Hair Power: Cultural Care for Hair
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Many cultures link beauty with the expression of hairstyle. We cut and style our hair to fit a certain look or idea we want to feel and represent. Throughout history (hair) has been symbolic for a person’s age, ethnicity, religion, marital status and even social status. Unlike historical purposes for hairstyle as being short length due to the heat of ancient Egypt, today we base our decisions on influencers and celebrities and where we are in our own head space. How many times have you seen bangs on a person and thought I want bangs! As women, when we are feeling stagnant or bored we like to “change it up” and that comes with adding in some extensions or highlights or the at times regretful "chop it all off".
In doing some research we learned a few things about the history of hair and it’s power. Cornrows were said to relay messages in their braided design such as calls for help and escape routes during slavery. Mothers would braid hidden seeds into the cornrows as a means of survival. Dreadlocks can be dated back to ancient Greece representing age, status and courtship. Thickness and length would categorize an individual. Mohawks were warn by warriors as a symbol of strength and bravery, which can now be viewed as rebellious. The presence of hair is honored by cultures as well as the style. Jewish Orthodox believe patience is necessary when it comes to the first haircut. Children do not receive their first hair cut until they are 3 in a ceremony called the Upsherin. Polynesian tradition throws a party when a child receives a first hair cut showering them in money and gifts.
There is much to be said about Black hair history during Black History Month. Each woman has their own hair journey and for some who identify as mixed ethnicities, this can be difficult to navigate until you find your comfort zone.
Katrina's Journey: Caring for my hair makes me feel connected to my Black culture because, throughout my childhood, my Caucasian mother did not know how to care for my hair texture. She did her absolute best but, essentially treated my hair as if it were the same texture as hers. Because of this, I struggled with my hair my entire life. Attempting to tame its volume and flat-iron out the frizz and the ever-annoying knots while hating every inch of it. Little did I know, these characteristics would be everything I would grow to love about my hair not to mention, they are absolute necessities for beautiful curls! I finally began connecting with my hair at 18 when I visited a black-owned hair salon (to have my hair chemically straightened). I absolutely loved the stylist who was open and explained the true beauty of my hair’s curly potential. The rest is hair-story! HAHA!
Ever since I learned how to truly care for my hair in its own form, I became more in touch with my Blackness. And I truly couldn’t wait to do the same for my children. At first, the excitement stemmed from the prospect of having the convenience of having their heads in front of me. As you can imagine, it was challenging getting to know my hair and what worked and what didn’t but, a layer of difficulty was added since the hair was attached to my own head! But, once my daughter was born and her curls started to come in, I couldn’t wait to teach her about the importance and beauty of her hair and the special ways to care for it. To know that curly-hair knowledge would be intrinsic to her made me emotional in so many ways. She would never have to go through the same struggles with her hair and the insecurities that come with them. I am proud to bestow the knowledge I have onto my children so they can wear their hair with confidence. While Audrey and I do not have the exact same hair texture (hers is much finer, less frizzy) she still has curls and an element of black texture which requires “curly-hair” care.
Curly hair in general has different hair needs than straight hair. In the case of our bi-racial hair care, the needs become a bit more specialized:
Washing: On wash day (twice a week in our home), we double wash using a more clarifying shampoo first and a more moisturizing shampoo last. I always thought double washing was a way to encourage consumers to buy more product but it actually has great benefits, especially for thicker hair. The clarifying shampoo helps to lift the oil and dirt from the hair. The second shampoo (we usually use one that is geared toward moisture-retention) is to thoroughly clean the hair. When I started doing this, I noticed I was able to go longer between washes and my hair was in much better shape when it came to shapely curls as it wasn’t weighed down with the left-behind dirt & oil.
Conditioning: We typically condition our hair on wash days, however, doing conditioner-only washing is always an option when hair is need of a refresh but it’s not quite ready to be washed. Once a week, during wash day, we use a deep conditioner treatment to help keep our hair moisturized and soft.
Product Application (and location): The NUMBER ONE most important rule when it comes to curly-hair care is to always add your product while your hair is soaking wet. To determine if your hair is as wet as it needs to be, squeeze a section of hair and listen for a “squeegee” sound. The best way to ensure your hair is properly wet, bring your products in your shower! This way, it’s almost guaranteed to be soaking wet but, if you need to add more water, you’re right there! Another reason it’s good to add products while still in the shower is because the BEST way to apply product is while your hair is flipped upside down. This allows you to easily get product to the root and also allows your hands to move like rakes throughout your hair for even distribution. The reason we need to add product to wet curly hair, is because the curls need moisture in order to properly absorb the product. Once the final product is applied (I recommend a holding gel or mousse), the hair should then be clumped together from end to root in sections and squeezed to help curls take their shape.
Drying: Curly hair can be air-dried, though it isn’t the best way, because the weight of the water typically weighs the hair down causing less volume and dull curls. If air-drying, I recommend using bobby pins or any flat hair clip to lift the top of the hair which will allow air to flow at the root which aids in curl formation.
The best way I have found for drying curly hair is to use a diffuser attachment. Take sections of hair into the diffuser and bring the diffuser to the root of the hair. Hold for a few minutes and release. Repeat this process throughout the hair until it is all dried. Heat-drying hair also helps to seal in the cuticle which results in less frizz!
We love that Katrina has learned to love her hair and is instilling the same pride in her daughters’ hair. Representation, acceptance, pride and understanding is important and we appreciate Katrina sharing her story. She exemplifies beauty inside and out! It's never to late to learn something new or introduce a new habit for health and beauty benefits. If you haven't done so yet, try sleeping with a silk pillowcase. No matter what culture or hair type you have, the silk can retain moisture from products and natural oils. This will reduce friction on strands of hair that cause tangles and breakage. In addition to maintaining regularly "trims", only condition the ends of your hair and use a wide toothed comb! More tips later to come from our favorite hair stylist!
X0 - Katie