With such a wealth of information available on the internet, sometimes the things we read can be conflicting and confusing. In this blog post I’ve highlighted some of the questions that commonly pop up on the web regarding Afro hair, and answer whether they are true or false.
MYTH One - True or false - African descent hair doesn’t grow as much as Caucasian and other hair types.
TRUE: This is true. And one of the main scientific evidence we have is a study that was conducted by a scientist by the name of Loussourn, G in the British Journal Dermatol in 2001. This study has shown that African descent hair grows slower than Caucasian hair. For example, with Caucasian hair the minimum growth is about 12.45 centimetres per year, whereas with African descent hair the minimum growth would be 7.74 centimetres per year. African descent hair grows on average about 9.34 centimetres per year and with Caucasian hair, around 14.45 centimeters per year - so there is quite a significant difference. The main reason for the difference has to do with hair cycles: for African descent hair the telogen phase (the resting phase) is about 5% higher than their Caucasian counterparts and can be anywhere from 2-46%. Conversely, Caucasian hair tends to be around 5%, and the anagen phase (growth phase) is around 90%.
MYTH Two - True or false - If you use products containing sulfates your hair will be stripped of its natural oils and become damaged?
With sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfates this is true. It has a tendency to strip the natural oils from the hair and scalp and both will become dry and damaged with time. Ammonium lauryl sulfates and olefin sulfonate – are also quite drying to the scalp and hair. The higher the concentration of these materials are, the more damaging they are going to be. Over the last few years new shampoo formulas have been introduced, which eliminated sulfates altogether. For example, such shampoos do not alter the moisture profile of the hair.
MYTH Three - True or false - Washing African descent hair with conditioner (co-washing) is more beneficial to the hair than washing it using traditional shampoos?
In some cases it is true but it all depends on the shampoo you are using. For example KeraCare Hydrating Detangling Shampoo is sulfate free, so is effective in cleaning the hair and not drying it out in the process. However, if you use a shampoo with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which are commonly known as clarifying shampoos, then that can be quite drying. Co-washing has its place in the hair business, because if you co-wash your hair once a week and then on the fourth week you opt for a traditional shampoo, then that would be a very effective method for keeping the hair and scalp clean but also moisturized. Co-washing does not have the same ability to cleanse the scalp of oil and product build-up like traditional shampoos, and that’s why I’d suggest using it alongside your regular shampoo.
MYTH Four - True or false - Cutting your hair will make it grow faster?
Cutting your hair is advisable if your ends are splitting as that will prevent it from travelling up the rest of your hair shaft. But the rate of growth is not dependent upon whether or not you cut your hair. Rate of growth is down to a combination of things such as: how healthy your scalp is, diet, and your genes. Also, if you are damaging your scalp by use of chemicals, extensions, or braids - then hair growth is significantly reduced. Plus age is another factor - our hair grows less as we get older, especially with women whose estrogen levels are reduced as they age, so hair grows less.
MYTH Five - True or false - You don't have to wash African descent hair too often as if you do you'll remove the natural oils it needs?
This is true because African descent scalps don’t secrete that much sebum as the sebaceous glands are not as active. But in other hair types, such as Caucasian hair, they have to wash their hair every day due to oily scalps. It is advised that those with African descent hair wash their hair hair once a week, or in some cases, once every two weeks. If you leave extended periods between washing the hair – say once a month - you may find that you get build-up and bacteria on the scalp.
MYTH Six - True or false - Greasing your scalp will lead to a healthier scalp which in turn leads to hair growth?
It all depends upon what the greasing agent is. New evidence and part of our studies show that natural ingredients and natural oils have certain types of phyto nutrients that lead to hair growth. However, if you choose to grease scalps using petroleum and mineral oils, you won’t experience much growth. Although they may make the scalp less dry, which is desirable, this doesn’t necessarily lead to hair growth.
MYTH Seven - True or false - due to its density, Afro hair is one of the strongest hair types?
This is false. Afro hair doesn’t have much density, and strength is more to do with the elasticity of the fibre. The more elliptical the fibres, the weaker the hair strand. Even if you have high density, if the shape of the fibre is irregular or un-uniformed and it’s curly and coily, the fibre is very susceptible to combing damage. So Afro hair is in fact one of the weakest hair types, as shown in my published papers in Cosmetics & Toiletires Magazine, over the years.
MYTH Eight - True or false - brushing your hair frequently leads it to grow longer?
Massaging and activating the scalp is more effective in stimulating hair growth than brushing the hair. Because hair is a biologically inactive body, it is the scalp that is biologically active. So if you massage the scalp and stimulate it - with a combination of phyto nutrients and massage, this will help with growth.
MYTH Nine - True or false - if you continue using the same shampoo it will stop working on your hair?
The scalp does not become immune to cleansing products over a period , and hair is not biologically active, so this is false.