Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Biracial Hair Care Tips & Guide

I have written a short general guide called: African and Biracial Children’s Hair Care tips. It’s available on our website. I wrote that guide at the request of many frustrated mothers. We often receive emails from adoptive mothers of African American children and white mothers of biracial children. That guide gives some rules-of-thumb that are useful in developing your own hair care regimen or one for your child. But, I have found that people are requesting more detail as to exactly what to do.  They want tips for bi-racial hair care that are more specific. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what’s best for you or for your child. I purposely avoided a cookbook approach in the original guide because proper maintenance of hair is more of an art than a science. Every person’s hair is slightly different and therefore requires a slightly different maintenance routine. Even my two daughters, with the same father and mother, have different hair types. I find that an oil that is great for one is too heavy for the other. After years of trial and error that I have developed regimens that work best for each of the three of us. While my own children are not biracial, I do have several biracial nieces and newphews and have helped many people with biracial children.  So, I do have hands-on expertise in this area.  I am still tweaking the routines for my daughters as I find new products and as I gain more experience. But, I will share my tips and routines with you. These should be useful starting points for you to develop your own routine. Biracial hair care can be even more difficult to figure out than African hair care. We are often approached by White mothers who have given birth to children with hair very dissimilar to theirs and what they are used to. Interracial (actually, transracial) adoptions are becoming more common, creating the same situation. Most African Americans are multi-racial. So, African American hair has a wide variety of textures and needs. Biracial hair care must cover an even broader range of textures and needs.  

Expectations for Biracial Hair

The number one complaint we get about black hair is that it looks dry or dull. We get the same complaint about biracial hair, followed closely by complaints of “frizzyness” and difficulty in combing. Before you go too far to make your natural hair full of sheen and shine, it’s best to have the proper expectation. Natural Black or African hair will not be as shiny as permed hair or Caucasian hair. A major part of what makes hair shiny is the structure of the hair, not just the amount of oil or moisture it contains. If the cuticles lay flat (smooth hair), the hair will reflect light better (translated will appear shiny). If the cuticles are raised, the hair will absorb light (translated will appear more dull). Without changing the structure of the hair (as in getting a perm or relaxer for us African Americans), our hair will only be so shiny. By applying a lot of grease (see below for the types of oils I recommend) to make it shinier, you could end up damaging the hair. Having said that, natural African hair can appear healthy, smooth and have a nice healthy sheen. As I said, the second complaint we get most often about biracial hair is that it is too curly or too frizzy. There are some things you can do to control frizzyness and curliness. But, if you want to effect “permanent” (permanent until it grows out anyway) changes, you are looking at a chemical process. One thing we often advise mothers about though is please do not expect your child’s hair to be like yours. And, please do not make her feel as though something is wrong with her hair because it’s “frizzy” or curly. You should picture your child’s hair as a collection of fine fibers. You should treat it as gently as you would a fine washable silk blouse. The better you treat her hair, the easier it will be to grow and the better it will look. You should be aware that African hair and biracial hair tends to be drier than Caucasian hair. The structure of our hair makes it more difficult for the oils to work their way from the scalp to the ends of the hair. Because our hair is kinky, it tends to tangle more and pulling these tangles out can cause breakage. In spite of appearances, black hair and biracial hair tends to be more fragile than Caucasian hair. The lack of moisture and elasticity and the kinks that get grabbed when styling or combing make for hair that can be broken easily. Someone once asked me if natural hair is meant to be combed. Actually, the answer probably is no. I don’t think our hair was structured to be combed at all. So, as long as we’re going to do it, we have to do it causing the least amount of damage possible. Both of my daughters have natural hair. We receive a lot of compliments about their hair. They are technically not biracial. We have a mixed heritage (as do most African Americans). But, many of the same things I do for them can be adapted for biracial hair care. Here are my “secrets”.


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