Category Archives: Weaves and protective styles

Where do your hair extensions really come from?

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I remember when the choice of hair weaves for black women were limited.  At the local beauty supply, you would find the obvious synthetic hair, and brands labelled ‘human hair’.  But such hair was actually made from synthetic fibers, designed to mimic human hair. Whether this was clever marketing or blatant false advertising, such companies managed to get away with this.  Today, with the wealth of hair extensions now available, the choice has definitely improved.  Unfortunately, the deceptive marketing still exists.

protective styling

Asian, Brazilian and Russian hair are well sought after. Many weave wearers envision women in other countries, with hip length hair, going to an organization to sell or donate their hair and have it carefully removed.  Many are under this illusion that such hair is handled meticulously with the highest standard of care, before reaching worldwide markets.  This couldn’t be further from the reality.  Sam Piranty, for his article: the salons that hope you can’t tell goats and humans apart, traveled to China to examine the hair extension industry. He found that most of the hair, produced in Hunan province, is a mixture of human and goat hair. This hair is mainly sold to African clients; including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Congolese and South Africans.  He interviewed a Chinese shop owner, who said that such hair use to be sold in Europe and America. “We say it is Indian hair or Brazilian hair, but in fact it is normally Chinese hair or even goat hair. They never realize. This is the only way we can keep things cheap”, said Lilly, a Chinese beauty supply owner.

A mixture of human and goat hair.

A mixture of human and goat hair.

Riqua Hailes, owner of Just Extensions in Los Angeles and The Weave Express in Washington D.C, traveled to various Asian countries, to see firsthand where the hair comes from. She was prompted to do this after finding inconsistencies in the hair extensions she received from suppliers. She traveled to China, Cambodia, Malaysia and India.  She will also be travelling to Brazil and Russia  later in the year.

China

Most human hair extensions or weaves are labelled with the names of various countries, indicating the origin.  Many women today are choosing to spend more money on weaves, hair extensions and wigs. Rather than  buying synthetic hair, which doesn’t last as long and knots easily, many are choosing to invest hundreds of dollars in human hair.  When a packet of hair extensions is labelled Brazilian, Malaysian or Indian, people are willing to pay a lot more money for it.  Women like the option of curling their weaves, applying heat and wetting the hair. All of which isn’t always possible with cheaper synthetic hair. Manufacturers know that these labels create an image of quality. “Chinese hair is often considered cheap in the extensions industry, because it isn’t donated hair” says Hailes. “So in order to be on the same playing field as other exporters, they will market it as Brazilian or Malaysian hair, which can go for twice the money”.

The hair that comes from China is imported from India. But it is not from women who come forward to donate the hair. Neither is it removed meticulously and stored in the best conditions.  It is simply collected shed hair, gathered from the salon floors and, hair brushes. Hair of this kind is referred to as non-Remy hair.  “Non-Remy hair is less desirable in the extensions industry. But China collects this hair, cleans it and mislabels it as being from a higher-quality hair extension source like Brazil, Russia or India”, says Hailes.  So such hair can come from a number of different people, be gathered from the floor, combs or hair brushes in India or China, and be labeled Brazilian hair.

Production Practices

Another point to remember is that the standards of hygiene in developing countries will not be as strict as they are in Western Countries, like the United States. Strict regulations for how such products are cleaned, stored, transported and produced are unlikely to exist or be enforced. So don’t be taken in by the glossy packaging and the picture on the front. You have no way of knowing for sure what the hair has been exposed to or even where or who it came from. The hair is usually treated with chemicals, the effects of which are unknown until a person has a reaction to them.

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In Cambodia, Hailes found women who sold their hair, for as little as $5 to $8.  Many felt like they had no choice and were doing it to feed their families.  In India thousands of pilgrims visit community temples to donate their hair. Shaving their heads symbolizes washing away the past and a fresh start. Hindus believe sacrificing their hair to the gods will lead to their prayers being answered. Some do this once, while others may do it annually. The hair is auctioned off and some of the money goes towards funding community projects.  You may remember seeing images of this in the Chris Rock movie Good Hair. Check the labels of your weaves and hair extensions. If it is labelled Indian, Malaysian or Brazilian but says it is distributed from China, it is probably deceptive. Smell the hair as well, as shed hair will have a smell of acid and silicone.

Malaysia

Upon travelling to Malaysia, she concluded that ‘Malaysian hair’ doesn’t exist. Hair labelled ‘Malaysian’ is typically purchased directly from China.  There is unlikely to be one distinct feature of Malaysian or Brazilian hair anyway. Both countries consist of people from different ethnic origins and backgrounds. As a Brazilian person can have African, European or Asian ancestry, what would constitute Brazilian hair? You will find many different hair types there; from Afro-kinky to straight hair. In Malaysia, there are different ethnic groups, including Chinese and Indian, all of which may vary in hair textures. I await her report from her visit to Brazil, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she comes to the same conclusion.  The hair is produced and shipped from China, but simply labelled Malaysian or Brazilian, to make it competitive and give the illusion of better quality.

In Conclusion

1. Wash your hair extensions or wigs before use.

The reality is, most hair extensions are produced in countries that do not have the same laws and sanctions for production practice that exist in western countries. To ensure that the hair is clean, gently co-wash it and allow it to air dry before use. If it is human hair and of the quality it claims to be, this should not damage the hair.

2. Read labels

If the hair claims to be from India, Russia or Brazil, check the shipping information. If it was shipped from China, it is likely to be misleading information and is probably hair produced there. Remember that Malaysian hair was found to not exist.

3. Don’t fall for gimmicks

The texture and quality of the hair speak for itself. The shipping information tell you where the hair really came from. Unfortunately, when it comes to hair extensions, you don’t always get what you pay for.  Don’t be so quick to part with your money just because clever or even deceptive marketing is used. Hair produced in China is often shed hair collected from brushes and salon floors, labelled to deceived consumers and charge twice as much as it is worth. They are even willing to sell goat hair as human hair. Do not be deceived.

4. Examine your hair extensions closely

Remember to take note of the  feel and smell of the hair. Hair that has been put through chemical cleaning will have a harsher texture. It will also have a strong chemical and silicone odor. These are signs of hair that has been produced in China using the practices mentioned previously.

5. Treat weave or extensions as an occasional luxury, not a necessity

No one, who is in good health, should have to depend on weaves or hair extensions. When there is a dependency, there is a certain desperation  to have it.   Black women fund this industry more than any other group, yet most of this money doesn’t even go to black owned businesses. The growth in the natural hair industry has seen a growth in black owned businesses within the hair and beauty sector. More and more women are learning to love their natural afro textured hair. We are even producing and purchasing wigs, weaves and hair extensions that reflect our natural hair, rather than sourcing Asian or Brazilian hair that may not look as natural on us.

Be sure to check out both articles:

The salons that hope you can’t tell goats and humans apart.   http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28894757

The real story behind where your hair extensions come from.

https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/the-real-story-behind-where-your-hair-extensions-come-101266901210.html

Were you surprised by this information? Do you trust where you purchase your hair extensions from? Share your thoughts below.

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Are wigs and weaves bad for your health?

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On a recent episode of The Doctors, actress Countess Vaughn spoke about lace front wigs and the damage they caused to her health. She candidly described the result of an allergic reaction she had to the glue used to install her wig.  The Parkers star admits to falling in love with the wigs after her hair stylists introduced her to them in 2004. She said she didn’t consider the health risks and was so excited about wearing them.

Countess Vaughn

Countess Vaughn

Immediately you have a full hairline.  I was wearing it 24/7.  5 years after, the drama came in. The red flag was the oozing, from the ears, from my forehead, the whole nap around my head, the puss. It had a horrible smell. It was painful

Her experience is a strong warning about the potential dangers of constant weaving.  This is not just confined to lace front wigs, which require harsh glues. The tension required for installing weaves and braids can also lead to hair loss.  Some wigs come with comb attachments that can put stress on the hairline.  Unfortunately, many hair stylists prefer to braid and sew tightly for neatness.   Traction alopecia  is more prevalent in females with Afro-textured hair, according to a piece written in the Dermatology Online Journal: The fringe sign for public education on traction alopecia. The study found that the prevalence:

  • Is higher in African schoolgirls than boys (17.1% vs. 0%)
  • Increases with age in girls [8.6% (6-7 years), 15.6% (10-15 years), to 21.7% (17-21 years)]
  • Is higher in girls with relaxed vs. natural hair (22% vs. 5.2%)
  • Is highest in adults (31.7% in women vs. 2.3% in men; with affected males more likely to wear cornrows and dreadlocks)

Countess Vaughn admitted that she now has to draw her hairline with an eyebrow pencil and people have assumed she has vitiligo due to the discoloration caused by a skin reaction to the glue.  Women who have experienced such hair loss are likely to have more of an appreciation for the hair they may have thought wasn’t good enough by itself. Vaughn’s honesty and openness about this topic is commendable.

The damage caused by  an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

The damage caused by an allergic reaction to lace front glue.

So does all this information mean that you should stop wearing weaves immediately and go ‘cold turkey’? As with everything, moderation is the key.  Occasional use of wigs and weaves for diversity and protective styling can be beneficial. If you wear weaves and wigs, there are ways to minimize the risks associated with them, whether your hair is relaxed or natural.

Here are some suggestions compiled by Transform Medical Group:

  • Hairstyles should be painless, and if you are experiencing pain, the only solution is to loosen the hair.
  • Traction hairstyles should not be done on relaxed hair until at least two weeks after relaxing.
  • Only new growth should be relaxed. Relaxing hair that has previously been relaxed can increase the risk of damage.
  • Heat treatment (straighteners etc) can damage relaxed hair and should be avoided
  • Weaves, braids  and dreadlocks present greater risk when done on relaxed hair

How many of us endured the pain and headaches associated with tight braids or weaves, instead of taking them out? There is a general belief that the tighter the braids, the longer they last and the neater they look. The pain from tight braids and weaves is only reduced when the hair strands weaken, break and fall out.  Many of us have also made the mistake of coloring our hair soon after relaxing it usually for convenience or because of impatience.

Relaxed hair is hair that has been weakened by harsh chemicals and stripped of its elasticity. So any additional styling or chemical use must take this into consideration. According to Dr Marboor Bhatty of the Transform Medical Group, many of the traction alopecia cases he sees come from people being ‘disrespectful to their hair’.

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

So respect and look after your hair to avoid these dangers. Do not give more care and attention to your fake weave than your real hair underneath.

Have you had a bad experience with wigs and weaves? How do you minimize the risks associated with them?  Share your experience below.

Sources:

Transform Medical Group

Here is the link to the original article

http://www.transforminglives.co.uk/news-blog/blog/2014/03/hair-extensions-%E2%80%93-reducing-risks/

Dermatology Online Journal

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1h81c7s1

I Am Natural! (Underneath)

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Although wigs and weaves can be great protective styles, isn’t it time you revealed your real hair.
Weave and wigs can work great as protective styles.  They allow you to leave your hair natural and enjoy the convenience of straight hair. No shrinkage to contend with, less detangling, protection from the weather and versatility. However, for some women it may be time to let their natural hair out, to shine in all its glory. Here are some benefits to doing this. Hopefully this will encourage you to take the next step and come away from being reliant on weaves and wigs.

So what are the benefits of ditching the weave and letting your hair out more often?

Tamar has said she has natural hair

Tamar claims to have natural hair

You will become better at managing your natural hair
As with most things practice makes perfect. The more you leave your hair out the more practice you get at managing it. You will learn the best techniques for maintaining it on a daily basis. This includes forming a hair regimen that suits your routine and lifestyle. You will also have the opportunity to eliminate products and techniques that do not work well on your hair. If your hair is packed away under the weave or wig cap every month, you many only see it once in a while. Some people only take their hair out of the weave to wash it, then they reinstall it all over again. If you wear your hair out regularly you will become familiar with it and learn the best techniques managing it.

You will be in a better position to assess the health of your hair
Detangling my hair this week made me realized it was definitely time for a protein treatment. Because I am familiar with my hair I noticed there was more shedding than usual. I was able to rectify this straightaway because I had access to my hair. When your hair is weaved you don’t have immediate access to it. If there is a problem you will not know until you take the weave out. By this time more damage may have occurred that could have been avoided. When your hair is out you can assess it regularly and decide what action to take, such as: a trim, a wash, a treatment or a moisturizing boost.

Janelle monroe

Janelle Monae

It is easier to moisturize
Many of us know that we should moisturize our real hair regularly when it is in a weave. How many of us actually do this though? I certainly didn’t.  It seemed too complicated at the time and out sight out of mind. I spent more time grooming the weave because it was the weave that was visible to everyone. I would take the time to style it with curling tongs or a flat-iron, moisturize it and blend it with my real hair so it would look its best. I would usually forget about my real hair underneath. If your hair is out more often you will know immediately when it becomes dry and be in a better position to moisturize it. You are also more likely to moisturize it on a regular basis and prevent it from drying out in the first place.  When it is hidden away under the weave, it’s easy to forget about it.

Others will become use to your natural hair
If you are concerned about the reaction friends, family and work colleagues will have to your natural hair remember that the sooner they see it the sooner they will get use to it. If people see you with your hair out all the time it really doesn’t become that much of a big deal after some time.  They also get to see how beautiful it is natural.  You may have to deal with comments and questions, some may be negative but you will be better equipped to deal with them after some time. Some people may not admit that they feel more comfortable with you when you wear your weave. The sooner they realized that you are not going to hide your hair away for their benefit the better.

There is also that dreaded feeling you get when you have to take your weave out and don’t have an appointment to get it reinstalled straightaway. You kind of feel naked or may not be sure how to style your natural hair in between weaves. If we are honest some of us dread bumping into people that are used to seeing us with our weaves. If you wear your hair out you will no longer have to deal with the dreaded ‘in between weaves feeling’. What you see is what you get with natural hair.

Liya Kebede

Liya Kebede

You will become a hair styling queen
Styling your natural hair will become second nature to you. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you never take it out of the case how will you ever learn to play it? Your natural hair is like a blank canvas, there are endless styling tutorials on YouTube and you may also surprise yourself  by inventing some styles and techniques of your own. The more you leave your hair out the more of an expert you will become about styling and managing it. Weaves and wigs are great protective styles but there are numerous protective styles you can try with your own hair that are elegant and appropriate for all occasions. These include: two strand twists, buns, roll tuck and pins, French braids and various updos. Check out CharyJay’s and Fusion of Cultures’  YouTube channels.  They are protective style queens. If their styles seem too complicated, you can  adapt them to suit you personally. These tutorials should provide you with inspiration; you don’t have to follow them exactly.  Remember natural hair is very versatile so there is no reason to get bored or run out of styling options. Check out the series: The Versatility of Natural Hair.

Charyjay

Charyjay

Fusion of Cultures

Fusion of Cultures

You will not have to worry about the negative aspects of weaves, wigs and hair extensions
Many of us gasped in shock when we saw the first photos of Naomi Campbell’s receding hairline. The damage to her hairline was believed to have been caused by years of wearing weaves or hair extensions. In an industry that promotes a certain standard of beauty you can imagine the pressure she was under as a black model to look a certain way. Over the years more photos of her have come out highlighting the same problem that only appears to be getting worse. It is as if the fake hair on her head is taken care of more than her real hair underneath. Traction alopecia can occur if your hairline is constantly put under pressure through sewing, braiding, glues and tight comb attachments.

naomi-campbell-21

Naomi Cambell

Naomi Campbell

The problems associated with weaves are unlikely to affect women who simply use them once in a while for diversity. They are going to have more of an impact on those women who rely on weaves for everyday use. Another negative aspect is that sometimes weaves look awkward, we have come a long way in ‘weave technology’ but it still isn’t perfect. Sometimes you see people’s tracts showing, your hair doesn’t blend well, or you have hair that sheds like crazy. I don’t consider any of this easier than having my natural hair out. You will also save a lot of money. We seem to be the only race that wears hair texture that doesn’t match our natural hair. Some of us don’t even wear weaves that match our natural afro texture when it is straightened (Yaki).  The silky textures seemed to be preferred.  I’m glad to see more black owned companies introducing afro-textured weaves that compliment our natural hair.

Even Beyoncé has experienced downside of lace front wigs

Even Beyoncé has experienced the downside of lace front wigs

Natural hair only gets better with time
The more you learn about managing your natural hair the more it will thrive. Most of us had to deal with negative comments from family members when we first went natural. However, the more time that passes the fewer and far between these comments become and we even start hearing more compliments from the same people. Carefully managing your natural hair will result in growth, better styling techniques and overall healthy hair. It is because of this that natural hair is like wine, it only gets better with time. Don’t hide away behind fake hair, week in, week out. This is choosing second best when you have the best on your head already.

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

“No one should feel that they have to wear a weave to have presentable hair; a weave should be a conscious styling choice, not a crutch”

~ Audrey Davis-Sivasothy~

Do you prefer weaves to wearing your hair out? Share your thoughts below