Is African American Hair Really Different? Part II©

In part 1 of is African American Hair Really Different? we discussed the shape of the excessively curly hair strand, its tendency towards dryness and fragility and the impact of humidity. In Part II, we will look at light reflection, hair color and products recommended for this texture of hair. 




Light Reflection

In terms of its optical qualities, tightly curled African textured hair frequently appears less shiny than other hair textures. This phenomenon is directly related to the degree of light reflected by the hair strand. Black hair, due to its high degree of texture, simply does not catch the amount of light that straighter hair does. (Just think of a piece of aluminium foil that's been crinkled versus one that's in a straight, flat sheet). A surface coating of sebum on the hairshaft acts as a light reflector. Since Black hair usually has less sebum, it does not appear as shiny. Light more easily reflects on hair strands with tightly aligned cuticles. Chemical treatments, and to some extent pressing, which are prevalent hairstyling practices among African Americans, frequently causes a degree of cuticle trauma. Thus, the hair has less sheen. To prevent this trauma always deep condition hair after shampooing. Apply restructuring conditioners if hair is damaged and remoisturizing conditioners for dry hair. Make sure that the products used work effectively to reduce porosity and seal cuticles. Use finishing products that leave a light, reflective surface on the hair like hairdressing formulated with natural emollients, polymeric blow dry lotions and silicone styling oils. Finally, when chemically processing the hair, always use state-of-the-art systems that protect and condition during each step.


Range of Natural Hair Coloration 

There is a variety of natural hair colors among Black people, however, they tend towards darker shades. This is because African American hair contains more melanin - nature's pigmentation - than Caucasian hair. Darker hair shades can be altered easily according to application of semi-permanent, as well as permanent, hair coloring. Significant changes in hair color should only be performed on strong, healthy hair and always at least one to two weeks after the relaxer treatment. 


Selecting Effective Products for Afro Hair 

Product development chemists continue to actively study Black hair care. Research in this area is becoming quite vast. Whenever products are formulated for Afro hair, they must meet a number of objectives: 1) Ease of styling when wet and dry combing, 2) Elimination of static electricity 3) PH-normalization (to the 4-5.5 range) during final stage; 4) Sheen; 5) porosity improvement/cuticle realignment; 6) moisturization of hair and scalp; 7) minimization to hair damage/loss; 8) reversion retardation; and 9) effective, yet controlled chemical treatments that alter hair textures. This is a very challenging job. Special recommendation: African American hair should not be exposed to alcohol (SD Alcohol 40, such as Ethyl or Grain Alcohol) which is usually present in holding hairsprays and certain brands of blow drying and setting lotions. Alcohol promotes hair dryness, particularly Ethyl Alcohol, which binds hair moisture molecules and evaporate them into the atmosphere. Also make sure to select products which have been designed to address the specific needs of Black hair. Many products formulated and tested for Caucasian hair contain insufficient conditioners. The shampoos often contain stronger detergents designed to remove the sebum produced by hyperactive sebaceous glands and some of the conditioners lack agents of the high-lipo variety. When used on Afro textured hair, the hair and scalp may become drier, combing becomes difficult and the hair is left dry feeling and dull looking.