Why is Natural Black Hair So Dull Looking
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Ok, I'm not sure if the image of Buckwheat from the Little Rascals offends you but it shouldn't. Back when I was natural and wore an Afro, there were times when I'd wake up in the morning and my hair looked exactly like this. Ok, not exactly but the point is, African/Black hair is unique. What other hair type stands on end? What other hair type proudly defies the comb? What other hair type needs oil badly but in some cases, rejects it? Instead of thinking about what natural Black hair isn't doing, let's consider what it is...
Shine, in the case of natural Black hair, often has less to do with hair health and more to do with hair structure. The coarser our hair, the less able it is to refract light. Hair that crinkles, twists, turns and curves does not present a flat surface by which light can easily bounce off. So, the very structure of African hair inhibits its ability shine. Let's do a little experiment...
Imagine taking a flash light and holding it up to a single piece of paper. The light will shine through.
Now crumple the paper and hold the light to it. The light won't penetrate the layered, crumpled paper.
Now imagine holding a flash light up to a stack of flat sheets of paper. Like hair that is flat is structure (lacking curls or naturally straight), the light won't penetrate the paper but will instead "bounce off" the paper or refract back. In the case of natura
lly straight to loosely curled hair, the light will also bounce off and will give the impression of sheen/gloss.
In the case of the crumpled paper, it mimics natural Black hair. The light doesn't have a flat surface to bounce off and therefore Black hair will appear less shiny...or dull.
The point is, natural Black hair will never appear to have the same degree of sheen as naturally straight hair. This isn't to say that Black hair is unhealthy, it's just different. Comparing Black hair's ability to shine to naturally straight hair would therefore be an unfair comparison. It's apples and oranges.
Unfortunately like many things "White," Black folks have learned to covet the other. Back in the day we used lard. Now we use "greases," hair dressing and pomades. The only way for natural Black hair to refract light to the same degree as naturally straight hair would be to destroy it...to destroy our hairs' natural curl pattern. How do we do this? It's called a "Relaxer."
Of course this isn't to say that natural Black hair will never shine. Getting it to shine isn't a matter of destruction but rather, understanding the nature of African hair and learning to work with, rather than against it.
For example, an Afro will refract far less light than braids or two-strands. With the latter two styles, our individual hairs are working together rather than competing with each other. The braids/two-strands enable our hair to form longer chains of flat surfaces by which light can refract. So the next time you ask yourself why is natural Black hair so dull, you should be asking yourself why am I choosing a hair style that doesn't refract light?