Natural ethnic hair has seen decades of controversy, dating back to the years of apartheid, where it was deemed to be inferior to that of smoother/straight, “white” hair. The comb test – running a comb through the hair – was used to establish whether a person was “coloured” or “black”. If the comb ran smoothly through one’s hair, you were automatically deemed more important than someone whose hair got stuck. This was the start of women being forced to use hot combs, treatments and false hair (wigs and weaves) in order to make themselves appear more attractive, superior and acceptable to society.
It became the norm; an almost standing rule that African women had to apply weaves to their heads. Money and timeless efforts where spent to ensure African women looked more like their fellow white and coloured peers. Extensive damage was not only cause to one’s scalps, all the tugging, tightening and pulling could trigger headaches and lead to a decreasing hairline – not to mention the overall damage to the woman’s self-image and esteem. Imagine being judge as not good enough because of the condition of your hair?
However, having said this, in recent years, there has been somewhat of a natural hair revolution, many African women are setting their hot irons and weaves aside and embracing the beautiful glory that is their natural manes. Two such women, Thuli and Kgomotso, who happen to work at the Rejuv-nation, discuss what it has meant to them to go natural. “What made me decide to go natural was witnessing other black women, especially my clients, and the problems they were experiencing with their hair,” says Kgomotso.
Not only has the shift helped the state of their hair but also the state of their bank balances. Weaves are extremely costly. Depending on the type of weave and hair used, it can cost up to R5000 and that is not including the maintenance and hairdresser fees which can be at an additional cost of up to R2000. “Not only has going natural helped me financially but I spend less time getting ready in the mornings and I have received such positive feedback and compliments from people, which makes me feel good.” says Thuli.
One of the more physical effects of wearing weaves is an increase in hair loss and a receding hairline, causing Traction Alopecia – gradual hair loss. It is caused by putting the hair under constant strain or tension. This is reversible, depending on the severity of the damage to the hair. In severe cases, hair transplants are needed, and the rehabilitation and repair of the damaged hair is expensive.
Today, concerns of hair damage and loss are not the only factors that deem wearing weaves to be passé; certain women actually view it as insult to one’s culture, and go as far as disassociating themselves from those women who still wear wigs.
What once had such a massive impact on African heritage and the treatment of African people has morphed into an acceptance of one’s natural beauty, enabling African women to wear their healthy head of hair with pride.
The moral of the story: your hair should not be something that you allow to define you. It should be your choice how you decide to wear it, not culture or society.