SAN ANTONIO – Do you know someone that always has a new hairstyle? Someone who every time you see them, they look like a whole different person to the point that if you saw them from a distance, you could barely recognize them? Is this someone a Black woman? Black women are one of the only groups of people that constantly change their hair as often as they do, and why is this? In order to answer these questions, it is important to know the science and history behind “Black hair.” First, let us dive into the science behind the hair of African Americans. Depending on genetics and where that Black person originated, a black person’s hair usually falls between 3c-4c on the curly hair spectrum. This spectrum is how different hair textures are measured and goes from 1a to 4c. 1a has the loosest texture; the strands are completely straight with no curl. Whereas, 4c is the tightest texture and the strand of hair tightly coils around itself. Since 4c hair has the tightest curl pattern and texture it would only make sense that it is the strongest, right? Actually, 4a-4c strands of hair are so tightly coiled that it naturally does not retain as much moisture as other textures. Not only is this hair type more fragile, but the strand also has a different shape altogether; the zig-zag pattern. People with straight hair produce more oil and retain moisture to the point where they must wash their hair frequently. Curly headed individuals produce much less oil in their scalp and must add oil back in to prevent dryness. This dryness causes the hair to be brittle and weak and if not treated can cause damage to the strands. For African American hair care, retaining moisture and preventing dryness is super important. “Making sure you moisturize it [Black hair] with your conditioner, that’s the key,” said Tamika Brown, licensed cosmetologist for roughly twenty-five years. “Use moisturizing products to prevent it from drying out.” Therefore, hair oil and other moisturizing products are paramount for the health of Black hair. Next, let’s discuss the hardest, most time-consuming day for any black woman, “wash day.” Have you ever tried to make plans with a Black friend and was told that the day you chose wouldn’t work because it was wash day? Have you ever wondered why? Culturally, wash day has a reputation for being a day of dread because of all the preparation, time, money and care required. If a Black woman has not already found products that work best for her hair texture, you may find her pacing the aisles of the store making the hard decision of what products to purchase. This can be a time of frustration for any Black person because the ethnic hair care products, depending on where you are located, can be sparse or, even worse, expensive. The choice can weigh heavily because Black women need to choose the right product while also thinking economically. The Black woman has found the products she wishes to buy and makes it home to start wash day. This is where the wash day routine begins, starting with the pre-shower preparations. For the best results, it is preferred that women section their hair into four large sections and detangle prior to entering the shower. This step helps reduce tangles and knots, also allowing an easier time shampooing. After the detangling process, Black women will wash their hair one section at a time, carefully scrubbing from the roots and make their way to the ends before the rinse. This step is repeated twice because the only way to know that the hair is clean, is if the shampoo lathers on the second application. “A lot of us tend to feel like we shouldn’t shampoo our hair as much because we think that it will dry it out but that’s a myth,” Brown said. “You want your scalp to be clean to keep the follicles unclogged.” Once clean, it is time for the deep condition to add back moisture and promote moisture retention. Finally, to wrap up the physical wash, Black women will end with regular conditioner. The hair is now clean, and the hardest part is over, right? Wrong. Now is the time to decide how to style the hair for the week. The decision of styling is important because styling Black hair can be very time consuming. The Black woman must think of all the things she must do during the week to reflect how she wants to style her hair. If she does not have much going on, she may opt for a “natural look” styling her hair in a braid-out, twist-out or a wash-and-go. These styles may take an hour to an hour-thirty depending on how experienced she is. If that black woman is a beginner, it may be a longer process. Natural styles may last 3-5 days, depending on the upkeep of the hair. Adding leave-in conditioners and moisturizing creams daily, can help keep the moisture in the hair. Wearing a satin/silk bonnet or scarf to bed will help retain moisture and keep the hair fresh. Cotton pillowcases are made with fibers that soak up the moisture in one’s hair and dry it out. Investing in satin pillowcases may aid with this problem and prevent stress if the bonnet or scarf falls off during the night. If the Black woman has a lot to do that week or month, she may look-into protective styles. Protective styles are any style that keeps the ends of the hair tucked away and minimizes manipulation according to ‘Protective Styling: What Every Natural Needs to Know’ By the Afrocenchix Team. Protective styles are braids, locs, twists, sew-ins, wigs or quick-weaves. Brown said that to maintain hair health in these protective styles, women should: ● Keep a clean scalp. ● Wrap up hair in a silk scarf or bonnet. ● Make sure styles are not too tight and pull on the edges or scalp. ● Keep protective styles in for no-longer-than eight weeks. For many Black women, if these tips are not followed, they could risk matting or breakage. Brown said that without proper care of the hair in protective styles, it no longer becomes a protective style, but rather an opportunity for breakage and hair damage. Protective styles, although convenient, can be very expensive when getting them done professionally. Braid and loc prices range from $180-$2,000 depending on length and part size. The hair required for wigs and sew-ins can easily rack up to between $200-$300, not including the stylist’s service fee. Due to the price and overall distaste for unprofessional beauticians, Black women have grown tired and have started to do these styles themselves at home, often learning from YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms. “My mom used to take care of my hair for a while up until I was eight years old, but then I had to figure out how to do my hair on my own,” said Mia Frances, OLLU student-athlete and Black woman. “I learned how to take care of my hair on YouTube. YouTube is my go-to when it comes to hairstyles, and it helped a lot.” Recently, there has been an increase in Black women going natural because they are learning to love and manage their hair. Many Black women have had to take the time to educate themselves on their hair and learn how to do styles themselves. Some Black women do not wish to do their natural hair because of the time and effort required and decide to relax or perm their hair. This means that they are chemically altering the bonds in the hair to “relax” their curls and make the hair straight. Relaxers also known as “texturizers” have been around since the early 1900’s when Garrett Augustus Morgan made the first relaxer in 1909. Relaxers have been a popular hairstyle amongst the Black community that eliminates the struggle of natural hair and is easy to maintain. Before the Black community knew the damaging qualities of relaxers, mothers would often relax their children’s hair for the “done” look and would press and curl their children’s hair for church, important holidays or the first day of school. “I’ve personally never had a relaxer before, but there have been multiple instances where I have wanted to get one because of how high maintenance my hair is, and how I would have to wake up every day,” Frances said. “ [I would have to] spend 30 minutes to an hour just to get it to do what I wanted it to do.” Up until recently, relaxers and straight hairstyles were the only things considered appropriate or presentable for every day looks. Black women would often hear remarks that natural hair was seen as “not done” or “unprofessional” oftentimes asked, “What you gon’ do with that hair.” As a culture, the Black community has had to work to eliminate these misconceptions and embrace their natural hair. Today, some Black women still relax their hair but now with the knowledge to help combat breakage and stereotypes surrounding their hair. Brown said that as a cosmetologist, the most important thing to remember about relaxers is to retouch the roots or new growth only, every two months. This will keep from over-processing or damaging hair that is already straight and relaxing the hair that needs it. Brown also said to use a heat protectant anytime heat is applied to the hair. Natural or relaxed, heat protectant is a must for Black hair health. Black hair is a complex, but a beautiful thing. It can be done in many ways and represented with many different curl patterns. Black women take pride in their hair because at one point, that pride was not always there. The effort and time taken to perfect their crown is unmatched and should be respected. If you have a Black friend and like her hair, tell her. If you are curious about her hair and have questions, respectfully ask them. If you like what you see and want to touch, ask first. As Solange said, “Don’t touch my hair, when it’s the feelings I wear…This crown is my sh**, rolled the rod, I gave it time, but this here is mine.”  
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