Our Hair is Killing Us

black women hair

Black Women Letting Hair Keep Them From Exercising

We are letting our hair kill us:

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – About a third of black women cite complications of hair care as the reason they do not exercise or exercise less than they would like, according to Amy J. McMichael, M.D., the lead investigator of a study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

McMichael, associate professor of dermatology, specializes in hair and scalp diseases, ethnic and pigmented skin diseases, and general dermatology and skin care. “I see a lot of African American women in our clinic and had noticed how many of them are overweight. This puts these women at risk for hypertension, diabetes and other serious problems.”

In fact studies show that 77 percent of black women are overweight or obese, McMichael said. “I thought it would be interesting to look at what role their hair plays in their amount of exercise. Many African American women with coarser hair use either heat straighteners or chemical products to straighten their hair. Depending on how coarse or fragile their hair is, they can’t just wash their hair after exercise without having to go through the whole process again, and that can take hours. Over-washing fragile hair can make it break off easily.”

McMichael and the team of investigators from the Department of Dermatology, the Division of Public Health Sciences, and the medical school interviewed 103 black women about how much and what types of exercise they do, and the time, expense and complications of caring for their hair. Sixty-four of the respondents had relaxed their hair by various means.

All of the respondents believed it was important for them to exercise. And 50 percent stated that they considered changing their hair to make it easier to exercise.

I’m not unsympathetic to the hair issue. But I will readily admit I don’t understand it. When I had hair I still exercised and exercised hard. I never allowed my hair to stop me from working out, but then again I rarely went to the beauty salon either, unless it was to get a relaxer.

So, I rarely had a hairstyle I had to “protect.” I’ve talked hair on this blog before, but as the study notes there are no easy solutions. If you have straightened or relaxed hair, you’re gonna sweat it out. There’s no way around that if you’re working as hard as you should work.

To those who navigate their workouts and their hair, how do you do it?


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Brown Sugar

Lives in music, sits down to read like she’s at the Feast of Heaven, enters every room like a queen or a spy, reads faces the way a gypsy reads palms, knows sex the way a nomad knows the desert’s shifting sands, needs laughter to breathe, eats in celebration of taste, works joyously, loves uproariously, smiles insightfully, dreams delightfully.

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