"Curves, Coils and Curls"
by Trichologist, Dr. Kari WilliamsBlack hair represents strength and resistance. The coils in our hair spiral up towards the heavens…keeping us connected to our Creator. The way our hair defies gravity reminds us of the power that we truly possess to defy opposition and the pressures of society. Although metaphorically our hair is powerful and the epitome of strength, its important that we understand that the physiological structure of Black hair actually makes it very fragile and highly susceptible to breakage and dryness.The shape of your hair follicle determines the curl of your hair. The hair follicle is a tube inside the skin and gives form to the hair. A round, straight follicle produces a straight hair strand, an oval, slightly bent shaped follicle produces a straight or wavy hair strand and a flat, curved follicle produces a curly hair strand. The majority of Black women have flat, curved hair follicles. I like to use the analogy of pulling a ribbon through a pair of scissors to help women understand what’s happening to their hair strand as it is growing out of their hair follicle. As you pull the ribbon through the scissors it begins to wind, twist and curl, just like our hair.The naturally coiled structure of our hair strands makes it naturally dry. The scalp produces an oily substance called sebum, which is designed to lubricate and protect curly hair strands. The loops and bends in curly hair strands make for poor sebum and water transmission down the length of the hair causing the hair to be very dry. The dryness of curly hair also makes it more fragile. Additionally, because the hair strand is curved it tends to weave and loop around other hair strands causing the strands of hair to easily become knotted together. The knots make the hair more fragile and prone to breakage in the area where the knot is formed. Most of the grooming practices that Black women use in their hair are intended to combat the knotting of the hair and achieve hair that is easy to style and comb. The majority of these grooming practices include the application of heat. Unfortunately, heat can make curly hair increasingly dry and exacerbate the problems of dry hair and breakage that women experience.So how do we combat excessive dryness of our strands and breakage? I encourage women to adopt the practice of:
- Deep conditioning the hair after every shampoo to replace protein and moisture in the hair strands
- Moisturize the hair daily using a water-based product. Remember- water is the number one moisturizer
- Lubricate the hair strands daily using an oil-based product. Make sure light oils are used as opposed to heavy pomades which are really heavy and can attract dirt and debris