By Aria Newton  

We all know the importance of a woman’s hair to her regardless of any ethnicity it is a woman’s crown, but within the African American community it has played a very important role in the depiction of a black woman.  This focal point can be traced back to our ancestors in Africa where the way women wore their hair could tell their age, marital status, religion, wealth and their status with-in the community.  As we have evolved as a people so has the importance of our hair in our community.  As an African American woman in the black community one must understand how important the upkeep of our hair is. Just as our ancestors, we too leave our hair to tell specific details about ourselves. Our hair has a way of showing the world our power before we even begin to astonish the world with our words.

Many times before the issue between “good and bad hair” “natural vs. straight” has been addressed and our black women, as strong willed and opinionated as we are, have very clear set standards for how our hair should be managed.  We have on one end of the spectrum our “true to their roots” sisters who choose to wear their hair natural, meaning no chemicals.  Some go even further with what is considered “naptual” where there are no chemicals as well as no type of heat applied to the hair what so ever.  In the middle we have the women who stay true to what their grandmothers taught them and make sure that every strand, every root, every split end is straight as a bone with the use of relaxers, hot combs, flat irons and blow-dryers.   At the far right end of the spectrum we have those who prefer the versatility of a weave via sown in, glued in, or a wig.  Either way however we choose to wear our hair the most important questions are if it is healthy and how can we keep it that way.

Good hair is healthy hair.  I do not personally believe that natural hair is healthier than chemically straightened hair or vice versa.  I believe that healthy hair first starts with a healthy body.  Healthy hair does not come by necessarily what we place directly on our hair but by also what we put inside our bodies.  I believe that in order to protect our precious “hair do’s” we must first honor our bodies and be more mindful of the things we expose our self too. Everything we do effects every part of our bodies even the follicles growing from our heads, if we love our hair and treasure it as much as we project ourselves to do we should be in a better place of caring for ourselves as a whole rather than just what can be seen on the outside.  We so quickly put thing in our bodies without ever first reading a label let alone an ingredients list.  We already know the hormones and chemicals in the food we eat are gradually affecting our bodies wouldn’t that include the quality of our hair as well?  So what about the relaxers, hair dyes, hair sprays, shampoos, hair glues all of these chemicals that we place so very closely to our open pores on our scalp and unconsciously inhale the fumes they produce?  How do these chemicals affect our well being?  The companies that produce many of these hair products such as relaxers and hair dyes constantly change the chemical formulas that they use and are hard to regulate.  Well known chemicals used are Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Sodium Hydroxide (lye-relaxers) Guanidine Hydroxide (no lye relaxers) these are all chemicals that are also found in cleaning supplies, depilatory creams, drain cleaners, and embalming fluid so why are we in such a rush to put these in our hair?

We all know and may have even experienced some of the damaging effects of these chemicals when we use hair dyes, relaxers, and texurizers so there is no need to reiterate the risk.  We know the physical outer appearance damage we could be victim to but what about what is happening inside our bodies.  These chemicals are entering our bodies and can have long term effects as well.  When an autopsy is done on a female who has had continuous relaxers throughout her life time a blue film can be found under the scalp on her skull where chemical residue has been build up.  How harmful can that be to our bodies; a buildup of formaldehyde and hydroxide just lying atop our brains?  These chemicals do have the ability to create a beautiful style to our hair but is it possible that we over do it?  Is there really such a thing as becoming addicted to relaxers?  I personally can testify to the fact that it can become addicting.  Not ever wanting to see a single wave around your hair line, scheduling “touch ups” every six weeks, and then every five weeks then even pushing it to every four weeks.  Even after I decided to “go natural” I thought coloring my hair could not be harmful because I wasn’t using relaxers anymore but then I found myself changing my hair color 4 or 5 times with-in a year. We quickly become no longer concerned if what we are doing is good for our wellbeing but whether or not we simply just look good. The use of relaxers, texurizers, hair dyes can all be limited if black women put their entire well being first versus just their physical being.  Our physical self will not be up to par if we are harming our bodies.  Healthy hair is attainable with healthy diet exercise and plenty of water and rest to help your body renew itself.  Trying to steer clear of harmful habits such as smoking, drinking, stress, or even over obsessing with our physical appearance which can lead us to do some damaging things to our bodies, such as too many “touch ups” or one too many hair color changes will all lead to a healthier being.  Our outer appearance is only a reflection of what our bodies look and feel like on the inside.  We want good hair we have to obtain healthy hair and we do that by a healthier life style.

-Aria Newton


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