Thought Catalog

21 Black Women Confess The Hair Struggles They’ve Never Told Anyone

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Black hair is seen as “fascinating” to a lot of non-Black people – fascinating good, and fascinating bad. But the truth is not only do a lot of non-Black people not know about how Black hair “works,” a lot of Black women, myself included, are protective about their hair. So I asked a few (Black) girlfriends, as well as the Internet, to confess their hair struggles.

1. “Explaining anything about your hair to non-Black people always feels exhausting and time-consuming. I want to educate people but I also wish people would at least take the time to do their own research first.”

2. “The ridiculous amount of time you spend hair braiding. If I get microbraids for example, I’ll call in sick to work on a Friday because I know it’ll take all of Friday and maybe even Saturday to get it all done.”

3. “The amount of work that goes into Black hair, natural or otherwise is just absurd.”

4. “There’s no such thing as “wake up and go.” Whether I wear my hair naturally, curly, or straightened via flatiron, making it presentable is a process. When it’s curly, it gets dry very quickly and goes flat after a day or two. I have to re-wet, moisturize, comb, and brush almost every day to keep the curls looking healthy and full. When it’s straight, I have to touch up my hair with a flatiron even to wear it in a ponytail. That’s not to mention the process of straightening it in the first place, which is nearly two hours of washing, blow-drying and straightening. This upkeep doesn’t sound like much, but all this work brings my hair nothing close to white standards of beauty (read: THE standard of beauty). If I want my hair to be nice and straight for a night out, it won’t lie flat for longer than it takes for me to get out of the door. I fight with and destroy my hair to get it to look as close as possible to a standard I know it will never achieve because it’s just not in its nature, but what’s the alternative?”

5. “Budgeting to get your hair done. Some of my non-Black friends complain about $70 for salon time. I have never left the salon without paying at least $150. And that’s a good price.”

6. “Feeling self-conscious about the smell of my hair products so I spray perfume around my hair.”

7. “If you swim for exercise, the entire thing is a production that involves pre-swim hair care and post-swim hair care. I know this is bad but it makes me want that ‘good hair.’”

8. “Working out is a struggle in general. If you work out, you have to get your hair done more frequently and that’s annoying.”

9. “Getting a new hairdo and not wanting to be around White people because they always feel the need to put their hands in my hair. I don’t understand how people still think this is okay in 2014.”

10. “Of all the potentially awkward moments that come with dating someone new, first hair contact probably tops my list. For one, anyone who touches black hair for the first time has an obnoxious reaction (i.e. asking if it’s real, trying to “mold” it, wiping the product off of their hands — the product you have to put in your hair so it can look like theirs — and generally regarding you like you’re a fucking alien). The weight of all of these negative experiences with (usually White) people touching your hair comes crashing down the moment you’re making out with a guy — whose affections you’re vying for — reaches up to touch your hair, which most likely doesn’t feel or act or *smell* like anyone’s hair they’ve ever touched…it’s the stuff of nightmares. I wish I could hand guys a fucking pamphlet before the first hair encounter. Not to mention spending the night…who knows what your hair is going to look like in the morning? Rather than focusing on sexy morning sex, I’m worried about the half-straight, sort of curly, mostly ridiculous hair I sweated out the night before.”

11. “Natural hair is great but just not for lazy or busy women. But then again, I miss it at the shorter stages because of the easier management.”

12. “When you wash your braids and you have to avoid people for a day or two because of that washed braids smell.”

13. “There are very few hairstyling professionals who specialize in natural hair where I live so I have to drive to the nearest city, 3 hours away, for a hair ‘check-up’ about every 6 weeks. SMH.”

14. “Feeling that being beautiful or attractive in a traditional, feminine (i.e., white) sense is wholly unattainable. I wish I could say I’m confident enough to wear my natural hair and feel beautiful and womanly, but I just don’t. When my hair is curly, I compensate by wearing a feminine outfit or bigger earrings so I don’t look like a boy. As I’m saying this, I know it sounds ridiculous, and I don’t truly subscribe to gendered notions of beauty and attractiveness. However, after a lifetime of absorbing messages of what it means to be an attractive woman, it’s hard not to strive toward that standard — no matter how illogical and/or unattainable it is.”

15. “For women in general (and especially black women, I don’t care what anyone says), so much literal and figurative value is put into our hair. You can be the most beautiful woman in the world, but without Beyoncé’s weave, you’re just beautiful for a black girl.”

16. “It sucks to wonder in the beginning of a relationship, when you’re hoping someone finds you attractive, if your hair is keeping you from being attractive to them. Not to mention the first time spending the night.”

17. “The only problem I have with braids is my hair pulling out, and controlling the odor. When my relaxed hair is out. I worry about breakage.”

18. “Weaves are great but can generate a lot of heat and an itchy scalp.”

19. “We are vulnerable to heat damage and breakage. But we can tame our hair with adequate training.”

20. “As a girl with natural hair, my biggest problem is shrinkage. My hair shrinks to about 1/3 its length (or even shorter) when washed. Thus I get asked all the time, ‘Did you cut your hair?’ ‘No I did not, it shrinks every time I wash it, and without generalizing, most non-Blacks would then ask me, ‘Don’t you wash your hair every day?’ With a mix of worry, curiosity or what I call mere judgment written all over their faces, I proceed to break the news to them, ‘I only wash my hair once a week.’ Complete silence and then I start wondering are they thinking, ‘her hair must stink,’ or ‘oh my gosh, she is really gross.’ Haha so shrinkage for sure.”

21. “The objectification that often comes with having black hair. I’ll never forget when a girl told me my naturally curly hair would “make a great costume.” Not some afro you’d get at Party City — my actual hair. It’s not an accessory I can take on and off, and it’s a novelty. It’s a part of my physicality, one that is loaded with meaning in terms of beauty, identify and even self worth. It’s a part of my being. And when people come up to you, slack-jawed, with a glazed look in their eyes, saying “oh my god, that’s so coooool…How did you do that? Is it real? Can I touch it?” it’s hard not to want to slap them in the face. Because in that moment, you don’t feel like a whole human; you feel like an object meant to fulfill the curiosity and desire of someone else. It sounds super dramatic, but it’s such a real feeling of degradation. And if you say something about it, you’re the one being overly sensitive and mean for not letting this person invade your personal space and pet you like you’re a fucking dog.” TC mark

Featured image – Shutterstock

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