Why is Natural Black Hair So Dull Looking

Why is Black Hair So Dry
Many women complain that their Black hair, specifically their natural Black hair, is dull and dry.  The commercials tell us that healthy hair is supposed to shine.  Even if we openly and proudly embrace natural Black hair, it's often disconcerting that our hair soaks up oil like a cotton ball and that no matter what we use, it doesn't glisten in the sun.  Why?

picture of buckwheatOk, 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 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?


Comment #1 (Posted by aMeya) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
I loved the article! Thanks.
Comment #2 (Posted by Deborah Cowell) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
This was an excellen article. Thank you.
Comment #3 (Posted by Desery) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
loved this article. just a couple days ago i was despairing over my hair ever looking "healthy (shiny) in its natural state. This has opened my eyes.
Comment #4 (Posted by darlingdel) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
I agree this was a great article, once again it helped clarify something I've always considered.
Comment #5 (Posted by an unknown user) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
A great article, very informative
Comment #6 (Posted by an unknown user) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
great info.
Comment #7 (Posted by coco) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
thanks for talking about this, i could care less if my hair shines, just want it to be healthy and not breaking. black people love to separate them selves and classify themselves. hate to say it but why do black ppl hate on eachother? who cares what your hair looks like, me - i love my hair and it is coarse and does not reflect light, lol, who freakin cares, why feel like you are less of a person, less attractive because your hair isnt shiny or a better person than the next bc your hair IS shiny, my best friend always makes comments about not being able to stand her hair. i keep telling her u r not white sweety, its not going do just flow like naturally straight hair.
Comment #8 (Posted by G) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
Shiny means permed and damaged, I'll pass. Not all that gliters is gold.Hehehe...
Comment #9 (Posted by RITLE) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
Depends on what your definition of natural black hair is, there are black people with very shiny hair from birth and there are those that need product to achieve even a sheen.
Comment #10 (Posted by joi cee) Rating: ratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfullratingfull Unrated
What product would you suggest to stop scalp itch. My locs are 1 yr old but my scalp itches crazy. I use an acid shampoo, no conditioner and Nature's Blessing hair oil.Any sugestions?

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