African Hair Care Lessons

If you are reading this as a non-African, what do you know about African hair?

If you are like I was one year ago, the answer is “practically nothing.”

Since we are adopting African kids, one of whom is an 8-year-old girl, this is a problem.  I knew I had a lot to learn, so I was very happy when my good friend Helen told me about an ethnic hair care class.  Helen and her husband Larry have a biracial son they adopted from foster care.  The class was technically designed for foster parents, but I sweet talked my way into attending.

The class was held at a local hospital on a Saturday morning.  I went into it with high hopes that I would graduate as a braiding, weaving, skull capping expert.  I left slightly disappointed as we were severely limited by time and really only touched on the basics, but that was okay because it was basics we needed.

The instructor was a biracial woman who had hair horror stories from growing up with a white mom.

(Excuse the horrible picture, I didn’t want to be the creepy girl taking phone pictures so I took it on the sly).

We learned about how African hair is very dry.  Most African hair has tight, kinky curls, and the moisture from the scalp doesn’t usually make it all the way down the hair shaft.  You are supposed to use a moisturizing shampoo about once a week and condition regularly between.  Natural oils such as coconut oil help restore moisture.

We learned to sleep on silk pillowcases with a hair cap on to avoid frizzies around the scalp.  Once you style the hair, you can leave it in for several days- but failure to use the cap can ruin the style.

We learned that many African women use chemical relaxers to tame their hair, but that this damages the hair and is not recommended for children.  We also learned that African women have strong opinions about hair!  Several transracial adoptive parents we know have had comments or tips given to them in public.  Chris Rock even made a movie about the importance of well-maintained African hair.  It’s sort of a big deal!

So, the class was a good start- and I even won a raffle of some styling products and tools!- but we still have a long ways to go.  Any tips from readers?  If you know of other classes, please pass along.

To be honest, I think I’m more nervous about styling hair than I am about having kids.  I can barely do my own easy to manage hair.  My goal is for our kids to not be the ones others look at and smirk “You can sure tell THEY have white parents.”

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3 Comments

Filed under African Hair, Just for Fun, Preparing for Kids

3 responses to “African Hair Care Lessons

  1. I think that is great. We plan on participating in a similar course. Although, I do have very very curly hair. Because I’m disabled the job of brushing and washing it went to my husband! If you haven’t seen Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” STOP what you’re doing right now and watch it!!!! Stand firm if you decide not to relax her hair. Everyone and their mama will be telling you to do it. If you ever need practice I’ve got a set of unruly curls just waiting to be tamed. LOL

  2. Bridgett

    I’m a hairstylist and my recommendation would be to stop by a cosmetology school and talk to some people there. The instructors (and especially the African American students!) should be able to give you some advice. It’s great you’ve thought to learn about this!! From my experience, lots of white people think the care for hair is the same between races. Not so!
    BTW- This is Bridgett (Leslie). We went to H.S. together and I learned of your blog from Tressa’s. Good luck with the adoption!

  3. Kaydee

    I also know nothing about this topic, but I do remember an article I read. It was about interracial marriages, and explained that black women are the least likely of any race to marry someone of another race. It had a bunch of reasons and explanations, but one girl said she only wanted to marry a black man because there are too many things she would have to explain to someone of another race. For example, her hair! She wanted a man who understood why she slept with a hair cap on her head. 🙂

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