Can you imagine a white person putting extensions in our fair haired little ones? It would most certainly be frowned upon. We would be viewed as the type of Mom who does this to their kid:
Which, in my opinion IS a form of abuse as it is harmful to their self esteem.
However, I assure you that extensions on my little one is an entirely different thing. Let me explain.
To 'white' people, hair is hair... it's not that big of an issue for us.
It's an entirely different thing in the African community.
First of all, in most African countries, appearance is everything. Even the poorest folks have a suit and tie/ dress. I actually had a bit of a culture shock coming from a culture where everyone dressed like this:
To our quaint little BC city, where people dress like this:This was a random street shot I took in an upgraded slum in Kenya. This woman, was likely in the process of constructing a house - in her dress and blazer. The people behind her, also very well dressed.
|Source - Ecosociety|
Street shot at Marketfest, Nelson. Short shorts, baggy shirts, tank tops. Really we are slobs. Yes, the Kenyans reading this post are now laughing at you all - no worries, I am charged with the same crime!
It is typically frowned upon to wear your hair 'natural' in Kenya. If a child is on the streets, sporting a natural afro, it is thought that the child is an orphan. Just like the suit and tie and dresses, a hair style is extremely important.
Secondly, African hair is much more difficult to maintain than our own.
Most of us have straight hair, and if it's curly, it's quite loose. Many of us have problems with oily hair, which actually promotes healthy hair. We suffer with a few split ends here and there, after a few years of hair growth and 8 inches later. We easily straighten and curl our hair with irons.
Black hair on the other hand is much more complicated. First of all, the tighter the curl, the more difficult it is for the oil secreted from the scalp to reach the ends of the hair, therefore leaving the hair dry and easily prone to breakage.
No one believes me when I tell them how tight Zahra's curl is. Here is photographic evidence.
Tighter than a toothpick!!!
Stretched out, that hair is 3+ inches, longer than that toothpick!...
In black hair, there are actually 'classifications'. Her hair is a 4c... also known as the most difficult type of black hair to work with.
Can you imagine how difficult it is to comb hair this curly? When you combine hair that is most prone to being dry and brittle AND most difficult to comb... it is not a good combination for the health of the hair.
This is where 'protective hairstyles' come into play. All this means, is a hair style that protects the hair from everyday combing, styling, and even just the natural elements that cause damage and breakage. Some examples of protective hairstyles are braids, twists, cornrows, extensions etc.
In addition to wearing sleep caps every night, and under helmets.
As I have mentioned before, Zahra's hair was completely shaved when we met her.
Let me digress for a moment...
I am a Mom who loves to look after my daughters hair. When Muffin was a baby, I loved on her fine little baby wisps, coaxing them along, fluffing her little curls, and styling them as soon as they were long enough.
|Muffin at 1 yr|
She now has beautiful long hair (that I still love to style as you can see!) which she has cut over 9 inches off twice now, and donated to cancer.
So I happen to have similar values as many Africans when it comes to hair. (At least that of my children, my hair is another story!)
(I will admit, that I was disappointed when I learned that she did not have any hair, but that isn't the reason I give her extensions.)
Zahra looks up to her older sister and wants similar things. She not only wants to be able to comb her hair, put her hair in pony tails, and to braid her hair, but she wants me to do for her what I do for Muffin. She also is Kenyan, and don't think she is too young to not have been influenced by the Kenyan culture. She takes great pride in her appearance, and it is very important to her that she looks good. Right now for her that means wearing dresses, headbands and having her hair braided or put in a pony tail. She doesn't like it to be left down, even when in extensions.
If we consider the points I made above...
Importance of protective hairstyles and appearance, combined with the fact that her hair is so short... I really am unable to do anything else with her hair, but add extensions.
My inexperienced fingers cannot do cornrows on hair this short, not to mention I think Z is entitled to have the length she would have under 'normal' circumstances, so she can have her 'done' like other girls her age.
When I say this, I refer to being able to braid the braided extensions, like this:
Or put them in a pony tail like this...
The reason for this post, is because the number one comment I get when I am out with Zahra is, hands down, about her hair. Even yesterday, in Walmart, a big burly biker looking guy was just staring in awe at Z. He finally said, 'Wow, her hair is absolutely gorgeous.' I had to laugh, as it really wasn't the comment I expected. Then upon loading my bags in the car, an older woman that had seen us in the store, actually made a detour from her car to come over to mine to ask me if her hair was real. That was a bit creepy, because then she also had to give it a feel, which, given her approach, crossed the line of friendly lady to weird lady.
Following the compliment - everyone (except biker guy), asks if it is her real hair. The fact is, it is not. It is this.
And then, enter the judgements (psycho pageant Mom), from a lack of understanding the complexities involved in my daughter's hair story, and black hair in general.
'Why don't you let her wear a natural afro?' they all ask. With a vision of this in their heads:
(If you notice, this little girl's hair has a coil that would wrap around a fat pencil.)
But in reality - this is what her current 'natural' looks like. Because of the tight curl, it coils tight against her scalp:
Which is fine, and we do work with it... but it sure makes it much more difficult to wear it natural! Our regime is 2 months of extensions, then a break for at least one month. During this one month, we try to manage her natural hair with hairstyles like this:
I refuse to use hot styling aids on her. No blow dryer (which would help achieve the heightened 'afro' look), or straightener.
So for now, until her hair is long enough that I can do this:
She will be wearing extensions. It's just how it is.
So the answer to, 'Why not let her wear her hair natural?'
Because I care. I care about the culture she comes from, her desire to be able to 'fix' her hair up like her sister and other girls her age, and I care about creating an amazing hair foundation for when she is older. The fact that it just so happens to be 'less' work in the long run, is simply a bonus for me! ;)
For those wanting more details on her hair regime... I braid about 85 braids into her hair, taking approximately 10 hours in total, including hot water curling each extension individually. This is done with a generous amount of shea butter/coconut oil/cocoa butter/almond oil mixture. Twice a week she gets a quick shower, where I give her hair an organic conditioner rinse. Once a week, she has a bath, which depending on the state of her hair, I will give her hair a shampoo rinse in addition to the conditioner. After bathing, I re coat her part lines and up the shaft of her extension (to where the natural hair ends) with the moisturizer. Approximately every 4 weeks, I give her hair a good scrub shampoo (not just a rinse) and scalp massage to eliminate build up on the scalp, cradle cap etc.
When I do the extensions, we leave them in for 2 months. Any longer and the hair will start to dread. After taking them out, we let her wear her hair natural for another 2 months before putting extensions in again. When I take the extensions out, she gets a good shampoo wash and deep conditioning treatment.
PLEASE - if you have experience with short 4c hair, and can offer some hairstyling suggestion... I would highly appreciate it! It's very difficult to find ideas for hair under 6 inches.
One hairstyle that was a little over the top.
I do tend to prefer to keep it as natural looking as possible, adding the neon bands was a little loud!