair” is a problem that not only needs solving, but won’t ever go away. Or that relaxed hair is so damn fragile that any unnecessary procedure is a risk you don’t want to take. And of course now that we have embraced the era of keratin treatments, all bets are off.

Going to the gym for the week? Be sure to check in with your trusty hair blogger(s), so that you ensure that your relaxed mane won’t suffer the consequences that will surely stem from your arduous workout. How many times have you stumbled upon articles that repeatedly emulate ways to manage your unruly tresses or offer pages filled with products that they swear will end your dry spell? Aren’t you tired of being invited to Hair Blogger events, meetups and seminars? Every time you think you have mastered a regimen that converts your Z pattern hair to a C pattern (if that’s even possible), someone else demonstrates on YouTube, that they have a much better and faster alternative. We are going around in circles and wearing ourselves out in the process.

No matter how many times the debate surrounding natural vs. relaxed, texturizing vs. retexurizing, etc, are tackled, the level of interest never ceases to amaze me. Those pieces typically skyrocket in the comment section of every blog. The conversations are identical to the ones from the previous week and the week before that. But somehow, there is that possibility that someone may have found a cure to our never-ending nightmare. So we continue to indulge and give the growing number of hair bloggers something to do. We are desperately hoping that through extensive research and sheer determination, they will stumble upon the product that will in fact transform our stubborn accessory into the shiny, soft, easy to pamper version that unfortunately most of us were not genetically blessed with.

Believe me, I feel your pain. I am not sure what pattern I am currently sporting, but I can confidently say that it isn’t the most sought after category. I have never been told that I have “bad hair”  but the sympathetic glances I received back in the day when I used to faithfully visit hair salons was all the proof I needed. And the stylists would jokingly vocalize how my hair needed special attention because of its coarse nature. I bought into that nonsense until I realized how much money I was spending on mandated conditioning treatments and steaming sessions. We are coerced into believing that our hair can’t survive or we can’t look like decent human beings unless we empty our bank account and get a loan. Or better yet, do a little extra work in the bedroom so that your boo can pay for the new look we have planned for the fall.

But just because I understand the complexity that comes with having Black hair doesn’t mean I need to be bombarded with the same tired solutions every freakin day. It also doesn’t mean that we need to hear the same testimonies that breed the exact same results and inspire identical reactions. ‘The Big Chop” was somewhat inspiring when the “natural hair movement” became this instant phenomenon, but aren’t we over it yet? How many times are we supposed to cheer for women who finally decide to be brave enough to sport their unaltered texture? The story about women who after disastrous hair appointments are forced to “go natural,” and then pleasantly discover how much they love embracing their roots is so played out it’s pathetic. Tell it someone who actually cares! Oh, but wait, that’s the problem. So many of you do care, and I don’t understand why.

I am aware that Black women are not the only ones who try find ways to battle the elements in order to ensure that our crowning glory is intact. But we are the only ones who have turned our battle into a global enterprise. All we talk about is hair. All we think about hair. We can’t get enough of it because we are obsessed. Click on any site that caters to Black women and the main page is almost always littered with hair topics – some of them new postings, some recycled or restructured. It’s a dizzying ride to nowhere. Nobody is going to do a better job caring for your hair than you. You have all the answers and only you can convince yourself that, despite all its shortcomings, your hair isn’t as intimidating as you have been made to believe. So give yourself a break and just deal with it, and give us all a break while you’re at it.

 

9 Reasons Beyoncé Will No Longer Rock With BET

August 27th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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BET done messed up now. Watching their award show every year, it’s a bit clear that the big named stars are starting to show up increasingly less as they cross over and make it with the mainstream. It’s quite sad, actually. And while we might not have understood their absence before, these days Beyoncé has every reason not to show up…like ever again. Here’s why.

My Hair Looks Like Blue Ivy’s And I Think It’s Beautiful

August 27th, 2014 - By Ezinne Ukoha
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Splash News

Splash News

So… I promised myself that I was over the endless hair articles that clog up the Internet daily. But after witnessing the public thrashing of Blue Ivy’s locks after her unbearably cute appearance at last Sunday’s VMAs. I couldn’t resist chiming in on a topic that has been exhaustingly rehashed for no good reason.

First of all, Blue Ivy is an adorable girl who has super star parents. She is a celebrity by default and so she will always be judged based on her looks. It is pathetically sad that she has to endure the wrath of ignorance before she is even able to construct a complete sentence. But thanks to the luxury of social media, we are susceptible to the fiery nature of naysayers and inconceivably rude people who take pleasure in mocking or degrading innocent victims.

Blue Ivy can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to her appearance. The jokes about her looking more like Jay-Z than Beyonce erupted the same day her official photos were released. Who cares what she looks like? The girl is wealthier than a nation right now and she will not have to rely on her beauty in order to live a pretty fulfilling life. Be that as it may, I happen to think she is the cutest thing ever! And yes, I am aware that since North West entered the world, the comparisons have been relentless. Particularly since one of them has that “good hair” that we all salivate over, and the other has, well, something that looks like our worst nightmare.

It might be your nightmare but it’s my reality. Yes, my hair looks like Blue Ivy’s. It’s thick, natural, and gorgeously wild. No, I don’t like to pile on a plethora of products in order to achieve that “shine” because it does nothing but clog up pores and cause my scalp to itch, which unleashes itching sessions that I can quite frankly, do without. I also don’t believe in combing or brushing my hair needlessly, especially when all I have to do is pick apart my curls and fluff accordingly.

Everyone is griping about how “dry” and “unkempt” natural hair tends to be when it is left it’s own devices. I think I know what the real issue is and you are not going to like it. It is clear that we will never be completely accepting of the tresses that we blessed with. Our hair is unique and comes in various textures, which means that there is no regimen that will work for everyone. None of us has the right to project our insecurities on someone who doesn’t seem to live up to our standard of the “perfect mane”.  Just because you wash your hair every other day doesn’t mean I need to do the same. And if you love the way Miss Jessie’s products bring out your curls, that’s awesome for you, but I don’t get those same results.

There is nothing wrong with Blue Ivy’s natural hair, but there is something wrong with the way black women react to it. You seem to be so convinced that you would do a better job. I am sure this is because she represents something that you are uncomfortable with. Almost like an embarrassing representation of our true selves. That’s why so many of you are determined to hide behind your weaves that cost more than your rent. You can’t bear to expose your that part of you that not only leaves you vulnerable but potentially makes life just a little more complicated.

For those of us, who don’t mind being natural, we embrace the complexities and revel in the freedom that it brings. I am not saying that natural is the only way to go, in fact, I am contemplating getting a weave in a couple of weeks. Hair is an accessory and I treat it as such. I also never tell anyone how to manage their mane, nor do I make mothers feel inadequate about the way they care for their daughter’s tresses.

Blue Ivy’s hair looks like mine, in fact it may even look and feel better than mine. I am offended for her and for myself, when I read and hear the nasty comments floating around. In case you are clueless, let me help you out – natural hair is hair that is devoid of chemical treatments. Aside from moisturizers and gels, your hair is basically riding the wave of it’s own God-given texture. Blue Ivy’s hair looks fits that description and so does mine. So get off her back, and pick a more appropriate topic to discuss. Like maybe how we can endeavor to send the right message to our little girls about self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Perm Scabs & Other Things I Don’t Miss Now That I’m Natural

August 21st, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Things I Don't Miss Now That I'm Natural

First and foremost, this is not a post trying to divide us along the lines of #teamnatural or #teamrelaxed. I’m tired of all the hashtag teams anyway. It’s not even a post, trying to persuade women to “go natural.” This is just my personal story about my own hair transformation and the things I appreciate about my own hair–or appreciate more– now that I no longer have a perm.

Get It Right! Military Revises Hair Regulations

August 14th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: US Army

Source: US Army

Earlier this year, the Army came under fire for their new rules regarding tattoos, grooming, uniforms and particularly hairstyles. The hair regulations banned women from wearing twists, dreadlocks and multiple braids, and cornrows that are bigger than a quarter of an inch.

Black military members spoke out about the rules saying that they were racially insensitive and they also objected to language which described natural hairstyles as “matted” and “unkempt.” Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard started a petition on the White House’s website writing: “These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent.”

The story caught the attention of several congress men and woman and even news sites and blogs, particularly Black women’s websites, like ours. 

After all of the backlash, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Tuesday, of this week, that the military is revising the ban to include a wider range of hairstyles.

Hagel’s review comes after female members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to the defense secretary calling the guidelines discriminatory and targeting “soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair.”

In a later to the Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, Hagel wrote:

At my direction, over the last three months, each Military Service reviewed its definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles, and eliminated offensive language, including the terms ‘matted and unkempt’ from both the Army and the Air Force grooming regulations. Additionally, each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”

CBC member Barbara Lee praised Hagel’s announcement saying that while she was a daughter of a veteran and understands the need for uniformity in the military, they need to recognize that “natural hairstyles do not reflect or create a lack of professionalism or respect for the Armed Forces’ high standards.”

She said that she was pleased that words like “unkempt” and “matted” were being removed.

The hair regulations were actually keeping one military officer from being promoted. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jessica Sims, 32 said wearing her hair in locs, pulled in a bun, while on duty. Her superiors told her to cut her hair or wear a wig and when she refused, her commanders processed her for separation for “serious misconduct.”

Here are some of the changes being made to the regulations.

Army

  • Determined the terms “matted and unkempt” are offensive and will eliminate them
  • Authorized temporary two-strand twists
  • Increased size of authorized braids, cornrows and twists; removed spacing requirement
  • Authorized a ponytail during physical training

Air Force

  • Determined the terms “matted and unkempt” are offensive and will eliminate them
  • Changed the name “dreadlocks” to “locs”
  • Authorized two-strand twists, French Twists and Dutch braids

Navy

  • Determined no offensive language in the current policy governing hairstyles
  • Removed some dated terms and descriptions on the Navy’s “Frequently Asked Questions” website, including “‘Twist’ hairstyles are not authorized because they fall within the guidelines of being faddish.”
  • Authorized a two-strand twist and multiple braids may hang freely if above the collar and must encompass the whole head

Marine Corps

  • Determined no derogatory or discriminatory language in current uniform regulations
  • Convening a special uniform board this summer to consider the expansion of authorized hairstyles

Will Black Women Ever Get Over Our Obsession With “Good Hair?”

August 5th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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the good hair question

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There is always an uneasiness I feel when I’m offered compliments about my hair.

It’s not just a matter of saying “thank you” and keeping it moving. Sometimes – I would say about half the time really – the compliment deviates from a simple courtesy of “your hair is really pretty” into a discussion about texture, thickness and length, which is usually loaded with so much that it makes responding with a simple “thank you” damn near impossible.

Compliments range from, “Your hair is really soft, I wish I had hair like that,” to “Your dreadlocks are really nice – my hair is too nappy for that.” There is no easy response that does not involve a history lesson as well as challenge to one’s entire core being – or even the possibility of losing a friend (or making a new friend), because someone could confuse my attempt to point out that there is nothing special or magical about hair with humble bragging.

Worse are the assumptions that come with the compliments. In particular, people like to think that my hair is more manageable (it is not) or that perils of fitting into the standard of beauty are less perilous because I have long hair (that too is a fallacy). Those who had to suffer through negative interactions with their own ethnically black hair don’t like to hear this, but I can’t help but feel maligned into a position of having to speak to a privilege (in this case: the privilege of “good hair”), which affords me no real benefit. Trust when I say there are more variables at stake than if I’m able to shake my hair around like a white girl.

With that said, I will not try to pretend to be obtuse. My personal awkwardness in how I respond to these “compliments” is a drop in the bucket of deep history, politics and even pain in our hair stories. Thick and tightly wound coils, aka the naps, are always viewed as problems to be fixed. There are perms and flat-irons offered as solutions to make one more aligned with the Westernized beauty standard. And even in natural hair spaces, which are supposedly free from the tyranny of “good hair” standards, we see an emphasis put on everything light and curly. I remember a time when women used to wear Bantu knots as an actual hairstyle (and expression of cultural ties), but now, if women are not knotting, stretching, pulling, defining, braiding and length testing, then we are applying a bunch of products that promise to help us achieve our curly “natural” look.

And oh, are there products!

Curl definers, creams, puddings, milks, smoothies…and those are just a few products. As noted by Christina Patrice on the blog Black Girls Long Hair, our obsession with the curl is often introduced to us at a young age through hair straightening products like the Just For Me Texture Softener, which Patrice writes, “walks like a relaxer, talks like a relaxer, and pretty much is a relaxer,” but is marketed as an option to loosen “hard to manage” hair. Patrice also points out that in the texture softener’s FAQ section (frequently asked questions), there is advice given to parents on teaching black girls to love their hair (I sh*t you not), which includes this little pearl:

Proactively talk about loving your daughter’s hair. Your daughter’s hair is unmistakably linked to her self-image and self-esteem. If she feels her hair is a problem, she will also think there is a problem with her image. If she believes her hair is beautiful, she will believe that she is beautiful. Your little girl will take her cues from you, her mother. Be careful not to inadvertently pass along negative feelings through the frustrations of everyday grooming.”

I agree that hair and self-esteem for women does tend to go hand-in-hand (not always and not definitely, but it can), however, proactively talking to your daughter about why she should love her hair while simultaneously slapping a bunch of perm…er, excuse me, texture softener, into it doesn’t seem like a consistent message of self-love, which Just for Me is trying to pretend it’s about. It should be noted that while some of these curl achieving products are owned by mainstream companies, there are plenty of black owned hair companies in the business of helping black women hate their hair too. And while I would put them on blast, I also know that more times than not, those companies are only responding to the market trends. In short, there is a need and want for products like this. Why else would they make them?

This means that the onus to change the perceptions of what is “good hair,” which should simply be hair that is healthy, is on us. And that means that we need to reexamine all the things we find unmanageable about our hair and wonderful about everybody else’s. That includes how we choose to issue hair compliments. And if the only reason why you think my hair is pretty is because of its texture or perceived manageability, I don’t see that as much of a compliment, and in all honesty, you can keep that to yourself.