There is a wide range of hair textures found among African American hair, from straight to tightly curled. Some African Americans choose to wear their hair in styles that require straight hair, while others wear their hair in its natural state.
Straightening African American Hair
For African Americans who do not have naturally straight hair, there are generally two choices for achieving the straight look – heat or chemical straightening. Both processes have positive and negative aspects.
Heat straightening involves the use of a straightening comb, which is heated to high temperatures and then carefully run through sections of clean, dry hair from root to tip. This is usually followed by styling the hair with a flat iron or a curling iron, depending on the haircut and the style desired.
Chemical straightening involves the use of what is called a relaxer, which is a crème that contains either sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide as its main ingredient. The relaxer is applied to curly hair in its natural state and the chemicals break down the bonds of the hair. After fifteen or twenty minutes, depending on the original texture of the hair, the relaxer is thoroughly washed out, followed by shampooing and conditioning.
Straightening is beneficial for those looking to sport the latest in sleek haircuts and styles. For those with extremely curly hair, they may find that straightened hair is easier to comb and maintain. On the other hand, straightening hair weakens it and therefore makes it more prone to damage and breakage. For African Americans, this may also limit their social activities since extreme sweating from a workout or a dip in the pool can ruin the hairstyle.
Natural Hairstyles for African Americans
In recent years, more African Americans are choosing to wear their hair natural. Some do this because they are tired of the damage done by excessive heat and chemical styling. Others choose natural hairstyles because it reflects pride in their culture.
There are many options for African Americans who want to wear natural styles. The Afro is one option. The hair is washed and dried, and then picked out or combed out. The final result will depend on the texture of the hair. Braids are another option. Braiding the hair is a tradition in the African American culture and is often a work of art. Cornrows with elaborate designs are sported by males and females alike. Some women add human hair to their braids to create different looks, such as micro-braids. Dreadlocks, once frowned upon by some, are now emerging as a popular style. Dreadlocks are created by twisting or palm rolling small sections of hair and allowing them to lock, creating a rope-like effect. Once the hair locks completely, there is no end to the different styles that can be created.
Like anyone else, African Americans choose hairstyles that make a statement about who they are as an individual. There are many options for African American hair and it is up to each person to choose the one that best fits their lifestyle and personality.