A variety of factors including white supremacy and beauty standards steeped in whiteness have led to the devaluing of black hair. This has led to harsh and damaging practices including using relaxers to approximate the straightened white aesthetic. It has also led to a lot of misconceptions about natural African hair. Here are some of the most common myths about African hair.
Myth 1: Kinky black hair doesn’t grow or grows slowly
There’s a popular belief that natural black hair does not grow. This is largely because in its natural state it has a tendency to shrink thus hiding its real length. Different types of hair grow in different ways but it grows. You also do not have to transition to dread locs for your hair to grow.
With the right hair care regimen, any hair can grow long. Hair grows roughly ½ per month, even African hair. The reason this growth may not be noticeable, and the length may not be retained is because of things like chemical abuse, dryness, excessive heat styling, and a general lack of proper care.
Myth 2: Cutting hair makes it grow faster
Cutting black hair has no effect on making it grow faster. What may be beneficial to growth may be cutting damaged ends because split ends impede hair growth. This does not increase the growth rate, it only allows the healthy hair to retain its length by preventing breakage.
Myth 3: Relaxing your hair makes it grow
All relaxing does is it straightens curled shrunken black hair. It does not make it grow. In fact, relaxing too often is actually more likely to damage hair and limit its growth. You’re better off protecting your natural hair or wearing a wig.
Myth 4: Braids will make your hair grow faster
The growth rate for all hair including black hair is largely determined by genetics, then partly by diet and health. Braids allow for length retention; they do not increase the growth rate. Poor maintenance of braided hair can actually lead to hair loss.
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Myth 5: Black hair is stronger than other hair types
The internal structure of black hair actually makes it more susceptible to breakage than other hair types. Heat and chemical treatments including relaxers and permanent hair colour increase the likelihood of breakage. Moisturizers and hydrating products help rebuild the hair’s structure and minimize breakage. Essential oil-infused products help restore elasticity and strength while sealing in moisture.
Myth 6: Hair needs grease
In most African households, there are always oil and petroleum-based black hair products at hand. All these products do is clog up the scalp and attract dirt to the hair keeping the scalp from breathing. Ingredients like petroleum, mineral oil, beeswax, and alcohol can be harmful to African hair. If your hair feels dry, you’re better off reaching for oils like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, and other essential oils.
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Myth 7: Only wash your hair once a month
Water, because of shrinkage has long been viewed as the enemy of black hair. This is far from the truth. Water provides much-needed moisture to the hair and moisture promotes growth. Dryness promotes breakage. A good rule to remember is water is life, not just for your body but your hair too. Water remains the best moisturizer for thirsty roots.
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Myth 8: Africans can only use black hair products
False. Selecting a hair product that works for you is largely experimental and what works for one person’s hair may not work for another’s. As you experiment to find what works for you, do not limit yourself to products advertised specifically for African hair.
Myth 9: Prenatal vitamins make black hair grow
Some pregnant women on prenatal vitamins sometimes experience more growth and thicker hair. This is a result of the increase in oestrogen during pregnancy. Black hair does indeed grow longer, however, after childbirth, it begins to shed almost as fast. Eventually, the hair goes back to its normal growth rate. The problem is this effect and cycle of increased growth followed by extreme shedding can be experienced when using prenatal vitamins for hair growth.
Myth 10: Natural hair is hard to manage
All the natural hair influencers with their intense hair care regimens have succeeded in making African hair appear hard to manage, not to mention extremely expensive. You don’t need these intense routines. All you need to do is to take the time to understand and experiment with your hair to find what works. You also don’t need all those expensive products.
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