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Friday, 3 November 2017

White women and black hair

In my experience (and of course this doesn’t apply to every single white woman), white women generally don’t understand how black hair is looked after or managed. Unless they have a relative or close friend who is black or studied hairdressing, it’s unlikely they will know how black hair is taken care of.

I must address this – it’s sad that I have to but people are so crazy online I don’t want to be accused of being a racist – I have nothing against white people, I grew up with lots of white female friends, and this is not an ‘attack’ on white women. Phew! You good?

When you’re not used to something and haven’t been exposed to it, why would you understand it? It’s like a non-alcoholic trying to understanding alcoholism. How would they get it? They don’t. They think it’s a weakness or a matter of willpower. They don’t understand.

Growing up, my friends (who were mostly white girls; no reason, I had a few black female friends too, I just had more white female friends but I usually didn’t even notice or think about it) adored my hair, but they didn’t ‘get’ it. Sometimes I would put products in my hair and my mate might touch my hair then wipe it on her sleave and say it was ‘greasy.’ Some girls freaked out when I said I hardly shampooed it.

My mum is British-born Asian (Indian, more specifically), and has thick black wavy hair. What would she know about how my hair needs to be managed? She would brush my hair dry, she never told me about hair creams and butters and oils, she never gave advice on conditioning frequency because she didn’t know. She treated my hair like she treated her hair, but they’re not of the same texture so can’t be treated the same.

When you have hair like mine, it gets dryer faster than ‘caucasian’ or type 1-2 hair. This requires less shampooing, more frequent conditioning, brushing it IN THE SHOWER NOT DRY (unless you want to achieve a cool brushed out afro look), and using lots of leave in conditioner, oil, cream, etc. If I didn’t use all the products I did my hair would be such a mess due to how often I’ve dyed it.

Non-afro hair gets greasy, not dry, because it produces natural oils more faster. It requires less conditioning, more shampooing, and needs to be washed more frequently (although of course washing your hair too much is bad for your hair; hair of this type should only be washed 2 to 3 times a week). If a white girl with straight brown hair used the stuff I use in her hair it would probably make it look greasy and grim. But on my hair it makes it look shiny, bouncy and nourished. The curls become more defined and it feels softer. I also avoid hair-dryers because they dry out the hair shaft, and again because my hair is dyed it gets extra-dryer than non-dyed hair.

I often get white girls asking me about brushing my hair. Of course I brush my hair regularly (about twice a week) because if I didn’t it would turn into dreadlocks. Brushing my hair takes me around half an hour. I HATE HATE HATE other people brushing my hair – in fact nowadays I’m weary of anyone managing my hair because it usually hurts and when I do it it hurts less. As a kid I always had girls wanting to do my hair and I secretly hated it, I felt like their little doll, but I was ‘people-pleasing’ so went along with it.

My mum used to brush my hair dry and I would cry horribly but again, she didn’t know. She didn’t know there are all kinds of products you can use in mixed kids hair to grease it up first so it doesn’t hurt so much. When I wash my hair (or condition it specifically; I don’t shampoo it often) I always lather as much conditioner in there as I can and then brush it with a normal brush and go over after with a wide toothed comb. I separate it into bits and bobs your uncle. I don’t enjoy it, but it hurts a lot less when I do it.

Since dying my hair five years ago I’ve become so much more aware of taking care of my hair and what it requires. I’m much more attune to its needs. I hope this post has helped those who don’t have afro hair understand why we do the things we do to our hair!

Also see:
Dying my hair

All About Hair:

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
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