by Alma Musvosvi

A lot of non-black people have questions about black hair. We understand, our hair is different. That’s why I decided to answer some FAQs and define some common terms associated with black hair. This will in no way will answer all your questions, but it’s a great place to start.

Common Terms:

Hair Typing: This is a system used to categorized hair based on texture.
Shrinkage: People with the more coily/kinky hair types, are very familiar with this phenomenon. When the kinky/coily hair is in its natural state, (not blown-out, or straightened) it can appear to be much shorter than it is in reality. It’s like a slinky; if you set it on a table it’s relatively short, but if you pick it and stretch you will get a better idea of its actual length.
Head wrap: A scarf, usually made of silk or satin, that is wrapped around hair at night to keep the friction from cotton sheets from breaking hair.
Cornrows: NOT boxer braids, not Bo Derek braids, cornrows. Cornrows are a traditional African hairstyle (Kim Kardashian did not invent them) where hair is braided against the scalp.
Relaxer: A chemical treatment used to permanently straighten kinky/coily hair. May also be referred to as a perm.
Natural Hair: Black hair that has not had its natural texture altered by chemicals.
Big Chop: When someone cuts of all their relaxed hair to start fresh and grow out their natural hair.
Wash Day: A day black women dedicate to washing hair because the washing/styling process takes several hours.

How often do you wash your hair? Most black people don’t wash their hair every day. That’s because our hair types don’t retain moisture and oil very well, so washing it every day would leave it extremely dry and damaged. Generally, we wash once or twice a week. It doesn’t mean we are dirty. Our hair is different, so we have to do different things to take care of it.

Is it real? There is no simply answer to this question. Some black women choose to wear wigs, weaves or extensions and some don’t. In other words sometimes it’s real and sometimes it’s not, there is no easy way to tell. This is not an invitation to ask, because that is just rude.

Why do you change your hair so often? Because we can. If you could change your hair as often as you change your outfit, wouldn’t you?

Why do you hate getting your hair wet? It can take a long time to style our hair and water can ruin any style in a matter of seconds. Water is responsible for shrinkage (refer to definition under common terms), and if your hair has been straightened, it will revert it back to its kinky/coily state.

Can I touch it? No.

I hope that this brief article answered some of your most burning questions about black hair. If you have more, I can guarantee that a simple google search will answer them.