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Differences between African and Caucasian Hair

Updated on May 17, 2020

Growing pains

Last week I shared two photos on Facebook. One was of April 2019 when my hair was cut close to my scalp and the other was recent since my hair has grown back. A white friend commented that "Hair grows". She did not understand the significance of my photos because her experience is different than mine. When I was a young girl in the 1960's my hair was over my shoulders and my great grandmother straightened it with metal comb that was put on a hot plate. Once the comb was heated properly, she applied "hair grease" to my scalp and hair then pulled the comb through to straighten it. Most every black girl went through this process and it was natural and normal for us. Without the straightening comb we would have Afro's which is our hair's natural state.

Unfortunately for some, their hair texture did not produce long hair as I and others enjoyed. I can remember girls being called bald head, nappy head and made fun of because their hair did not grow long. White friends who had short hair did so by choice, but many black girls had no choice. This is why my Facebook friend said "Hair grows." Truthfully hair does grow and that's why roots need touch ups from coloring or perms. The hair grows out at the root, but breaks off on the ends before any length is acquired. In addition to girls being picked on for short hair, there were those like myself who were ridiculed for having long hair. It is unfortunate that you tresses cause so much hostility. If you were light skinned as I am then you were accused of thinking you were white, which was not true. These issues are not within other cultures because most all women except those of African descent have straight hair. Yes there are variations but the two basic hair types are straight and coarse.

Maintaining hair length

White women often cut their hair when they are older and again this is by choice. I know black women who had hair down their backs as children, but now cannot get the length to return. Caucasian women sometimes perm and color their hair but for many African American females chemicals were a ritual for many years. The constant use of curly perms, waves, relaxers and heat products takes a toll. Hair that was already fragile becomes weak and breaks. Combing, and brushing are normal for all women but black females can over do these things in order to feel good about their hair. In addition, rollers, hot curlers and elaborate styles can break hair. Glue for weaves can cause damage and wig caps can lead to bald spots. The fact that we do so much extreme changes to our tresses is indicative of a deeper issue. Black women have been made to feel less than and that our hair is not acceptable. Right now, in 2020 there are growing incidents of work place bias and even issues in schools because of dreadlocks. For some reason, there are non blacks who seem to be threatened by these ethnic styles and want to eradicate them. If all black women had long straight hair like women of other cultures non of this would be an issue.

We do what we do to maintain our tresses in the best way that is possible. Ethnic styles are not to intimidate anyone, but are African Americans being proud of what for years we were ashamed of. Those who cannot maintain the length of their hair use extensions, weave and wigs because they desire length they cannot obtain any other way.When curly perms and waves were popular a lot of women and men of color experienced their hair growing longer for the first time. This was because there was no need for heat and excessive maintenance with these styles. Now a lot of black males and females enjoy tremendous hair growth through dreadlocks. With the ends locked they don't break and again there is no need for heat, curlers, combing, brushing and pulling and tugging on the hair. Some believe dreds is the way our hair was intended b ut not everyone wants to go that rout.

Adding length to hair is possible

None blacks, for the most part have straight tresses and do not have to deal with the kink, coils, curls, and resistance that many African Americans must endure. The fact that curly/wave styles and dreadlocks bring growth is an indicator that our hair can gain length. Black women need to do the same things as other females with a few tweaks of course. Keep the ends clipped, massage the scalp, sleep in a cap, eat healthy, drink plenty of water and consider hair vitamins. Sadly there are so many products flooding the market with African names that mislead black folk to think they have secret growth ingredients. Keep in mind that those wearing dreadlocks are not using any of these products. What is different is that the hair is left alone to grow in it;s natural state and the ends are not breaking. Depending on your hair type you may need to use oil or lotion on your hair and scalp to keep it soft and shiny. Gray hair can be extra rough but there are products such as Alberto V05 hair creme for gray hair that can help. As mentioned earlier I cut my hair and within a year it has grown tremendously. At first I wore it natural but has it began to grow I wore a wig. The reason I did this was to prevent myself from pulling and tugging and trying to put it in a pony tail before it had grown sufficiently. This is another issue for black women. As soon as the hair has grown a little we begin pulling it back tightly and trying so hard to get a pony tail or bun. This is why the lengthening often stops at this point because we are damaging the growth.

Accept your unique tresses

The above picture speaks a thousand words regarding the main difference between black and white hair. The African American woman has a short Afro, the Caucasian female has hair hanging down her back. The issue of so many black women not being able to choose such length is the root of all the mistreatment of each other. Why pick on a girl with long or short hair? This is heredity and they did not choose it. Each of us must do our best with the hair that is on our head. We should not be jealous of another, or flaunt long hair in the face of someone whose hair will not grow.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Cheryl E Preston


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