We offer tips for getting the elusive "Good Hair"

I’ll admit it: I love good hair. Everyone loves good hair. The young. The old. The straight, the curly, the tightly curly. It smells good. It looks good. It’s hair that can achieve its greatest potential in growth, thickness, volume, softness. It does what it does, and it does it well. Men can’t get enough of it. And women from all cultures try to get it. Male or female, good hair is one hot accessory.

But somehow, in American culture, there is a pervasive idea that curly and kinky hair is….not good?

Now how did that happen?

Chris Rock’s little girl wanted to know. “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?” she asked him one day. Somehow, the little princess got in her head that straight hair was better than kinky hair. And in his documentary Good Hair, Chris left no rock unturned to find out why.

See our review of the film "Good Hair".

He traversed the globe, from Los Angeles to India, trying to define and find African American women’s concept of good hair. He interviewed men, women, celebrities, teachers, stylists, beauty supply retailers, and manufacturers. And all confirmed their belief in one erroneous myth: kinky hair is bad. Straight is good.

Don’t get me wrong; the documentary was funny. Chris Rock did what he does best: entertain. And I applaud many of the interviewees’ candor. They admitted that they fried, dyed, and laid their hair to the side for straight hair. They would never give their natural kinks, curls, and coils a chance. They were addicted to relaxers—the “creamy crack.” And they even recalled stories of the relaxer’s bad side: caustic scalp burns, thinning hair, breaking hair, non growing hair. You know—bad hair. And when relaxing wasn’t enough: weave in another woman’s “good hair” to achieve that “good hair” look.

Tips for Good Hair:

  • Combs should be used for detangling only. First, find a wide toothed comb. Comb it only in the shower and loaded with conditioner. Or ditch it entirely. Many kinky-curly styles don’t need a comb to achieve them—just the right products, perhaps a good brush, and a loving hand.
  • Water. Water. And more water. Water is relaxed hair’s enemy, and natural hair’s friend. Curly and kinky hair tends to be dry, and the only element that moisturizes is water. Choose water based products (like creams and butters) as well as water friendly products (humectants like aloe and glycerin) that infuse your hair with H20. This will keep your hair moisturized and oh so happy.
  • Conditioner. Try to find thick, creamy conditioners that are silicone free. Silicones coat the hair, and good hair needs to breathe! You should detangle with it, leave it in for softness, and smooth it in for definition.
  • Stay away from mineral oil and petroleum. These two ingredients appear in many products marketed to kinky-haired folks and, unlike water, coats the hair with a false shine while blocking out moisture that hair needs to really shine and sparkle from the inside out. Choose water based products and oils that help it curl. Afterwards, smooth in an oil or butter that will let your hair breath, like jojoba oil, coconut oil, or shea butter.
  • Have fun with your kinky-curly hair. You can twist it, braid it, straighten it, bun it, wear it curly, wear it kinky, wear twist outs, braid outs, flat iron it—the styling options are endless. So experiment, have fun, and embrace the good hair that’s been on your head all along.

But sporting the “good hair look” is not the same as possessing good hair. For good hair has and always will describe hair grown from the roots and in its natural state. It is healthy hair, naturally. It is well managed hair, naturally. And as I walked away from the film, I was quite saddened that the general message was that tightly curly-kinky hair was not good, naturally.

To many African Americans, good hair isn’t a noun. It is a relative description connoting “less kinky.” The less kinky your hair, the better it is. And if you have curly or kinky hair, you have to straighten your texture to get good hair. In modern times, it’s no more than a silly misconception. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. African American’s obsession with straighter stresses is a relic from America’s past. Chris Rock didn’t get into it, but I will.

Now let’s be real. In early American history, a lack of plumbing and electricity made hair care a nightmare for everyone. But during the dark time of slavery, African Americans had it the worst. There was neither time, resources, nor products to properly manage kinky halos. And sometimes, hair was forcibly shaven. The African braiding tradition remained alive during this time, however, and women sometimes maintained elaborate braid styles that are still seen today.

Also throughout American history, those African Americans who looked less stereotypically West African—who possessed lighter skin and/or looser hair textures—were offered a teeny bit more privilege in society than those who did not possess these features. Thus, for aesthetic, practical, and social reasons, the preference for non-kinky hair was born.

African Americans had created an economic niche for themselves by the early 1900s, and entrepreneurs and businessman saw the growing demand for straighter hair. Straightening pioneers like Madame C.J. Walker and Garret Augustus Morgan answered this call by marketing the straightening comb, and chemical relaxing products respectively. And what a big business this started.

Needless to say, it caught on, and straight hair has been a cultural standard ever since—except for the afro obsession circa the 70s. And the billion dollar black hair industry proves that the demand for straight hair is still as prevalent as it was almost a century ago. Yes, many straighten their hair for aesthetic reasons only. But some African American women feel their kinky-curly hair is unwanted, unprofessional, and impossible to care for outside of chemicals and weaves. Kinky hair is just down right unmanageable.

Wrong!

Kinky hair is manageable. It's how we manage it that is the problem. Kinky hair isn't bad. Our methods of taking care of it are bad. Kinky-curly hair takes a different type of care than straight hair. And if curly and kinky hair gets what it needs, it will look good, feel good, and grow into an enviable mane—you know…good hair.