Most often, women both in the Urban and Rural areas share common hair practices. For some reasons, the level of a woman’s education has no impact on how women care for their hair. Thus, regardless of where and who they are, they engage in almost the same hair care practices. Several assumptions have been put forward with respect to how to maintain healthy hair; the problem is whether these methods are effective. These assumptions include:
- Using petroleum and mineral oil based products as moisturizers
- Reusing relaxers that have already been applied to the hair
- Not washing the hair for months
- Hair thrives when it is dirty
- Cutting hair makes it grow faster
Although these assumptions are not entirely true, the rational behind these ideas cannot be overlooked. For years, most of the hair products on the African continent have been predominantly petroleum and mineral oil based ones. These are cheap commodities and can be easily purchased wherever you are. Hair grows each day but the problem that results from the use of these products is lack of length retention. So long as women see some hair on their heads, then, there is no problem with what they do.
With the economic status of most women on the continent, it seems prudent to be frugal with expenditure. This attitude is extended to caring for hair where most women will prefer to buy clothes rather than spend on hair products. In the end, they tend to find avenues for recyling what they have and this includes reusing already used relaxers. The relaxer works is still effective with the second application. Eventually, there is no need to buy new relaxers when one can easily use what has been used before. This economic wisdom may take a while to dispel.
In the era when there were no relaxers, most African women kept their hair in protective styles a lot of the time; the notion was that frequent washing of the hair was not needed. To them, hair gathered dirt when left loose and as such, once it was kept in braids, it did not gather the same amount of dirt. Therefore, there was no need for frequent hair washes. This tradition has transcended to the contemporary era and despite the use of more chemical based products, the same mentality continues to thrive.
The point is, whatever African women do to their hair is based on handed down hair care traditions. To undo these would require time and patience in order to drum home the new concepts.