The ”fragility” of African hair debunked!

Hi there lovely Hairess, hope you and your tresses are doing well, Hair “no name yet” here has been acting craaaazzzy i tell you, I think the reason is partly cause I’ve been too busy with other activities to pay due attention to her,plus the fact that she is quite stressed out from all that twisting and braiding of the past 3weeks really. So I’ve decided to let it be for a week which basically means no twistouts, braidouts , flat twists nothing , just a plain good ‘ol wash n go plus no combing for at least 2weeks!

Now I’ve also managed to do some reading up these past week and have learnt a few things that i‘d love to discuss with you, Remember I was supposed to do an exposé on Good Healthy hair? Well, while researching on it i realised that i did not fully understand what my hair was made up of, so decided to take it a bit further, I came across some articles that gave me not only more information about my Hair but also spurred me to have a rethink on some African hair myths i’ ve been hearing about. Here is an excerpt that caught my attention..

‘’Hair is made of protein which originates in the hair follicle. As the cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called keratin. These cells lose their nucleus and die as they travel up the hair follicle. Approximately 91 percent of the hair is protein made up of long chains of amino acids…this to me basically means hair is dead fibre.
Now the earliest recordings of research on African hair care shows, a variety of methods for managing this hair were adopted. These documentations highlight the use of hot stones; potatoes; lard, and lye, up to modern day methods. But why is afro hair so fragile?
Research shows that essentially while Caucasian, Asian, African hair have the same make-up, the structure of the proteins in black hair differ somewhat. Proteins are the building blocks of hair, providing rigidity, elasticity and strength. Together with water, these determine the overall mechanical properties. However, with afro there are three points worth bearing in mind’’.
AfricanAmerican hair consists of a reduced percentage of cystine, a protein synonymous with the hair diseases where the hair is extremely fragile and frays.
African hair proteins are also laid down in an irregular fashion. This occurs deep inside the follicle bulb within the scalp and also determines the tightness of the curl. The tighter the curl, the weaker the hair. In addition, this irregularity creates weak spots all along the shaft of the hair.
African hair grows from ellipsoidal follicles as opposed to the oval shape of Caucasian/Asian hair. In essence this means that the stresses working over the hair also attribute to splitting.As you can see, Type 4B hair is designed primarily to grow outwards for protection, not downwards’’.

Now this article was taken from: http://EzineArticles.com/4772004, and while I agree with most of the information therein, I would like to state my little observation on the much proffessed ”fragility” of African hair.

First of all, ALL HAIR IS VERY FRAGILE, not just African hair, again this is just my opinion. Reason I say so is because hair structure is basically made up of the same thing ‘’protein and fibre’ ’the only reason African hair has suffered over the years and has been labelled fragile is because very little or no research has been carried out on its structure and development and care methods. It has been simply neglected or swept under the wigs and weaves for decades!
Now I may not be able to provide all evidence to back up my stance but this is how I see it; there are several factors that affect and influence the type of hair on our head, and I categorise them thus:

1) What we eat/Diet
2) Environment/geographical locations
3) Haircare methods and practices

Haircare methods
Kinky coily hair is by no means more or less fragile than any other hair type or neither does it have particular defect in its structure, Off course if you treat your African zigzagly, or coily hair that same way a Caucasian treats her straight hair you would be running at a loss, Because our hair patterns are not the same though its structures are fundamentally the same. One major mistake most of us have been making and it’s not our fault we weren’t taught is caring for our African hair the way Caucasians do. African kinky coily or curly hair’s pattern differs from Caucasian straight hair and should therefore be handled differently. Take a look below:

strangestrandsi7

You would notice that African hair is patterned in a zigzag or round curly fashion, while the Caucasians hair is patterned straight (except for the curly)…After learning this i slapped myself for the many times I let the hair dresser use that blue small toothed comb on my dry hair,all the while saying ” sorry oh” as I clench my teeth in exasperation…looking at it now the pain was so unnecessary.
Mis- information and mis- education of our African hair grooming methods has contributed to the wide spread notion that African hair is the most fragile of all the hair types, it isn’t its just different and should be handled thus.

Food/Diet /Environment and Geographical location
You’ll agree with me, we are what we eat, which means everything that goes into our mouth will be seen on our bodies, same with our hair.
Here in the tropics, our local food is more of carbohydrates than anything else, and this has been going on for years from generation to generation, it’s even become genetic, thus having a huge impact on our hair texture and pattern. Our diet, even the way our bodies converts and processes the food we eat has a huge role to play in hair formulation and texture.

It is also true that African hair has been patterned by nature to serve as a protective shield from the harsh sun, hence it’s zigzagly or coily pattern. One cannot shy away from that fact, however, I did noticed that our hair growth and pattern does vary according to location, You see, up north, especially Maiduguri, is where we have the ladies with the longest of hair that any other parts of Nigeria, long, soft, sometimes wavy and luxuriant hair, despite the use of relaxers…While down south (which is where I’m from by the way) our hair has this redish colour and rarely grows long one can easily see the disparity, my mom use to always complain when we visit the village of how dirty/dead looking the colour of the villagers hair was.

Now if you belong to this group of people, with good genes as a result of years of good diet plus condusive environment, good for you, but if you belong to the group whose hair hardly grows blow the shoulder level do not be discouraged there is hope, Long lustrous or thick hair can be achieved through the adjustments of our diets to accommodate more fruits and vegetables, protection of our strands by maintaining a good hair care routine like ( fingercombing & fingerdetangling, Conditioning & moisturising) and drinking lots of water. Avoid putting chemicals in your hair at all cost.

Now hairess do not get confused by all my mumblings, All l’am trying to say in a nutshell is:

1)All hair is fragile and needs to be handled with care, not just the kinky coily African hair
2)Proper grooming and maintenance is the key to hair growth.
3)Good / balanced diet is important in growing long and healthy natural hair.
4)Protection of our strands is relevant for lenght retention.

Hope to expatiate on this topic as we go along, l do look forward to reading your opinion on this as well. Do have a lovely week!

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