A few things about Black hair: Black Folk 102

Continuing in my random series to educate those who may not know (m)any Black people, I thought I’d share a few things about Black hair that some may not know. I say “some” but  I actually think a lot of people don’t know these things based on random comments I get from people.

1. Don’t ask me where my daughter gets her curly hair. It takes every bit of strength not to look at you like you just landed from Mars. My hair is naturally curly, just like every other Black person–At least any I know. I’m sure there are exceptions but as a general rule, our hair is curly. I straighten it with a flat iron once a month.

2. Yes, once a month. You don’t have to be shocked when I tell you that’s how often I wash my hair. Trust me, it’s ok.

This may be getting a little deep but stay with me…

Since my hair is naturally curly; because I don’t have a relaxer (a chemical straightening agent) and I wear it straight for TV, I limit the amount of product and heat I use on it to keep it from damaging. Plus, the natural oils from my hair don’t make my hair greasy and gross, but healthy and shiny.

3. Let’s say you do know a little bit about Black hair. That doesn’t necessarily make it ok to call it “good” or “bad” or ask if I’m wearing a weave. Yea yea, I know Chris Rock did a documentary to educate people about the mysteries of Black hair but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offend me.

I’m not saying these things out of anger, but in hopes to help people not embarrass themselves. One anonymous commenter last week said she’s white, and was offended that I “ranted” about what you shouldn’t call a Black person. I believe I made it very clear that “the ‘N’ word” offends me no matter what you look like, and quite frankly, I’d never heard a white person say #4 on that list.

Anyway, these aren’t rants, but things on my mind that could help some people out there (any background) in never never land who have never ever had this conversation with a Black person.

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  1. I have to say, I love your hair! I actually keep mine in locs because my curl is so tight it’s very difficult for me to manage it myself otherwise. But you are totally right, it’s not right to call our hair ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Some people have different grains, more or less curl, etc., just like white people do!

    That doesn’t stop me from being just a little jealous of yours, though! hahaha!

  2. I wish I had the strength to go back to have natural hair. I really want to but by the time I hit week 5 or no “relaxer” my hair become unmanageable. You should see it now 🙂 I’m hoping I can hold off and go natural. I love your hair!

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing this information. This is one of the first post about natural hair that doesn’t sound like extreme work to maintain. I often play with the idea, I will go for several months without a relaxer but always go back. It will take some time but maybe I can make it a total lifestyle change….but I won’t promise. 😉

  4. Great Post!! – Loving your black folk education guides 🙂 LOL

    I want to add: re: you only washing your hair once a month.

    People, not ALL black people only wash their hair monthly, or bi weekly, or weekly. Black hair can be, and is often, washed daily or every other day. It’s not some magical mystical hair that can’t get wet very often. It’s just a choice that SOME black women make.

    I get a lot of comments like “oh but you cant wash more than once a week right?”

    No, not true. It’s a personal choice depending on what you like to do with your hair. It’s not a hard and fast rule for all black women.

    Just had to put that out there before this myth grows further.

    PS: I LOVE HAIR POSTS!!!! YOU KNOW IM A HAIR ADDICT!!! 🙂 Posting a hair post/giveaway today if you’re interested Jen.

  5. Ha! I’m loving these educational posts! I myself am always shocked when people characterize natural hair as “good” or “bad” because I think it’s ALL gorgeous! I understand how asking the weave question could be annoying. Kind of how people are always asking me, “Oh I love the color of your hair! Is it natural or do you dye it?” Unless you’re a good friend it’s none of your business! (Not that it’s offensive, just annoying!)

    Oh, and thanks Dani, growing up I did think natural hair was magical mystical hair that could only be washed every so often, and I was too nervous about offending my friends to ask if that was true! As an adult I lost some of that fear and did finally ask a friend, but it’s a good thing for everyone to know. 🙂

  6. AMEN to that!!! I went Natural When I found out I was pregnant! Best thing I could’ve done to prep me! I’m learning so much about my hair, My mum relaxed it when I was 5 and that was that but I have prompted my family to realise our hair is actually great!
    On another exciting note… My son got his first curl today! WOOOOOOHOOO!!!

  7. Good point Dani! My hair is a brittle wreck if I wash it too often but that’s not the case for everyone. And since I straighten it, it would be insane for me to wash it daily.

    When I’m wearing it curly it’s a slightly different story, but I still don’t wash it daily… Same with my daughters.

    In many things I’ve read and heard it seems it’s better not to. But I totally get your point in saying it as I did could make it sound like I “can’t” wash it or get it wet versus I “choose not to”. So thanks for the clarification!!
    I actually know a few white friends who are trying the “no poo” thing and not washing for a while. So I guess it can go for all hair!

  8. I love this post! I don’t have a relaxer ( but do wear a FULL weave). My hubby is white as well. I get asked so many times where my kids get their curly hair..I thought it was a known fact! 😉 I once had a new full weave a a white friend of mine noticed my hair looked different..and said. Oh my! you got that Good Hair! It did not make me upset, but I should have taken that moment to educate her ( there were a lot of people around so I refrained..)
    Years ago her statement would have made me uncomfortable as I thought people really thought my weave was real…haha! I could go on and on…but this was a great post!

  9. Love this.

    People are so incredibly rude, or ignorant as I like to say. I get the “is that natural?” (with a flabergasted look on their face) often. Well, yes, I have curly hair, it’s natural. What can I say? 🙂 I also get, “is that real?” I would NEVER go up to a woman and say, “is that your REAL color?” So don’t ask me if my hair is real, and yes, it is 🙂

    People are just slow.

  10. Your hair is beautiful, and coming from a small town, I really like these posts. There was so much information that I didn’t know once I went to college and I was too embarrassed to ask anyone about it.

  11. I wish I could go more than 24 hours without washing my hair! My girls get their curls from both their dad & me (though mine is more wavy when it’s longer). I have to wash, dry & flat iron it daily, or it looks like I dumped Crisco over my head.

  12. I come from an interracial family (via adoption)- I’m white and my sister is black. It is really amazing how much white peope don’t know about black hair (and I’m always astonished at how small the products section for black hair is at certain local stores). Our mother made a compete mess of my sister’s hair until she took her to a black stylist who gave her the information she needed to help my sister have better hair. Unfortunately my sister was 11 or 12 at the time. We have all the horrible pictures from the years before and then suddenly like a transformation, her hair looks amazingly better from that point on.
    I have naturally curly hair too, which was over-washed and brushed (yikes!) as a child and my hair got dramatically better when I started taking care of it myself and stopped brushing it. I bring this up because my mother had poker straight hair and she obviously only knew how to care for straight hair. I still find that if i change hairdressers, I need to ask around and interview to make sure they know how to cut and handle my sensitive, curly hair.
    Great post!

  13. Bwahahahahaha! I’m loving your education posts. I went natural about 3 years ago and it was the best thing since sliced bread. My daughters have and will continue to have natural hair until they are at least 17… (I have my own issues with why I don’t want my youngest to straighten her hair…).

    The cool thing is they LOVE, LOVE to get their hair braided and have beads added to it. Or to have their hair put into fun styles like hearts… Go check out keepmecurly.com (it is an amazing blog<3)

  14. Being white myself I thought I knew a decent amount about black hair due to my 100 black friends(okay, I exaggerate, but you get the point) until I had my daughter. Her hair is thick, course, curly and can get VERY oily. It may look blonde like white hair, but its nothing like most. Its been a journey to learn what I can and cannot do to her hair.

  15. I’m digging these post mainly because I’ve noticed most of your followers are white women. I’m enjoying that fact that you’re taking the time to teach and no preach. I’m also enjoying the fact that you seem more relatable to everyone reading.

  16. I think it’s worth noting for those of us who don’t know black hair that it can be EXTREMELY fine and really prone to breakage, my nieces is so fine and the curls so tight that my sister gave up and just buzzed it short for now.

    It’s also very dry a month between washings is probably more similar to a week for me.

    I agree with not calling it good or bad, everyone’s hair is different and good or bad mostly has to do with how you work with it and your own feeling about it, I love my hair but it takes special care for the frizz and I have to work with it, not against it.

  17. LOL. Who cares if you’re ranting or not? This is your blog. SMH. People today. Anyways, I think it’s great that you’re educating other races because honestly they need to know the lines not to cross before they cross them.

  18. I looove how your hair looks curly. Do you straighten it regularly because it’s easier to maintain or because you prefer it straight?

    I have (white girl) curly hair and I totally embrace it…I probably straighten it once every 6 months, for a special occasion or something. But I find that there are so many curly headed girls of all ethnicities that don’t like their curls.

    In my experience, which is limited to being white, women mainly do this to maintain the societal archetype of beauty; the flawless smooth hair. I was wondering if in your experience you find that holds true for black women as well? Or does it have more to do with the texture of ethnic hair being different and requiring different maintenance?

    I ask because I’m a feminist and I very much want to support the natural hair movement because I think that we need to let society see that there’s not one definition of beautiful and black women shouldn’t feel pressured to spend so much time and money to look a certain way (well all women shouldn’t, but you get what I mean). But I also don’t presume to know what it’s like to style black hair so I don’t want to overstep my bounds.

  19. For a white girl with board straight hair, I wondered about black hair. I never really thought of it until my students (who were black) freaked when I said I had to wash my hair every day. That’s when I started asking them questions and they asked me questions. I found out they were as curious about white hair as I was about black hair!

    Thanks for sharing and helping us understand what makes us all different…

    P.S. This makes me smile to realize that if we were all the same just how boring would we all be!!

  20. Great post! And yes, I agree with Dani about the choice of washing schedule. I’m black with relaxed hair (I tried going natural last year and will someday try again when I have more time to work with it) and wash mine every two weeks or every week depending on the season and my level of physical activity.

    Coming from an advertising background to me I see a lot of the ignorance comes from mainstream media. When watching TV you see an overwhelming majority of hair commercials only showing products for white people (and in magazines too); if we were also shown multicultural hair messages even in sitcom/drama scenes it would enter our psyche and become “normal.”

    When I went to Jamaica for one month I was SO delighted to see all the commercials for black hair and the make-up products for people with dark skin. Of course black people come in all different shades and hair textures and I know marketing schedules are based on the demographics of the audience, but I believe at least showing a representative share of techniques/products for people of color would have a huge impact on our society.

    I feel like Oprah tried to do this with Good Hair when Chris Rock was on but to me that was a joke that seemed to make it ok to laugh at the “crazy things” that black women do with their hair. Argggh.

    Conversations like the ones you facilitate Jenn are a good start! Thank you for this post.

  21. Thank you for this and your other post!
    You really have to wonder about people who complain about what you’ve written. It probably hit too close to home for them, they’re probably the ones asking the ignorant questions/making the ignorant comments and feel embarrassed that they’ve basically been called out!

    Side note: I thought I’d put some oil in my biracial daughter’s hair to keep it moisturized, you know like how we do with ours. Massive FAIL! It just SAT there, and made her hair really greasy for about 2 days. And I barely put any oil in it! I realized I’m just as ignorant about non-Black hair as others are about Black hair.

  22. I have a lot to say on this subject…but I will refrain. I am still completely dumbfounded from last week when a complete stranger came up to me and my daughter, reached out, touched Layla’s hair and EXCLAIMED, yes, exclaimed! “Oh, wow! It’s soft!?!” Seriously??????????? Don’t TOUCH my child. Ugh….ignorance.

  23. Ahh – the hair discussion. I haven’t had a perm in 11 years so I have tons to say but it takes a long discussion. I am not annoyed by ignorance of my hair but I just wish people thought about their questions first.

    Keep on with the educating!

  24. Obviously I’m not black but I do have curly hair, so I understand that it should be washed pretty infrequently. If you remember, I actually did not use any shampoo for about a year! Just conditioner and an occasional wash with baking soda and vinegar. Now I use a sulfate-free shampoo about once a week. It’s all my hair can handle or it gets dry and breaks off.

    And actually, when my hair was short I used some Soft Sheen – Carson products to keep it conditioned. Let’s Jam is a good one. My husband has been using it for about 10 years and he introduced it to me!

    As for rude hair questions — since when is it OK to ask people if their hair is real or fake? I used to get offended when people would ask if I permed my curly hair. It’s like they thought a white woman could never have such thick and curly hair naturally, so it must be fake. How rude. Wonder all you want but keep your mouth shut about people’s hair and skin, know what I mean?

  25. Again, another great blog entry. Hair…I now wear my hair short and natural. I don’t like straightening it anymore. Neither do I want to put in a relaxer. So, I buy Carol’s Daughter products to wash, rinse and condition my hair. Not straightening it anymore has been so liberating. That said, I support my sisters with their style choice. We have a right to choose how we want to wear our hair and for people to not comment on it. Thank you again for a truly relevant discussion.

  26. This post got me thinking…

    When I was in middle school and was taking home ec. my black teacher would freak out if she saw anyone touch their hair while cooking. We had to stop immediately and wash our hands. I just couldn’t understand why it was that bad. I knew it wasn’t sanitary for anyone, but was it really that bad. I mean i wash my hair every day. As I got older I realized how it’s different for those that are black. lol

    Oh and the amount of time it takes for some of my students’ hair to get done…that’s dedication. I can’t even do a french braid on my daughter’s hair.

    Also, I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but a lot of people I work with wear wigs. I commented on a hispanic teacher’s really straight hair (how pretty it was…it was much different than her style, but close to the same color) and she said it’s easy…I just put it on and I’m good to go. Then I really started paying attention (duh) to others and realized most of our black women wear wigs. I forgot one day and commented on how nice a coworkers hair looked and as soon as I said it I realized it was a wig. Do I comment on “nice hair” if it is a wig? I’m confused. I saw some beautiful wigs in the window of a wig store at the mall and I’m tempted. lol

  27. lol, love it. I have crazy curly hair and hate it. However, I wash my hair every wk, so this might depend on the hair texture various black women have.

    On a side note: I find it absurd and quite pathetic that any white person would find they are entitled to the ‘N’ word bc the current cheap hiphop culture masquerading as music uses it. Also, can we please express our point of view, without any exclamation about how we are not ‘angry’ by expressing opinions based on our experiences like any other woman in America or anywhere else. Only black women are called the ‘angry b&*^’ in our so-called ‘post racial’ society bc she speaks her mind.

  28. Today, my only African American student came to school with her hair in its natural glory. It was “beautiful”! She normally wears her hair straightened and when it is straightened, it reaches her waist. When it was natural, it was this gorgeous mass of curls. I had to comment on her hair. We both shared what we did with our hair this morning. Again, thank you so much for this discussion.

  29. Love your hair, girl! You are one of the reasons I’m growing out my relaxer. Oh.. and this post is awesome. I’m glad I’m not the only Black girl pissed that Chris Rock has people thinking it’s okay to assume all black women wear weaves and that’s it’s okay to ask me if I have one too. Ugh!

    Rock on!

  30. I snorted when I read that people don’t realize your hair is curly. That just cracked me up!

    I love my curly hair! I had board straight hair until I was 18- then hormones changed it. My sister introduced me to the Mixed Chicks hair care line and it’s never been easier! If you haven’t yet, you must try it out!!


  31. Awesome post… I’m biracial (black & white), so I could write for weeks about the comments I get re: my hair (praying your daughter doesn’t have to experience the half of it!). I’m glad you’re doing this series and, as another commenter said, taking the time to teach. Each one teach one, right?…

  32. Thanks for letting people know we have naturally curly hair. Or tight curls. Some people are fascinated with my kids curls. Duh they get it from me.

  33. Ok – I was searching for your post on Carol’s Daughters products and came across this one. I had to laugh. Someone asked me last week where my daughters got their curly hair. My husband was born in Nigeria (I am white). She didn’t know black people had curly hair. I was shocked. It is my friend & I was able to laugh out loud at her.

  34. What products do you use on your hair? Do you ever wear it curly on the weekends? How did you get your hair to be so long?

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