Why we know so little about our hair - Daily Nation

Why we know so little about our hair

Sunday July 22 2018

Scholars are finally building an exclusive library on black hair content.

Scholars are finally building an exclusive library on black hair content. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH 

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What would you say are the hair trends? The annual Hair Raising Conference rolled around on Tuesday at Hilton Hotel. So well-attended at a point there was standing room only.

You should be happy to hear this because it means your hairstylist is woke with stuff you can’t Google. We know Indian hair grows even more popular and it is preferable than Chinese hair.

Did you know that with the rise of cancer causing hair loss, healthier choices and a market of savvy consumers aware of products also comes the rise and rise of weaves and wigs? That this is inspiring the making of kinky hair textures for the black market.

Founder and CEO Hair Hub Trichology Centre, the Hair Raising Conference and The Afro Hair Awards Muli Musyoka, says, “hairstyling is an art and it is also a science.” Making a solid case for a deep dive into black hair. Through a series of deeply technical insights, it became apparent how little we truly know about our own hair.

This was reiterated by Kirigo Kabuga, Sisterlocks Brand Ambassador with over two decades’ industry experience. Based in Maryland, US, Kirigo, with a team of appreciative black hair scholars, are finally attempting that which has not been tried before. Building a library exclusively made up of black hair content.

Shattering the myth of steel wool hair as well as gasp, hair typing, rubbishing the 4a, 4b and 4 c's infamous chart attributed to Oprah’s award winning stylist Andre Walker as nothing more than a marketing and sales pitch to get us to spend more money on products that fix our particular batch of ‘problems.’

Look at your coils, she says. Do you have a short coil pattern, a medium one or a long one? That will tell you how to style it and what kind of protective styles will work for you. So impossible is this information to find that even illustrations to demonstrate her observations are yet to be created. She gave an example of how our cuticles lie against our scalps by use of a fish and fish scales, flat; with an indistinguishable overlap.


Understand the magic of our hair lies in two words - coil count. You know how you grab a hair, pull it and it bounces back? That strand of hair has a specific number of coils wound tightly to form it. That is what we need to preserve. Which is why Naturals need to end this bad habit of discussing and striving for hair length.

“We should not be discussing length anymore and get caught up in the wrong thing. It takes many coil counts to make the hair. It makes how long your hair is redundant because our measurement is different.” To sink this in, she adds, “did you know our hair can hold up to two times its water weight?”

This is why your blow dry does not hold, perfectly proving hydration is our hair’s best friend. Why touching someone’s hair tells you nothing about its health, texture or moisture levels. Coarseness is not synonymous with texture. You should also know the tighter your coils, the more dominant your genes and the longer your hair retains a hairstyle.

Elegantly and poetically, she describes our spongy heads. “Our hair is the only kind that grows upwards and outwards towards the sun, like sunflowers. We are majestic. Do you think that is by coincidence?”

If you are yet to learn how to love what you have or wondered why you can’t get a grip on your hair despite YouTube tutorials and naturalista blogs, breathe. Every blogger has a different hair type, and what they are sharing with you is specifically what works for them. Muli adds that while they have their place, pre-poo and co-washing should never replace shampooing in hair care.

“The way our hair is designed, it must be washed. Our hair is negatively charged; shampoos are positively charged so they can work with our hair. Conditioners are positively charged so they can restore the hair after it has been washed. I would prefer shampooing hair at least once every two weeks, or, just get a gentle shampoo and use that.”

The most fascinating part of the conference had to be the general absence of enthusiasm hairstylists seemed to have about naturalistas. They were perceived as difficult, hauling their stash of products and instructions to salons, making them somewhat frustrating clients. Before anyone torches anything, this was unearthed. It is the naturalistas knowledge and presence of mind that eventually inspired the growth of local natural hair brands, not to mention a shift in the collective minds of hairstylists.

That said, it does appear we have hit an information plateau only science can pick up. Kirigo identifies the political hot potato and emotional entanglement black hair brings to the table. So much she asked for volunteers to follow around with a camera for five months to document hair growth. No, such records don't exist. She and others like her are creating a database from scratch.

There is so much more to know, she clarifies, that it never fails to inspire exactly the kind of impact her one-hour talk did - dead silence, shock and awe.