Perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in the United States is the amount of money black women spend on their hair. I was once a slave to that multi-billion dollar industry, so I can testify how people have literally built fortunes on a societal construct that caused black women to do whatever it took to get their hair ‘right’. I started perming my hair at the age of 13 because I was tired of getting my ears singed by the family straightening comb. It would never do to walk around with the natural hair God gave you…..”nappiness” was the equivalent of four letter words that were not allowed in my household, neighborhood or the world in general.
We had all bought into the Madison Avenue version of what beautiful hair looked like. It was long, flowing, straight, unkinky, ‘manageable’ locks that men could run their fingers through with ease. To have anything less meant that you weren’t beautiful….of course, none of this was spoken. It didn’t need to be. All one needed to do was to visit the neighborhood beauty salons, check out the neighborhood beauty supply stores and they would have their irrefutable answer.
Even black men were not immune to this reality. Before the depression, black men began to chemically alter their hair using something called congolene. In order to ‘conk’ your hair, this chemical had to be quickly applied to the hair with protective gloves and rinsed out immediately because it was made of LYE. To this day, you will find some who use texturizers to straighten and give their hair a wavy texture.READ MORE