Windhoek-The new in-thing has seen many women embracing their natural hair, although others continue to confidently wear hair extensions. Hair weaves consist of Brazilian, Peruvian, Indian, Malaysian and Eurasian hair, amongst others.
This hair is highly sought-after because of its multi-purpose texture, according to fashion designer and hair enthusiast Fiola Cloete.
“Black women have different hair textures,” says Cloete. Likewise, there is a variety of textures and types of weaves that can suit just about any hair texture, she further explained.
This hair blends perfectly with African, relaxed and natural, as well as medium, coarse Caucasian hair textures, she notes. Cloete further added that Brazilian hair is lightweight, free flowing and luxurious.
Research shows that hair extensions have been around since time immemorial. Hair extensions rose in popularity and became a mass market since the early 90s.
New and less expensive techniques were developed, ensuring widespread popularity, with the clip-in hair extensions becoming increasingly common due to their cost and availability.
It was also around this time that coloured hairpieces were popular. Today, extensions are worn for a number of reasons, namely for volume, length, colour or even to cover a thinning hairline.
“Contrary to popular view, having Brazilian hair has nothing to do with having an identity crisis or having low self-esteem. It’s like saying a man who wears only brands is insecure and finds his identity in brand items because that makes him feel like he is a man… Is that true of all men who wear brands?” Cloete asked rhetorically.
She further said she is more comfortable wearing weaves because she is a busy woman.
“Let’s face the facts, our natural hair is not easy to maintain. I can rock my own hair when is short sometimes naturally and at times with the aid of chemicals, such as relaxers, because I don’t have to do much to it,” she explained.
Wearing weaves does not mean she is not an African woman, she insists. “I am still the same Damara girl, whether I rock my own hair or Brazilian hair,” Cloete says, stressing that it is easier to maintain weaves compared to her natural hair.
“They are costly, but worth it because you can keep them for years. It’s all about what works for you, when you look good, you feel good. Confidence is an inside job. You don’t gain confidence by the type of hairstyle you have,” she added.
Downside to weaves
If you take a walk down the street or the city centre or if you sit in a meeting you are guaranteed to see at least one or two women with receding hairlines.
Receding hairline refers to the continuous loss of hair, where the hairline begins to thin on either side of the forehead before developing into a bald patch on top of the head.
With exceptions, weaves are to blame for baldness in some women partly because of the weave, glue or sewing of the Brazilian or other hair extensions onto their own hair.
Dr Dagmar Whittaker, a dermatologist in South Africa, explained that Brazilian hair is “so-called virgin hair from a live donor.” The hair can also be used as strands used to braid into the woman’s own hair, he noted.
There are a variety of health problems which can result from the latter, as braiding the Brazilian hair strands onto a woman’s own hair causes damage to the hair, Dr Whittaker observed.
“Braiding can cause traction folliculitis with resulting permanent scarring hair loss,” Whittaker explained. The wearing of a wig is generally safe, though.
The hair can be used as a wig, which is most commonly used, said Whittaker who is also the president of the Dermatological Society of South Africa.
“Unless it causes pressure areas, where it is fixed or does not allow sufficient breathing of the natural hair. Again this can be damaging to scalp and hair,” Dr Whittaker further explained.
Cloete said weaves can damage women’s hair if they fail to maintain and care for the natural hair underneath, adding that some women neglect their natural hair when wearing weaves.
“It’s advisable to at least moisturise your own hair while wearing the Brazilian or Peruvian hair that you have weaved in,” stated Cloete. Also, the hair breaks and damages, because some women keep the weave in for too long, she further explained.
“It’s always good that you don’t wear the hair for too long. And when you remove the weave you should at least treat the natural hair, even if it is just to do a hot oil treatment,” said Cloete.
There are pills on the market for women who have thin, brittle hair. “These make the hair healthy and strong. As a woman it is good to be informed or have a good hair stylist who can help you take care of your hair,” Cloete added.
Sharing hair extensions
Cloete noted that some women tend to share hair extensions. Some even go as far as selling their already used Brazilian weaves.
“It’s not hygienic because you don’t know whether the other person takes care of their hair and how often they wash their hair,” said Cloete.
Dr Whittaker says there are scalp conditions, like fungal infections (scaly scalp) or bacterial infections such as pimples and lesions, which can “certainly be transmitted by sharing of a wig”.
Other scalp conditions, like psoriasis – a skin disease marked by red, itchy, and scaly patches – are not contagious, “But in general it is probably not a good idea to share [wigs] unless the people sharing know about each other’s possible health conditions,” Whittaker advised.
New Era also spoke to clinical psychologist Dr Shaun Whittaker, who argued that women have the right to decide if they want to beautify themselves or not. The same way that some women dye their hair, others can decide to extend their hair, he added.
“It doesn’t mean that they have a low self-esteem,” he said, adding that the challenges of the female gender role are not much spoken of, yet, there is so much pressure on women.
The female gender role is generally associated with long hair, he added.
Regarding issues of self-esteem among black women, the clinical psychologist noted that notions of white supremacy are very much alive, saying there may be some women who wear hair extensions because they do not feel good about themselves.
However, that requires further investigation. “Is it because they are uncomfortable with their appearance? Perhaps we need a black consciousness movement,” he remarked.
Cloete advised women to desist from changing their looks merely to please men or other people. She added that if a certain man does not like her weave another will come along who does.
“Men might say women who weave their hair are insecure and they don’t want women who weave their hair, but those are the same men who prefer Caucasian women to black girls with natural hair, braids or dreadlocks,” said Cloete.