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This work is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please contact mpub-help umich. When it comes to hair, all women can relate. Whether you are white, black or Asian we all agonize over how to wear it; toss and turn about what colour it should be; and, cringe at the thought of cutting it too short. Dermatological research see Browne, ; Loussouarn and Rawadi et al.

Visually, black hair is thicker, curlier, and often frizzier as compared to Caucasian and Asian hair. And, from a grooming standpoint, it is also more sensitive to excessive manipulation, requiring a different set of styling techniques. For me, hair has always been a constant battle. Why am I doing this, I wondered? What does my thick, curly, frizzy hair actually look like? And, is there a way I can take care of my hair without using a chemical, a hot comb, or having to wear a wig? Fortunately, both my sisters have worn their hair natural for several years, so I have seen firsthand how to care for that style, but so many women are not as lucky.

And so last January, I sought to share my story with whoever would listen, and that is when my hair journey and that of Strictly Roots SR [1] owner, Ruth Smith, collided. One gloomy morning in February, , I walked into SR, a natural hair care studio — which means no measures are taken to alter the natural state of black hair — located in Toronto. Open since , I had been a client of SR for months; however, this morning was different.

And, it is an issue. Outside of the black community, most people are totally baffled by the discussion. When you consider the history of black hair, its complexity becomes clear. Once enslaved, hair became more a matter of the labour one was forced to do. For instance, field slaves often hid their hair, whereas house slaves had to wear wigs similar to their slave owners, who also adorned wigs during this period. In the early s, Madam C. This device was the first of its kind to be marketed by a black woman to other black women, and it completely changed the hair game.

Once the straightened hair was exposed to moisture, however, it would revert back to its original state. In the s, George E. Hair weaving is a process by which synthetic or real human hair is sewn into one's own hair. There are many different ways to wear a weave. In her book, Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women , Noliwe Rooks recalls a memory from her childhood that underscores the relationship between hair and identity for black women. She reasoned that because no one was ever going to mistake me for having anything other than African ancestry due to the dark color of my skin For young black girls, hair is not just something to play with, it is something that is laden with messages, and it has the power to dictate how others treat you, and in turn, how you feel about yourself.

While this quote is an historical one, the issues revealed throughout this article are eerily current. In her study, Ingrid Banks used interviews and focus-group methods to explore how black women and girls of diverse ages and socioeconomic class feel about their hair choices, and in turn, their identities, community, gender, sexuality, and cultural authenticity. Anthropologist Lanita Jacobs-Huey took a slightly different ethnographic approach to her study by examining the role of language in negotiating the social meaning of hair for African American women.

Byrd and Lori I. Born in Trinidad, Ruth immigrated to Canada in Soon thereafter, she became very self-conscious about her hair. I remember one day we were playing jump rope in the yard and my wig fell off. I was in grade six or seven and all the kids were laughing at me.

Looking back on it now, I would have been laughing, too. Self-hatred seems like such a harsh word. Other women wear their hair in various hairstyles, too; short hair, long hair, shaven, dyed, spiked, even wigs and weaves, and no one attributes their hairstyling choices to self-hatred. It seems almost hard to believe. How is it possible that millions of black women do not know how to care for their hair? And, why do so many feel they have to hide their natural hair?

As a professional who sees the end result of years of hair alteration, Ruth believes that women in large part see no option but to alter their hair because of the images we are inundated with of women whose hair is very long, silky, flowing and mostly blonde. In the media, many of the black women who are glorified for their beauty tend to be women who also have long, wavy hair Patton, p.

Further, when you consider that for the past years manufacturers have almost exclusively only promoted the idea that natural black hair needs to be altered, it all begins to make sense. When was the last time short, curly, kinky black hair was celebrated or promoted as equally as beautiful?

To no surprise, there have been several instances over the past few years where natural black hair has been under attack. Whether they are casual comments about texture or blatant insults, many black women feel that there is a price to pay for sporting a natural do. Even corporations like MCI Communications and American Airlines have been sued because black women were allegedly fired for wearing their hair in braids or dreadlocks Caldwell, A stylist for 14 years, she has been operating a fully-d hair salon out of her home in the west end of Toronto for five years.

It could be straight today, kinky tomorrow, and curly the next day. It is important to note that there are no race-based statistics in Canada on black hair care, but in the United States, the s are staggering. Market research firm Mintel reports that although blacks make up 13 percent of the population, they for 30 percent of hair care spending. Whether or not Koreans have a right to monopolize the black hair care industry is a moot point because the real issue is, as Ruth asserts, hair alteration. While black hair care professionals are on the front lines trying to help women save their hair from years of relaxing, wearing weaves, tight braids, and even improper wear of dreadlocks, dermatologists see the end result of it all.

Yvette Miller-Monthrope and Renee Beach, for instance, are something dermatology students doing research on black hair. Traction alopecia is caused by chronic pulling on the hair follicle. It is a form of scarring that is most noticeable along the hairline. While it is reported in women of many races, traction alopecia is most frequently seen in black women, and very rarely in black men. If the scalp is ok, there is the potential to grow the hair back in a good way. Dina Strachan, a New York City board certified dermatologist, whose patients are mostly African-American women, says that the biggest complaints she receives from her patients are a lack of hair growth, breakage, and hair loss.

However, the root cause of these complaints is not internal problems, but a lack of what Dr. Further, Dr. CCCA develops at the crown portion of the scalp. The hair loss is in a circular pattern, and the damage occurs to the hair follicles and le to hair loss that is progressive. The mission of natural hair care providers is not to pass judgment on those who are not yet similarly minded; it is about sharing their insights on how beautiful natural hair is, despite all the negative messages suggesting that it is not.

I remember when I was a teenager overhearing a conversation happening among a group of elder black women. They were talking about black women dating white men. I have never forgotten that and even today I think about it a lot. As she concludes:. Caucasian hair is a beautiful hair type in its own right, and our hair type should be recognized as beautiful in its own right, too. Black women have the right to wear their hair however they please; but given the damaging effects of hair alteration, tight braids, and wigs, it is incumbent that hair choices be critically examined within the context of hegemonically defined beauty standards.

Hair alteration should be viewed as unequivocally damaging to an individual and collective physical, psychological and cultural well-being, or it will continue to be predicated on the belief that nappy, kinky, Afro hair is wrong, and long, straight, i. White and Asian hair is right. Banks, I. Browne, R. Journal of the National Medical Association, 98, 10, Byrd, A.

New York: St. Caldwell, P. Duke Law Journal, 2, 4, Jacobs-Huey, L. New York: Oxford University Press. Loussouarn, G. Diversity of Hair Growth Profiles. The International Society of Dermatology, 44, McMichael, A. Hair and Scalp Disorders in Ethnic Populations. Dermatologic Clinics, Journal of Investigative Dermatology Symposium Proceedings, 12, Mercer, K. London: Routledge. Patton, T. NWSA Journal, 18, 2, Rooks, N. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Tate, S. Black beauty: Shade, hair and anti-racist aesthetics.

Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 2, Wolfram, L. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 48, 6, However, these prices pale in comparison to the wider black hair care market. Available at www. Affirm and Keracare are manufactured by Avlon Industries. Term used to describe women who do hair out of their home on an informal basis.

An economics graduate of Carleton University, Gordon has an interesting perspective. While these are US-based figures, it is fair to assume that similar proportional s would be applicable in a Canadian context.

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Black Women and Identity: What’s hair got to do with it?