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Dianne Austin
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Dianne Austin

Dianne is the co-founder of Natural Haircare News and Coils To Locs.com. She's been blogging about natural hair ever since she made the decision to break free of the creamy crack in 2012.
Dianne Austin
Follow NHCN!

Why Are Black Women So Emotionally Tied To Their Hair

There’s no doubt about it.  As black women, we have a love/hate relationship with our hair.

Whether it’s natural, straightened, relaxed, braided or weaved, many of us love and embrace our hair in all forms; yet we have also politicized our hair, been frustrated by our hair, abused our hair, have a tendency to compare and contrast our hair, and for some of us, hate our hair.

Where do these feelings come from? Where does it start?

I’d love a historian’s perspective, but sans that, in my humble opinion, it starts before birth.  Our parents learned certain perceptions about their hair which was consciously or unconsciously passed on from one generation to the next. And so it begins.

Most mothers start their attempts at taming their daughter’s hair at an early age.

Here are the sobering facts:

  • We braid our hair so tightly to keep it “neat” that we’ve created scalp and follicle damage that leads to permanent hair loss.

We send an early and subtle message to our kids that:

“Our hair needs to be controlled”

“It’s unruly and unmanageable”

“It’s not acceptable”

My own daughter is now in her teens, but before I learned about how to care for natural hair, I too struggled with managing her hair. 

I kept her hair braided which started at about 13 months old.  The careful handling and braiding resulted in her hair growing really long.

At age 10, I put a “mild” relaxer in her waist length hair.  (I was still relaxing my own hair at the time).  I just didn’t know how to handle the length, texture and thickness and was tired of spending two hours detangling, washing, combing and braiding.

I wish I knew then what I know now.  I understand how to care for natural hair in a way I never understood before.  How could I know?  My hair had been straightened for most of my life.  Thanks to the thousands of blogs, and videos that are now available, I was able to educate myself about our beautiful natural textured hair.  I know how to keep natural hair healthy, moist and tangle free. 

Putting a relaxer in my daughter’s hair is something I truly regret; especially since she prefers relaxed hair.  I did get her to meet me halfway; convincing her to give her hair a rest by wearing braids for the last year)!

So yes, I’ve been there, done that.

I love the movement towards natural hair.  But even within the natural hair community, emotions rage.

Many of you have read the comments on YouTube, natural hair blogs and forums.  When the comments from the natural hair community question whether Naturalista’s with long hair are of mixed race, or when women are accusing each other of wanting type 3 hair, and not embracing “real” black hair, you know that there is a real issue.

I shared in the article “Yes I Stretch My Hair – No Biggie…” that

“There is a lot of emotion tied to black women and their hair.  It goes back to the days of slavery when we were brainwashed into thinking that everything about us, from our kinky hair to our skin color was less than, ugly, unacceptable. “

Women of all cultures have been bombarded with the European standard of beauty for years. When you are constantly bombarded with magazines, television shows, product labels, movies and more that beautiful equals long, straight hair, the underlying message is that anything that doesn’t fit this archetype is less desirable.

Let’s make a conscious effort to stop the madness when it comes to being so impassioned about what grows out of our heads and how we choose to wear it.

Author: Dianne

Comment on this articleChanging attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural. Not sure of which products are right for your hair type? Visit our solution oriented natural hair products store.

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2 Responses to Why Are Black Women So Emotionally Tied To Our Hair?

  1. sandy says:

    Good post. From an historical and psycho-emotional perspective, I think it comes down to one thing: seeking approval from the status quo.

    I remember when black women were shunning extension braids and then when Bo Derek started wearing them, they became more popular than ever.

    And it just isn’t hair. I remember when black women thought their buts and lips were too big. And when the status quo started embracing it we were ok with it.

    If we want to shorten the curve on embracing our hair, then do it with passion and commitment for the right reasons: because you are you and can wear your hair as it is as you damn well please.

    Stop waiting for someone else to tell you that your hair looks good or that your hair looks like “good hair.”( pun intended)

    What’s good is for you to grow up and take ownership of your own decisions. If you do or don’t wear your hair in a natural hairstyle isn’t the issue; but the issue is: is this your choice? or are you following the crowd in hopes of approval?

    Just be real: if you’re wearing your hair in a particular style because you want approval: so be it. Just be truthful with yourself.

    If you are truly having deep scarring and psychological pain, go into self esteem therapy and deal with the issues or seek counseling from a trusted professional.

    If you don’t believe you can be successful with your hair in it’s natural state start researching those who have been: B Smith of B Smith with Style, Farai Chideya, Damali Ayo, and there are so many others(young and older women)Don’t wait for someone to hand you a list: start researching on google.

    And check out the sisters who have made peace with their hair and started businesses and tours to encourage others.There’s still room in these fields.

    I guarantee that if you start “acting” rather than “reacting” you’ll feel better about yourself and your hair.

    Now that your hair is free start freeing your soul to do other things in life besides “obsessing” over your pain.

    Hair isn’t the problem; how you feel about yourself and what you do about it is the real issue.

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