Hair products aren’t black and white

After skin color, the other most obvious difference between the races is typically hair texture.

When I was pregnant I wondered about fixing Annika’s hair.

How would I comb it? Would it be easy? Would I mess it up? When do I start using product? Do I really need to use product?

Last week we visited Toyin’s family in Michigan. One of the mornings that we stayed at his parents’ house, I got in the shower with my toiletries from home and realized that my crappy little plastic travel shampoo bottle had cracked and most of the shampoo had leaked out.

I was reminded of why I had actually brought my own shampoo. Even though I had not given it much thought, I had this idea that I wouldn’t be able to use the shampoo at Toyin’s parents’ house. Toyin rarely uses shampoo on his own hair, so it’s never been something we have discussed. Plus, well, he’s a guy. I have never really talked about hair products with any of the men in my life.

So when I got into their shower, and realized I might have to use some of his mom’s shampoo, I examined it and realized that there was nothing much different about it than my own shampoo other than it was for curly hair and I don’t have curly hair.

I felt like an ass. This whole hair product myth in my head was just another one of those stupid stereotypes or just flat out pieces of misinformation.

I mean, it has never occurred to me to buy different shampoo for Annika than for myself. Conditioner, maybe, but not shampoo. And the conditioner would only be different because she has thick, curly hair, unlike my flat, limp hair. So why would hair products for Toyin’s family be any different than Annika’s?

After my shower I got myself dressed and I began cleaning Annika up the for the day. I haven’t bought any hair products for her yet, although I’ve been meaning to, so I decided to look at Toyin’s mom’s stuff and see if she had anything I could use on Annika.

I tried this stuff called Luster. It worked great. I barely even needed to comb her hair because it smoothed it out so much.

Then, in order to cultivate myself a little further into the world of African American hair products, I decided to see how it would react to my hair.

I dabbed a tiny bit on my palm and smoothed it on the tip of some of my strands. I was like, “Wow, this stuff is great!”

It didn’t take much, but it smoothed out my frizzies ever so slightly and made my hair feel silkier than usual.

The next day I tried his mom’s shampoo, Creme of Nature detangling shampoo. I really liked it. It was a bit creamier and a little heavier than what I typically use, but my hair was less frizzy than usual too. I’m planning on buying some and I will likely use it on myself as well as Annika.

Deep in my roots I am a bit more of a hillbilly than many White folks, so maybe I’m in the minority, but I grew up thinking that (big deep breath here, please don’t think I’m an idiot) Black people’s hair was greasier than White hair.

I have no idea where that idea came from. I’m not even sure I remember ever hearing it from anyone. Maybe it was because it was the 70s and the Jheri curl was a popular hair-do, which to me, always looked wet.

What I’ve learned from various Black friends over the years is that Black hair is typically drier than White hair. Heavier conditioners and less washing is a must for Black folks, also the reason many Black women wear braids a lot of the time or use hair weave to keep their natural hair from breaking.

I’ve learned a lot about the differences between the races in my adult life, and now that I have a child, I’m starting to see the similarities.