Monday, February 9, 2009

Hair Myths?

We now interrupt this blog for two small conversations that will most likely result in having lots of things thrown at me...or a collective belief that I have gone over the edge and no longer have the slightest idea what I'm talking about.

But as I've said before...I am not nor will I ever be 100% right 100% of the time. My thoughts, posts and advice are based on what I believe and observe from my professional training and my professional career as a hair stylist and curly hair specialist. If it works for someone, that's great. If it doesn't and something else works better, then that's great too. But I'm largely Italian, which means I'm always going to open my mouth when I have something to say, LOL. And there have been two topics on my mind lately I feel I need to address.

#1 - There is No Such Thing as "The Holy Grail"
Many curly girls get obsessed with finding what is known among us as "The Holy Grail" for their curls - that mythical, miraculous, one-of-a-kind, priceless treasure of a product that will give us impeccable, frizz-free, red carpet curls--the kind that always snap back into perfect ringlets even in the worst rain, hail, humidity, sleet and hurricane-force winds known to mankind.

The good Lord knows, I was on an HG quest myself for eons and there are times I still find myself falling into that trap. Even when I find a product combination that makes me look great 99% of the time, I'll catch myself thinking: sure, my curls look great...but what if I stop looking now and that one great product--that one single elixir of magical fairy tales--is just over the hill? And what if I never find it because I was happy with "second best" and I stopped looking too soon? It was enough to drive any curly girl to drink.

It was with a mixture of relief and sadness that I finally came to the conclusion--after doing hundreds and hundreds of curly heads, and studying reams of information on hair type and product ingredients--that, despite our greatest hopes and wishes, that mythical "Holy Grail"

just. doesn't. exist.

Yes, there are products that are great for our hair and will work wonders the vast majority of the time, sometimes even 99% of the time. There are products with ingredients that love our particular hair type--our texture, our porosity, our elasticity--and will make our curls look the absolute best they can possibly be.

For a time.

But ...

Hair type changes over time. Texture changes, porosity changes, elasticity changes. Weather changes. The chemical composition of your water changes. Hormones change. Medical conditions change. If there is one thing we can count on in the crazy world of curly hair, it is change. And that means no product is going to work 100% the best 100% of the time.

The same product might work almost as great, but from the bottom of my heart I do not and will never believe one single product can unfailingly give you what I call "red carpet curls"...the perfect, rockin' kind of curls that make any Hollywood A-lister turn around and think jealously, "I want HER hair." Unless you live in an environment and in a body where absolutely nothing changes, the Holy Grail will have to remain the myth it is.

Incidentally, that's why it is all the more important to understand your hair type and your environment and, subsequently, what product ingredients work the best for your particular situation. There might not be a single Holy Grail...but that doesn't mean there can't be a foundational core of products that act in tandem with each other to give you red carpet curls all the time.

#2 - There is No Such Thing as "Ethnic Hair"
Didn't see that one coming, did you?

I get a lot of questions on whether or not I know how to handle "ethnic hair" or about the special needs of ethnic hair. And I'm here to tell you there is no such thing. Hair is hair is hair. Period.

Your hair is fine, medium or coarse. Your hair is porous, overly porous, or has low porosity. Your hair has normal elasticity or low elasticity. Your hair is thin, medium or thick. It does not matter what your ethnic background is. Fine, porous, elastic, thick hair is fine, porous, elastic, thick hair whether it is on an African-American woman, a Caucasian woman, a Native American woman, an Asian woman, a Latina get the picture.

Now, you may have a genetic predisposition to have a certain type of hair based upon your ethnic background. African-American women often have much finer hair and a much tighter wave pattern than women from other ethnic backgrounds. Asian and Native American women can be so coarse and stick-straight, cutting their hair is a huge challenge because every slice of the shears can leave a visible mark. But there is no guarantee your hair will follow a certain pattern just because you belong to a particular ethnic group. I have African-American clients with loose waves and medium texture; I have white clients with coarse hair and extremely tight coils. And that's just the way it is.

That's not to say we shouldn't take pride in ourselves and where we come from, or not seek advice from others who share the same culture as we do! But by realizing that "ethnic hair" truly doesn't exist and knowing that our particular hair type is the key to taking the best care we can of our curls...we will always have those red carpet ringlets, no matter what our ethnic backgrounds.


Girl with Curl said...

I won't throw anything at you haha. I actually applaud you. I respect people more when they have an opinion.

I stopped looking for a holy grail because it was tiring and expensive.

Good post!

rbb said...

the fact that there is no holy grail is what makes the information on this blog so valuable!! i know if i can guess the condition of my hair, the dewpoint inside and outside, then i can more easily figure out which and how much products to use. i think you are giving us information that will make this process more efficient. i am looking forward to what you have to say about products!

Sage Vivant said...

Hey, Tiffany! I'm a curly Italian, too! Does that make us follicular paisanos??

You are so right about the HG product. It takes a while to figure that out because hope is such a powerful thing. After months of experimentation, though, it does become clear that no product will ever overcome all the environmental, hormonal, and other factors that affect our hair every day. Sad but true. And I'm glad you wrote it.

I don't think you're crazy at all.

What you said about ethnic hair was very enlightening. I was probably guilty of assuming that most Black women had similar hair until I got to and saw that they most certainly did not.

Really love your blog. Thanks for all the great posts.

curls2grow said...

I just found your blog! Thank you so much for your informative posts. I am subscribing and catching up on past reading.

Julie said...

I couldn't agree more, especially about the ethnic hair. I'm part Native American, but my hair is quite fine and wavy. When I tell people I'm a little bit Native American, they're like, "but your hair is supposed to be coarse, black and straight!" I just roll my eyes.

Lteefaw said...

Yes, there is no such thing as ethnic hair. While on NaturallyCurly I was surprised at the number of ladies with soft wavy hair who were using the same products that I use on my 4a hair.

Lenora said...

I have tightly curly hair that is fine - type 4...I do two strand twist outs....any recommendations on products to seal the moisture? thanks

Anonymous said...

Where exactly is "ethnic"? I feel the same way about categorizing hair this way.. it's ridiculous. If you want to be objective about hair you will have to look at things scientifically, not sociologically. Thanks for making that point.

Anonymous said...

Girl, you said that! LOL. That is so true. Hair is hair no matter what your ethnic background is. Thanks for dispelling that myth.

Ms. Kinky =)

beautiful curls said...

of course theres no holy grail.
there is no need for your hair to be perfect.
frizz is beautiful.
embrace it.

Walisha said...

I just found your blog. Very enlightening about ethnic hair. This i never knew.

I really appreciate your blog, looking forward to learn more about your scientific approach.
from a fine haired dense low porous, tight curled head ;)

Walisha said...

It's me again and now I'm curious. (Trying not to be skeptical) "Ethnic hair" and curly hair are all hair. The hair industry keeps us believing these products for these those products for those. mostly on the net that's all you find our curls, their curls. please give enlighten us more on this. I need some serious help for my curls if I was in florida i'd spin by and have you hook me up.

Anyway, i digress. Give us more about the similarity of curls of ethnic and non-ethnic

Thanks in advanced

Beautiful Truth said...

yes ethnic hair does not exsit...for example my mother has a fine texture very loose waves and low density while I have medium texture hair normal elasticiy and tight curls with a mixture of waves....We are both African American with different types of hair and it would be unrealistic to group our hair as ethnic hair....I really appreciate your honesty and giving benefical info

Most Truly
Beautiful Truth

Beautiful Truth said...

also as far as holy grail concept it is unrealistic.... I agree with what you point out once the concept of how your envionment internal factors and ingredients affects hair then a better understanding of what hair needs is easier to graps