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Curly Hair in Black and White

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"Do these products work on black hair?"

That was one of the most frequent questions from visitors to the Curly Hair Solutions™ booth at the Michigan International Women's Show in suburban Detroit a few months ago. Despite the fact that representatives of all ethnic backgrounds were raving about how well the products worked in their hair, a sense of skepticism remained as to whether Curl Keeper™ and the rest of Jonathan Torch's line would yield similar results on their own Afro-textured hair.

It was an understandable concern. Many black women were taught early by their mothers, grandmothers, friends and beauticians that only a certain group of products would meet the needs of our hair and that "mainstream" brands were off limits because they were supposedly drying. We learned that because of the dry nature of our hair, we needed products that would keep our hair from becoming even more parched, and "black" hair products contained the oils that we required on a daily basis.

So off we went to the small "ethnic" section at the end of the hair care aisle, or to beauty supply stores that catered to black communities. We bought items that had words like "moisture," "grease," "oil" and "lotion" printed all over the bottles, and slathered them all over our tresses.

Whatever products we used, the result was the same. We might get a few hours of softness from each product, but at the end of a day or two, our hair still felt dry and brittle. "My hair just drinks up oil," became a common refrain.

No matter the type of "black" product used, there's a reason that many black women have found it difficult to maintain moisture, and a major culprit is the frequent use of the so-called "black" products that we were told for generations were what we needed. Those oils, lotions and greases actually block out moisture, causing the hair to become even drier, which in turn pushes black women to put more oil and grease on their hair. The cycle continues, with the hair never getting the moisture that it needs!

"Oil repels water and oil and water don't mix," said Jonathan Torch, the creator of the Curly Hair Solutions™ line. "It's hard to get the product in the hair."

Curly hair is more porous than straight hair, as Torch explains, and the tighter the curl, the more porous the hair. That means that Afro-textured hair would require significantly more hair moisture than other types, and the best type of moisture available is something that many "black" products often avoid, water.

Torch's products contain water as the main ingredient and shun essential oils and butters found in most "moisture" products. Curl Keeper™, for example, is a water-based product that's applied to wet hair, and Curl Keeper™ works with the water already in the hair to provide an extra dose of moisture to curly hair. It gives you frizz control – something nearly every curly desires – and makes the hair feel soft without leaving it greasy. The result is well-defined and stylish ringlets that are also soft to the touch.

But what about the fact that lotions, creams and oils work so well on dry skin? Couldn't the same idea be applied to the hair?

"Skin is an organ," Torch said. "Hair is not. It's a different concept."

This is not to say that oil-based products have no redeeming qualities for the hair, particularly black hair. Torch emphasizes, however, that their effects are often temporary and don't address the hair's internal need for moisture.

"Coconut oil, shea butter, lanolin… they're all great products," Torch said. "They can all be great ingredients, but if you're looking for style management, you're just going to prolong the process. Do essential oils really do their job by grouping the ringlets together and making hair manageable?"

At the Michigan International Women's Show, it was easy to answer the question about whether Curly Hair Solutions™ would work for black hair. The show also provided a great opportunity to dispel the myth of "black" products and "white" products.

Any product that provides water-based moisture is a great option for tightly-curled, coiled and kinky hair. The race of the person owning that hair simply doesn't matter!