Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Ugly Secret Under a Weave

Never in the history of black hair care have so many women taken hair growth pills, squirted on drops of solution, or poured on jars of gourmet mayonnaise to promote hair growth. The epic proportions of the state of black women's hair health is similar to what is described in Madame CJ Walker's biography by Tananarive Due titled, The Black Rose (a definite read).
During slavery, black women were removed of their indigenous hair maintenance regimens and the herbs and natural products that were used for their various hairstyles. While in enslavement, black women had to adopt quick and often unhealthy hair care techniques. Many wore pieces of cloth over their heads with small plaits or cornrows underneath. Some wore short hair, while others just did not care for much of it at all.

After centuries of not being able to properly take care of their hair black women’s hair culture became de-cultured. Black women used axle grease and lard to moisturize their hair. And some tried the new fad of a "heated fork" to straighten their hair, but it always resulted in bad breakage. CJ Walker, who was a washer woman had severe scalp itches such as bald patches, and what can possibly seen as eczema that often led her to scratch her head until it bled.

(Madame CJ Walker Advertisement of her hair care system)

BoldThough CJ Walker, the first American woman millionaire and black millionaire, created an empire by developing a healthier hair care system (not the hot comb since it already existed), the hair care industry today in no way reflects her intentions. An old proverb would say, “She would be turning in her grave” if she saw the amount of damage of black women’s hair. And this is not just in the United States. Walker travelled throughout the Caribbean and Central America, training sales agents and hair stylists to sale and use her products.

Some years back, I spoke to a couple who were in the process of writing a book on hair that I guess they never published because I did not see it. The husband, whose name I cannot think of, told me that black women’s hair a century ago, was 6 inches longer than today! That’s hella shrinkage.

A while ago I blogged about synthetic hair and wanted to follow up with some of the ugly secrets that women who have them will never tell their friends, in particular, their boyfriends; and in the case of black women, especially, their non-black intimate partners, the headache, heartache, and expense of wearing synthetic hair for too long and/or too tight.

(Naomi Campbell's hairline is gone, a case of too much pulling of the hair from the roots due to glue-in weaves over the natural hairline, and probably sew-in weaves. )

The focus of this blog are weaves. I will talk about the predecssor of weaves, which are wigs, on another day.

From what I've researched (and know personally) it does not matter if you have a $5,000 weave/wig or a $5o piece, it is a damaging process in the long run.

I have heard people criticize those who wear locks with an oft quoted saying, "You just didn't want to comb your hair." Ha! Anyone who has locks and is conscious about maintaining them, knows that it is the most intensive hair choice and a spiritual experience that does not compare to any other hairstyle. I applaud the network of sister-lockers who understand the locks is a lifestyle the involves a reawakening and a community of support.

Anywho, let us get down to the weaves and wigs.

The more obvious effects of weaves/wigs is the stunting of hair growth, and in many cases the loss of hair due to the suffocation of the scalp. What makes the situation worse with a weave/wig is the scalp is not only smothered for long periods of time, but it is also slathered in synthetic products such as glue, dye, hair spray, cream, wax, gel, mousse, and all the other hair products that are used for "maintenance".

(Rihanna's short crop cannot hide the fact that her hairline has suffered from prolong usage of weaves.)

In actuality, while the synthetic hair is being "maintained" the real hair is dying a quick death.

To add injury to choking roots, many women get "addicted" to the way they look with long "luxurious" manes, and go for months, and sometimes years without giving their scalp and hair a break so it can breathe. This addiction eventually turns into a necessity because their hair is left in chunks of hair breakage, receding hairline, and in many cases, bald patches that seem irreversible.

Another issue is the pull that weaves do once applied to real hair. Be it a glue in or a sew-in, there is an element of a constant pull that gradually thins the hair. Similar to braids that are cornrowed too tight, weaves and wigs that pull on the hairline and the scalp damage the roots and thin the hair. And if you have a sew -in weave in which the cornrows underneath are extremely tight, followed by the pull of the thread of the weave, your hair will recede faster.

(Lala Vasquez's bold side-shave shows visible baldness from weaves.)

Lastly, women who process their hair then apply weaves increase the chances of loss exponentially than those who have natural hair underneath.

To give you an idea of the damage of weaves, I selected some "notables" in this blog to show you that the price of a weave does not matter.

As you can see, over time, if worn too long, weaves cause your real hair, a tragic death.

Please note: This is just a quick entry on weaves and not an in-depth article. There is much that I was not able to fit in this blog, but I encourage everyone else to do their research and find their own facts to add to the pot.

***Added footage! Our white brother in the struggle, Aron, did a documentary on synthetic hair. He focuses on the African-American hair, but this is a worldwide business of black hair. This is very informative. Please, check it out!***

8 ish talking intellectuals holla at a sista:

Aron Ranen said...

Please take a moment to check out my documentary film BLACK HAIR

It is free at youtube. 6 parts including an update from London, England.

It explores the Korean Take-over of the Black Beauty Supply and Hair biz..

The current situation makes it hard to believe that Madame C.J. Walker once ran the whole thing.

I am not a hater, I am a motivator.

Plus I am a White guy who stumbled upon this, and felt it was so wrong I had to make a film about it.

self-funded film, made from the heart.

Can it be taken back?


EcoSoul Intellectual said...

thanks aron. i am adding this to my blog

Reggie said...

I've always found women's fascination with "adding hair" to be rather interesting. After all, I've been shaving my head weekly for close to 25 years now....because it's easier to manage that way. Here women are adding it on and I'm shaving mine off all at the same time. Mind you, I don't knock women that add hair on or question their right to do so; afterall, it's yours as long as you've got the receipt.

brie said...

Gosh! I badly needed to read this! it was recommended to me by Monie over on and it really is a wonderful post!

I'm transitioning back to my natural hair and I decided a weave was the only way for me to go in the meantime. Blogged about this and more recently over on This has really knocked some sense back into my head!

EcoSci said...

brie, thank you for your kind words and i wish you all the well on your journey back to natural. it is unfortunate that black women feel like they have to subject themselves to damn near torture to "look acceptable" in this society.

just talked to an indian colleague who said that in india, it is the thing to get a japanese perm. i never heard of it and she told me it was the bone straight look.

wow, we all got it bad.

ayankha said...

Whew, that was heavy. I'm glad you clarifyed MCJW's contribution to Black hair care.

I wonder how Black hair was measured over a the decades? The researcher in me is itching to find out. Also, I wonder just how much diet and lifestyle play a role in hair health?

OMG @ the nasty weave pics and bals photos. Even when I wore synthetic hair back in the day for my braids, I just could not do the real hair thing. It's something about having someone else's hair in mine that just doesn't sit well with me. Maybe it's something about receiving their energy or my desire to not have 'used' hair on my head (vs new hair). After saying that, I wonder if I'd feel this way if I needed an organ or body part- but then again I'm watching one of those scary foreign horror flicks where the woman's eye transplant is making her worlds intersect with the previous owner.

Anyways, this was a good post. And thanks for adding the video. I'm only on Part 1 but it is some good info. Thanks for sharing.

EcoScI said...

Ayankha, thanks for the comments. I didn't realize hair was so important until I started blogging about it. This is the most response I get from black women. There is something that is so spiritual about hair that we are seriously missing. I wonder if putting someone else's hair on your head is linked to insanity or as you put it, crossing dimensions. I think so, hair still has its DNA in it, and that is the story to everyone, their DNA.

Unknown said...

That Fake hair is also very ugly.