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Is African Hair Different From African Hair Different? – Part One

Hey guys would really appreciate your feedback on this post. It’s not meant to separate people but hopefully help start discussions on hair type that focuses on more than curl type. I will post a follow on hair care tips next week.

I’m not trying to start a controversy but most of the most popular Naturalista’s are African American and most of the hair bloggers/vbloggers also are also based in the USA. So it’s natural that most of the natural movement has focussed on Black Afro hair from an African American perspective and experience.

It’s not surprising that while most African women want to go natural , they are naturally apprehensive about how successful their natural hair journeys will be and whether their afro hair is ‘too kinky’ or ‘too coarse’ to look good or grow.

I’ve heard it all before from African women. My hair is too coarse, it doesn’t grow, it keeps breaking. Or those who have actually made the move to become natural often don’t expect much from their hair. The twist outs and curly dos on you-tubers seem impossible to ever achieve, so there’s often the attitude of why bother? My hair is not going to look like that anyway.

This is an interesting form of self- texture discrimination and most African women think that our hair is very different from their African American counter-parts. How right are they?

Culturally the relationship women will have with their hair across Africa is dependent on many factors. Cultural and traditional heritage (the most important), colonial history (if the country has been colonized by Europeans or Arabs, the relationship they had with their colonizer), whether the women live in the city or the rural area, and lastly the Americanisation of their culture.

When I was in Zambia, the school that I went to insisted I cut my hair much to my mother’s horror who refused. Hair in Angola where I come from has always been very important, culturally and also as a result of Portuguese colonisation (500yrs). Certain Tribes in Angola and Namibia have always traditionally grown their hair long. Colonization just like in America and Brazil taught us to hate out curly hair and prefer straight hair.

So it’s not unusual to find an Angolan woman wearing a wig. Weaves have been a result of American influence but the wearing of wigs and heat straightening goes back since the 1970’s. A hot comb with castor oil has been traditionally used to straighten hair.

Himba Hair

Image from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/photo-contest/2012/entries/wallpaper/people-week-13/#/1

Mwila Girls Angola

Habesha Hair Styles – Horn Of Africa

Moroccan Woman

In Zambia on the other hand, short hair, braiding are common. Weaves have been again a result of Americanisation.

The weaves have also begun to signalise class status. Many women in some parts of Africa see wearing weaves as a status symbol. You cannot afford a weave or either synthetic or human hair if you don’t have the money to afford one.

A poor person in Africa is less likely to wear a weave than a middle to upper-class person. So in Africa hair discrimination is closely linked to class, including mixed hair. If you’re mixed you are generally assumed to also have money because one of your parents (your father generally) is white or your father is black but rich enough to have married a white woman.

Or you could like in many families in Angola and most of southern Africa be mixed as a result of rape.

This is not saying that loving relationships in Africa between whites and blacks or other races don’t exist.

As Africans’ we generally don’t like to mix. And that’s even with each other. Most people in Africa have traditionally married people from their own tribe and in some places inter-tribal marriages are as rare as marriages between people of different races or nationalities.

So what has that got to do with hair and how African hair differs from African American hair?

African American Hair

Our African American cousins obviously came from Africa and yes they are a little different from us for two reasons. They are a mixture of many African tribes, mainly on the west coast of Africa and according to research most of them have European ancestry, with up to around 10% of the African American population being more than half European in ancestry.

It’s known from historical shipping and naval records that enslaved Africans came from this area of west and central Africa, from Senegal to Southern Angola, and also eastern Africa, the island of Madagascar and Mozambique.

So yes their hair is different although, how different the hair will be will depend on the individuals own DNA and how the many different types of African and European has mixed and what genes are expressing themselves.

African Hair

There isn’t one type of African hair simply because there isn’t one type of African. Africa has the greatest diversity in ethnicity with many different tribes ad groups of people. Most non-African treat African people as a single race or people, many of us Africans know of our genetic diversity and how much we differ from each other, not just in relation to our languages and traditions but to how we look.

Many of us can look at another African person using their physical characteristics judge the person’s ethnicity.

So it begs that as a result of our genetic diversity as Africans we can conclude that African hair is different from African American hair but it’s also different from other Africans on the continent.

I myself haven’t done a great deal of research but have noticed the different types of hair based on regions or parts of Africa. My observations most correlate with the language groups in Africa which have also been used to identify or distinguish between different physical and genetic characteristics in Africa.

There are four main languages groups as categorised by European scholars –

Niger-Kordofanian – (Bantu Language)

Western, Southern, Central, and Eastern parts of Africa

Countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa, The Congo, Cameron, Angola (northen and central), Zimbabwe

Hair strand thickness – Medium/Thick and dense

Curl type – coils not as defined as bushmen

Hair Colour – From Black to brown black

Afroasiatic – Morocco, Horn Of Africa, Libya

Hair Type – Thick/Coarse, almost wiry

Curl type – varied, includes people with straight hair

Hair Colour – Varies from jet black to brown/black

Nilo-Saharan – central and eastern African countries. Kenya, Sudan, Uganda

Hair Type – Fine

Curl type – Coil pattern not as defined as Khoisan (bushmen)

Hair Colour – Brown/ Black with yellowish highlights

Khoisan – southern African (east and west). Angola (southern), South Africa, Botswana, Namibia

Hair Type – Fine

Curl type – Tightly coiled

Hair Colour – Brown Black with reddish highlights

Variations

The above are just observations that I’ve made and there are many variations from the generalisations of course. Many of these occur as a result of mixing of two or three language groups.

Southern Africa Hair Types – Bantu and Khoisan. Those with a mixture of Bantu and Khoisan have lots of fine to medium hair in thickness. Hair density will vary from fine to very thick (lots of hair) and hair colour from black to black brown. These countries also have a European influence of Dutch and Portuguese, as well as Indian.

This is my hair type. I have the coily hair of Khoisan with the hair density of the Bantu people. My hair is fine to medium. My coils go from defined to no definition.

North and East Africa Hair Types – Bantu, Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan. Fine to coarse hair in thickness. Hair density will vary from fine to very thick (lots of hair) and hair colour from black to black brown. Curl type varies from very coily in some parts of east Africa like Rwanda, to straight or wavy like Somalia or Eretria.

After having described the possible hair types you are likely to have has an African woman, how does this affect your hair care regiment?

I prefer to use hair thickness as a guide as to how I care for my hair because I believe that this is more important than the curl type. I think I have already covered this but will do so in my next post.

Hello…Nutritional Growth Hair Challenge Update!

Hello All…It’s been a crazy year and I’m sorry for being absent. But I’ve managed to keep regular updates on Facebook and hopefully soon Instagram!

How To Thicken Your Hair/How To Grow Thicker Hair

I’ve been wanting to update my healthier hair journey for a while now about how I’ve managed to first regrow my hair line, bald patches, thicken my hair, and increase my hair strands. I have also managed to lengthen my lashes at the same time.

The method you take to increase the thickness of your hair will depend on why your hair is thin in the first place.

Hair strand thickness vs hair density.

Genetics determines how thick your hair strands are. And in hair terminology hair strand thickness is generally categorised as fine, medium, thick (also known as coarse) hair.

The strand thickness has nothing to do with the number of hair follicles you can have on your scalp. That’s also genetically determined.

How thick your hair looks will be determined by both strand thickness and the number of hair follicles.

Those who seem to have a crazy amount of hair have both thick strands and lots of it. And on the other end those who have fine hair may have both fine strands and less hair follicles.

Hair strand thickness determines the elasticity, strength, and porosity of your hair. It also determines how well your hair deals with chemicals, heat, and colour. It has nothing to do with the curl type or curl pattern.

Thickening your hair

Since genetics pretty much determines your hair thickness, you wont be able to thicken your hair above what your genetics permits you and so far I don’t know of any research that has demonstrated otherwise.

So if you are stuck with the thickness that nature has given you, what can you do?

The good news is that most people are probably nowhere near the thickness of their true genetic hair thickness and therefore can thicken their hair through dietary manipulations, supplement taking, balancing their hormones, and avoiding hair care practices that contribute to hair thinning.

Hair thinning/thin hair can result from some of the following:

  • Poor diet
  • Medication
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Poor health/ill health
  • Bad hair care practices
  • Heat damage
  • Stress
  • Heavy Metal contamination (ie mercury)
  • Chemical treatments to the hair

Many of the causes of thinning hair can be addressed and thinning hair can be arrested and in most cases depending on the extent of the damage or the cause can be reversed.

We’ve all heard the saying you are what you eat. And if your diet is mainly composed of saturated trans fatty acids and sugar, then thinning hair is the least of your problems. This kind of diet not only leads to thinning hair and even baldness but it also leads to other health complications such as obesity and the related health problems.

Personally when I look back at my hair thinning history, it ties in with various dietary changes I’ve made over the years that have led me to the point I found myself last year.

I’ve also meet a lot of people who are protein deficient because of poor dietary choices who have also noticed the same thing. I know a woman whose hair was thinning and it turned out that she had high levels of mercury in her body that were preventing her from absorbing minerals such as iron from your diet.

I am amazed at how much hair I’m now sprouting and most importantly the thickness of the new hair.

Some of you are probably reading this and thinking that you’re healthy and you don’t need to do anything or take any supplements. The bad news is that most of you are wrong.

Most of us aren’t getting the nutrients from your diet that we need and that’s why we have a prevalence of nutritionally related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Over the last year I’ve taken a lot of supplements and tried to make significant changes to my diet. Not just for my hair but for my overall wellbeing.

The supplements below where the most important ones that helped me with my hair growth and I noticed the most difference:

MSM

Water

Protein

Vitamin B (all of them)

Iron

Omega 6 and 3

 

If you do decide to take vitamins to promote thicker hair or improve your hair health overall please be aware of the following:

Regrowing your hair and thickening it will take time and it’s not something that will happen overnight although the initial growth spurt may look promising

It wont affect your old hair. Only new growth will change (don’t believe the internet hype coming from other bloggers)

You maybe overwhelmed by how much your head can actually grow

Your lashes, eyebrows should also thicken!

I will be updating this post later with pictures.

Good luck and please feel free to ask any questions on this topic. I’m also a food scientist, microbiologist, and food biochemist!

 

 

How Long Should It Take To Grow Back Hair Lost To Physical Trauma/Disease?

If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I am currently on a nutritional hair health journey. Aimed at regrowing the hair I lost due to a bad diet, protein malnutrition, and to some extent stress. The regrowth started technically about a year ago but I intensified my efforts at the beginning of the year with extra nutritional supplements aimed at fast tracking my recovery. That and a diet high in vegetables, nuts, organic meat, has given my skin a healthier glow. I feel so much stronger, that I’ve just dead-lifted 90 kg and will probably get to a max of 110 kg before the end of the year. I am full of energy have lost weight and look a lot more toned than I did four months ago.

Protein Hair Growth 1 Month

But my hair has not thickened up at the same speed as the rest of my body has recovered. I am also not sure whether it’s been growing any faster as I haven’t been paying too much attention but last time I checked, my hair is now below my bra strap. It was just touching my bra strap at the beginning of the year so I guess I feel like I have retained some length.

Anyway my bald edges have not been in a hurry to fill up. For whatever reason, I thought that once I was consistent with the protein and did all the right things the spot would just magically fill up and disappear.

Not so! So what the hell is going on? I haven’t felt this good in a long time!

Apparently the answer comes in the hair growth cycle and growth phases. Ahhh. Things are starting to make some sense.

Hair grows in cycles and each cycle as it’s own time frame.

  1. Anagen – Growth Phase – 2 to 6 yrs
  2. Catagen – Transitional phase – 1 to 2 weeks
  3. Telogen – Resting Phase – 5 to 6 weeks

Based on the fact that each hair follicle is on it’s own growth cycle and not influenced by the cycle of the surrounding hairs, the return/regrowth of my damaged hair wont re-appear until it’s completed it’s growth phase which could be anywhere in the vicinity of 2 to 6 years. It will also have to go through it’s categen, and telogen phase!

Basically if the damage to the individual hair occurred somewhere in the first year of the growth phase and the hair fell out, then the hair follicle will carry on as if it has still got a hair growing in it and wont regrow another hair until the full cycle is completed.

Once the cycle is complete, then only then will a new hair emerge from the scalp. Depending on how long my growth phase is, my hair regrowth and re-fill, may take upto 6 years. I’m not saying I have a 6 year growth phase. That’s just the best case scenario.

Pictures below are of the regrowth to date. The back I realize now is also pretty bad

Hair regrowth - A year Later Hair regrowth1 hair regrowth2

So basically checking everyday to see if the bald spots have filled up completely is a waste of time. Good to know! And it doesn’t mean that what I am doing isn’t working. There’s a natural process at play and I just have to hang in there.

 

 

Tips On How To Use Oils And Butters On Natural

Oils and butters are a common feature of most natural hair regiments. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of the oils you use and how to choose oils for specific hair conditions.

Oils and butters coat the hair and by doing so, create a barrier between the hair cuticle and the environment. This barrier function slows down the loss of water/moisture from the hair cortex and as a result, slow down the natural drying of hair.

Oils and buttes also prevent frizz by blocking the absorption of water from the environment which can force the  hair cuticles to open and the hair become frizzy.

Oils and butters are anhydrous. They do not contain water and therefore you cannot add water to hair by applying an oil. Oils cannot be used as a moisturizer because they don’t have water

Oils are used in hair and other applications to:

Reduce friction between hair fibres which can cause tangling and eventually breakage. Oils and butters make it easy for hair strands to slide past each without catching on each other and act as lubricants.

Oil OR Butter?

Whether you use an oil or a butter will depend on what you want to do and the condition of your hair.

Dry/Very Dry Hair

Heavy oils or butters with humectant properties such as shea butter and castor oil  make hair feel soft and moisturized by drawing moisture from the environment to the outside of the hair. Not inside.

Oils To Avoid

Very dry hair requires clever manipulation. If you have very dry hair avoid the daily use of oils with short to medium chain fatty acids such as Olive oil and Coconut oil. These oils absorb into the hair and prevent the absorption of water into hair cortex.

Use Oil on Dry Hair Before Applying Moisture

In the past six months, I have struggled with knots, tangles, and the resulting breakage. I’ve found that applying water to my dry hair before applying an oil resulted in a lot of matting and tangles. When I apply my oil or butter on my dry hair then follow it up with a cream or water, my hair reverts less and tangles less.

Use Oil On Wet Hair After Applying A Cream or a Leave-In Conditoner

I have found that I get less tangles and my hair retains more moisture post wash day when I apply my oil after applying my leave-in.

Hair exists in two states. It’s unique. The chemistry of hair allows for hair to be wet and for hair to be dry without really damaging or changing the hair’s chemical structure. Hair is both water hating when dry and water loving when wet (hydrophobic and hydrophilic).

This means that products to hair need to be applied in relation to the state of the hair’s chemical structure. Wet hair is more receptive to products that have water in them such as hair lotions, leave-ins, etc.

When hair is dry, it’s in it’s water hating phase and the products that should be applied directly to hair are those that don’t contain water first. You can then follow the application of the oil with a spritz of water or lotion. You will get less shrinkage and minimize reverting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Hair Regiment – Think Before You Change Your Regiment

I think I have been struggling with dry hair for the last six months. I don’t know exactly what happened. All I remember is that I made a few changes to my regiment ie, stopped pre-pooing to save time, started using Kinky Curly as a leave in  and stopped using swisse pro-vitamin B5 conditioner as leave in, and I can’t remember the last time I did a henna treatment (gloss or neutral). Anyway these changes which seemed insignificant at the time probably lead to the increased dryness of my hair during the summer months.

It’s not always possible to know exactly what benefits different ingredients are having on your hair and sometimes when we change one thing in our regiment it ends up having a domino effect. The whole regiment falls apart and then we wonder why is it that a product that seemed to work all of a sudden is not so good.

I think I have learned my lesson about adding or taking away products from my regiment.For example stopping to use the neutral henna and henna gloss treatment, I was taking away the strengthening part of my regiment. I didn’t replace it with another product of equal function and soon my hair became dry and weak and prone to even more breakage and tangling.

When I stopped using the pro-vitamin B5 conditioner from swisse I was also taking away protein which is one of the ingredients in the product, vitamin b5 which acts as a humectant to bond water to hair and avocado oil which apparently also does the same thing.

Long story short, I have been battling dry hair since and nothing I seemed to do relieved the problem until, I started to compare what I used to use verses what I use now.

I realized that though the products I’d started using seemed to be ok on my hair for a short time, my whole regiment seemed to just stop working.

I started re-introducing the products that I had kicked out and some normality started coming back to my regiment. First was the protein and strengthening ingredients. Back came the pro-vitamin b5 conditioner and I also added a protein treatment conditioner to my regiment.

The manageability of my hair improved and the dehydration that I used to experience straight after my hair got dry stopped. This also stopped the matting of my hair which was beginning to drive me insane.

But I still had the issue of knots and tangles. I went back to pre-pooing using castor oil. This has automatically reduced breakage and time de-tangling but I still have the problem of not being able to re-hydrate my hair on a daily basis without it knotting and tangling which I just don’t know how to fix.

This is still a work in progress.

 

MSM For Hair Explained

What Is MSM?

MSM stands for Methylsulfonylmethane and is a natural source of sulphur. Sulphur is an element found in nature. In relation to hair, hair has the largest concentration of sulphur of all biological proteins. Sulphur contributes to the strength of hair and hairs rigidity and it’s ability to resist breakage.

Sulphur And Hair

Black hair (that is hair that is coloured black) is said to have less sulphur. Afro texture hair is also said to have less sulphur than other types. The size of the curl or coil is determined by the number of sulphur to sulphur bonds (di-sulphide) in the hair protein.

Sulphur and Hair Growth

There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of sulphur for increased hair growth and hair-regrowth.  My personal experience is that sulphur does not increase hair growth. Any improvements you may get from taking sulphur generally points to protein deficiency.

Taking a sulphur supplement can help reduce the effects of protein deficiency and therefore help regrow hair loss or hair problems caused by the lack of a complete protein diet. 

How your hair responds to taking sulphur supplements will depend on how deficient you are.  A lot of people report immediate benefits to taking sulphur. When I started taking sulphur supplements, I noticed hair regrowth in my bald spots. This led me to discover that I had low protein levels and I started taking a protein supplement as well as taking sulphur supplement.

Sulfur is also present in two B vitamins, thiamine (Vitamin B) and Biotin. Note, a lot of naturals claim to experience increased hair growth and healthier hair from taking mega doses of Biotin. This would explain why this supplement would work or some people and not so much for others. 

Natural sources of Sulphur 

Sulfur is readily available in protein rich foods:

Meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and legumes are all good sources. Egg yolks are one of the better sources of sulfur.

Other foods: onions, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and turnips. Nuts have some, as do kale, lettuce, kelp and other seaweed, and raspberries.

Daily Recommended Intake For Sulphur

In Australia at least, there is no DRI or RDA or RDI for Sulphur.  Some articles on the net suggest a daily intake of 850 mg – 1000 mg. The human body cannot manufacture or make sulphur, it has to be obtained from the diet. Protein Hair Growth 1 Month

My Bald Spot after one month of taking MSM supplement alone

Hair regrowth with MSM, Protein, and Vitamin B Supplement

 

My bald spot after 10 months of taking MSM and protein and two months of taking MSM, Protein, and Vitamin B supplements (Please note I also made other improvements in my diet).

If you’re taking a supplement, follow the suggestions of the manufacture.

Better Health Hair Skin Supplement Challenge

It’s four weeks since the beginning of my better health Hair/Skin Supplement Challenge. And this is my second update since starting. This challenge involves improving my health, hair, skin, and overall well being through better nutrition and taking specific supplements.

Last year I realized I wasn’t getting enough protein and had protein malnutrition which was causing my hair strands to become progressively thinner and a reduction in my overall hair density. I used to have a lot of hair and it was medium to thick rather than what I have now which is very fine, fine, medium, and a few very coarse strands which I wish I had more of! Not to worry I say to myself, this year your focus will be to take better care of yourself through diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements and hopefully regain the hair thickness I used to once take for granted.

Anyway four weeks later, I have lost a dress size (that happened within the first week due to taking calcium pyruvate acid (click the link for more info on Dr Oz website) and if you’re interested in where I buy my supplements click the link to go to iherb. Please be warned, if you go to iherb and you’re already a vitamin or hair product junkie, you will only get worse! You have been warned!

February flexi rods1

The setbacks…Low iron levels caused by my last cycle made me feel like I was off with the fairies. It left me weak and disoriented and for two weeks I had to shelve my exercise plans. I’ve only just barely recovered but I am soldiering on. My low iron levels then led to my doctor suggesting an iron supplement that was too high, causing the opposite iron toxicity. I had strange looking pimples all over my hands that looked like mini boils. I have stopped taking the iron supplement and started taking another one of a lower dose. Now the boils have burst and just look like busted blisters.

On top of that I also found out that I have fibroids! Just what I need. Well it’s off to the specialist for further investigation. Apparently fibriods are more common in African-American women than Caucasian women. Oh great, meaning they must also be common amongst African women in general! I will probably discuss fibriods in another post and how I’m dealing with the exciting news.

Back to the supplements….I’ve also started taking a collagen supplement to improve my skin and hair! I know I sound so vain and over the top but I can’t help it. I am officially hooked on taking supplements mainly because I am feeling more energetic than I have in a long time. I now dead lift 70 kg (154 pounds) and can squat 50 kg (110 pounds). I weigh 60 kg (132 pounds). I am very proud of myself. And no I don’t look like I’m on steroids!

I can’t really say what’s going on with the hair growth yet but I can say that my skin has been glowing. Could be also the 4.5 litters  (152.0 oz I think) I am drinking. Not sure.

Hopefully I will be able to see improvements in hair thickness or growth at some point. I don’t really expect this to happen til possibly six months from when I started.