Beyoncé might be all about sweating out her blowout or fresh press (as she sings in her hit song “7/11”), but a new study reveals that some black girls just aren’t having it.
According to a small new study published in the journal BMC Obesity, some may actually avoid sweating during exercise because of the effect it has on their hair when it’s straightened.
For the study, childhood obesity expert and black woman Dr. Susan Woolford, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, surveyed 36 black girls ages 14 to 17 in three states. Woolford was spurred to do the study because she wanted to answer the question: Are lower levels of physical activity among African-American teens related to hair care? The reason she wanted to investigate is to examine all of the possible factors that contribute to the disproportionately higher risk of obesity for black children and women compared with their white peers.
For most black women, even a drop of moisture in their straightened hair can quickly cause it to revert back to its naturally curly state. This wouldn’t be a big deal, if making the hair straight didn’t require so much: There’s hair pressing, which involves the use of a tool called a pressing (or hot) comb. After the metal comb gets super hot, the hair is sectioned off and the hot comb is run through each part in order to straighten it out. This process is pretty arduous and can take hours to complete. There’s also a really high chance that you can burn your scalp and ears.
Another way to straighten the hair is to get a relaxer. This process, also known in black communities as getting a perm, involves applying a chemical-laced lotion to the hair, letting it sit, and then rinsing out. It’s a much quicker way to straighten the hair, but it requires maintenance in order to avoid hair damage, so it’s best to let a professional do it for you in a salon. When relaxed hair gets wet, it usually retains a bit of wave to it; however, it is no longer bone straight. Getting hair extensions is another way to get instant straight hair; however, it can be a time-consuming process as well and is also best when done by a professional. Depending on the type of hair extensions you get, moisture will usually cause it to become wavy. You will still have to blow dry/flat iron it out in order to get it back to bone straight status again, which is why most women avoid getting their straight extensions wet.
No matter which hair straightening method one decides to go with, there’s usually a lot of time and money put into it, and any type of moisture like rain or sweat can easily cause the hair to go back to its natural texture — thereby undoing all that time and money. As the study shows, anything that would cause this hair reversion — like exercise — might then be avoided.
If anything is clear, it’s that black women’s hair is still, for whatever reason, a topic of discussion — especially when you consider the negative comments made on social media about the hair of Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas. Several people (predominantly black) have expressed their dismay via Twitter that Gabby, who is the first black woman in Olympic history to win an individual all-around champion title, has “nappy hair and bad edges” while she competes. While lots of people clapped back at her haters via Twitter, these comments only exacerbate the issue of black people being more concerned about the appearance of their hair while performing any type of physical fitness.
Gabby’s hair should have nothing to do with her performance, and it is this mentality of having straight-looking hair being more important than physical fitness that needs to be squashed. No matter which way you decide to wear your hair, don’t let other people’s judgements on how they think your hair should look stop you from doing whatever it is that you want to do.