Thought Catalog

10 Things Your African American Friends Wish You Understood About Their Hair

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Clarke Sanders

1. Extensions don’t mean that I don’t love my natural hair or myself. The first time that I was faced with this perspective was in Missouri when a girl asked me if I did not like myself since she rarely got to see my “real” hair. I will admit, I was caught off guard. Trying new looks is not synonymous with not loving my natural look. It is all a matter of preference, and sometimes it’s a matter of protective hairstyles.

2. If my hair goes from barely at my shoulders to way past my back overnight, it’s probably some sort of extension. Hair grows as it grows. It doesn’t grow at will. But sometimes I just want to try a new look so I get extensions. It always baffled me growing up how many people couldn’t understand that my extensions did not grow from my head and that they could be removed with no damage done to my scalp or my hair.

3. Protective hairstyles are important, and they aren’t always extensions. Chances are if you didn’t grow up around protective hairstyles, this term can be puzzling. All it means is that there are certain hairstyles that can protect hair from breakage. Believe it or not, the tighter the curl pattern, the more fragile the ends of the hair can be. Protective hairstyles help to conceal the ends of the hair protecting them from damage caused by combing it often, a change in weather and more. It can also make it easier to manage and makes getting ready super quick and easy.

4. I can have natural hair and wear protective hairstyles. I remember telling someone that I had natural hair while my hair was in box braids and she said, “Wait, no…you just told me that those were extensions”. We laughed about it and I explained that all “natural” means is that there have been no chemicals added to transform the natural curl pattern. So I can have my hair in as many protective hairstyles as I want, or blow dry it from time to time, as long as it returns to its natural state when water touches it, it is natural.

5. Chemically treated hair also grows from the head naturally but it’s natural texture has been altered. When someone texturizes (adds chemicals to loosen their natural curl pattern) their hair or relaxes (adds chemicals to permanently straighten their hair) their hair, it alters their natural curl pattern entirely. That’s the big difference.

6. Texture does determine shrinkage, but not every black person has super tight/kinky hair naturally. There are various hair types that exist across the board no matter your race. Depending on how tightly your hair curls, you may or may not experience shrinkage at at different rates. A lot of the time African Americans tend to naturally have tighter curls, but it doesn’t mean naturally looser curls are not in the gene pool, they are.

7. I do not have to wash my hair as often. A friend once asked when was the last time I washed my hair and I said it had been about three or four days and she looked at me wide-eyed and astonished. But then I explained that my hair doesn’t produce oils as quickly as hers do and so I do not have to wash it as frequently. In fact, over-washing my hair could easily lead to me losing all my hair.

8. Oils and moisturizers are actually great/essential for my hair. While some of my friends are loading up on dry shampoo, I am stocking up on oils and moisturizers for my hair because we have different needs. My hair grows best and remains healthiest when moisturized, but remember too much of any good thing can be a bad thing. Moisturizing my hair once or twice a day works great for me.

9. Braids, Crochet, Twists, Dreads,Weaves, etc., they are not the same thing. The amount of times that people have said that they love/miss my “dreads” when referring to my braids or twists has been very interesting. One of the major differences between specific styles like dread vs braid outside of texture, process, and everything else is that dreadlocks tend to be more on the semi-permanent side of things while braids unravel easily.

10. You don’t have to touch it. It’s actually completely okay if you don’t. I have to acknowledge this too when I see hair that intrigues me but I have to ask myself, “Do you know this person?”, “Are you friends?”, and “Did you ask?” Let this be your rule of thumb and be okay with it if they say no.  TC mark

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