As black women, nothing is more personal than our relationship with our hair. Ever since I was a child, I had a love-hate relationship with my hair that only another black woman would be able to understand. In a sense, our hair is our identity. We create it to fit our style.

So how does this tie in with having good hair versus bad hair?
I know most of you have seen the film Good Hair by Chris Rock; in my opinion, the film kind of hit a nerve with me. As a black woman, I love my hair, flaws and all. Just like every other race. We have good hair days and then there are bad hair days. I just thought he focused too much on black women not accepting the fact that they can never really have that “good hair.” My assumption could be incorrect but that is the way I perceived it.
Back in the day, it was thought that if you had straight or wavy hair, you were from good genes. You most certainly could not be 100% black because black hair does not behave itself. Black hair is thought to be unruly, unkempt, dirty, and unmanageable. I am just confused as to how this “theory” continues today. I still hear the terms “good” hair or “bad” hair. This is a form of self-hate within the black community that is still evident in today’s society. This has been going on for centuries; all because of our “kinky” hair.
I once heard two girls talking about the new school girl in the class. Keep in mind that all three of these girls are pure African-American. Girl #1 was asking girl #2 about the new girl who had long “kinky-straight” hair that reached her lower back. She wanted to know if that was all her hair. Girl#2 answered by simply stating that yes it was real and the new girl must be mixed because she has yet to see any black girls with long hair. Girl #1 responded by saying how she hated being black because black people have ugly hair with naps. Situations like this are still an everyday occurrence in 2012. I am not sure how to fix it but what we all can do is spread the word to our young African-American girls to love their-self.

Let them know that there is no difference between “good” hair and “bad” hair, only a difference in how we manage our hair. We have to put in their mind that black is beautiful.

Good Hair

Good hair is said to be hair that is straight or to have a slightly wavy-pattern. Normally, if a black woman has “good” hair she is thought to be mixed, anything but black.

Supposedly good hair on a black woman distinguishes her from other black women in the sense she is said to be “established” or “well-off” in life. She is more prone to being accepted in our still divided world.

In an attempt to get “good” hair, black women spend countless amounts of money in weaves, hair products, and hair salons. Why must we adapt to what others perceive as beautiful instead of showing the beauty that we possess naturally with our unique hair?

Close your eyes and think about what good hair is to you. How many of you automatically thought about “good” African-American hair that looks similar to Chilli from TLC, or how about Tracy Ellis Ross, what about the twins Tia and Tamara? Of course their hair is beautiful, but does it make their hair beautiful because it symbolizes a mixed race? Why couldn’t they just be black women with healthy hair? Ever take notice how they associate “good” hair with lighter skin and for those who have a darker complexion are said to have “bad” and untamed hair. So basically because someone is of a lighter complexion, the hair somehow knew this and grew out to be “good,” unlike the melanin in the dark skin, the hair decided to be “bad” because of their dark skin? I mean who really still bases hair on complexion? This is what’s causing our young girls today to hate who they are. This is why a lot of black women (rather you want to admit it or not) attempt to look something other than who they truly are inside, which is an African-American woman.

Personally, I love hair of all types. Good hair to me is healthy, full of life hair. Meaning hair is free of breakage, hair is not extremely dry, but hair that has body and character. It doesn’t necessarily have to be long. Not everyone wants long hair. For example, look at Malinda Williams, the actress who had a lead role in Soul Food and the actress Megan Good from the movie Waist Deep, think about Halle Berry and Toni Braxton’s short hair. Their hair is cut short, but is healthy, glossy, bouncy, and shows overall health. Remember Chrissy from Love and Hip NY on VH1? Her hair is gorgeous at both lengths, long and short. The short style that she is wearing now is beautifully thick.  Good hair is the state of health your hair is in, no matter if you’re permed or natural. Good hair is healthy hair. PERIOD!

Bad Hair

Look at the image to your left, why must our hair in its natural state be thought of like this? Why must they associate our beautiful texture with something that is unkempt and dirty?

Bad hair is said to be when hair is unruly. Hair that is unattractive, nappy, hard to comb, stinks, and is “slave-like.”  I decided to write on this topic for my 11 year-old relative, who is going through an identity crisis. A beautiful biracial girl that is being teased because her hair is not like those in her all white community. She was living in a trailer-park with foster parents at the time due to some issues at home (now resolved, thankfully). Her foster parents would look at her daily and tell her how “nappy” and “dirty” her hair was because she had a curly texture unlike their straight (limp) hair. They would ask her why she didn’t have the “good” hair that other biracial girls had. The relative came to me crying about how she hates her hair because there is nothing to do with it and everyone makes fun of her “nappy” hair.

Of course this tugged at my heart. I sat her down, told her that her hair was unique. There are plenty of styles that she could do. I let her know that they said those things because they did not understand her hair. I didn’t want to bad mouth them because I didn’t want her growing up hating “those” types of people. What I did do is tell her some products to use to tighten her loose curls so that she can rock pretty little shirley temple curls without the heat. I talked to her about how she had to get personal with her hair, get to know what it likes and what it does not like. There is no such thing as bad hair. Only damaged is “bad” hair.

In an attempt to cover up “bad” hair, many black women use weaves, wigs, relaxers, and dyes to not appear so “nappy.” All this does is make the situation worse because you are causing more harm by slapping on a cover instead of dealing with the problem. It’s just like a blemish on the face, people splash on make-up to cover it up, but underneath when you take it off at night, you still have the same problem. If you hate it, find a way to deal with it. Find something that makes your “problem” disappear.


It seems as though we fight hard to become “equal” in this world but yet there is always something that they attempt to use to dehumanize African-Americans. We have to learn to appreciate our hair, our differences, and the versatility that our hair possesses. With the same advice as I gave my relative, love your hair, get to know it, become familiar with its likes and dislikes. There is no such thing as bad hair except damaged hair. No matter what hair type you have, we all can achieve good hair by simply keeping it full and healthy, trimmed, breakage free, and moisturized. Let’s not let this cycle continue. Teach our black women, and young girls to love who they are.

Ijanei Smith has been into healthy hair practices since the age of nine. Learning different techniques to gain optimal health to her own hair through trial and error, she aims to spread the knowledge with other African-American women who are struggling with their hair as well.

Her philosophy is “to know better is to do better,” and when it comes to ensuring she spreads her knowledge of growing or maintaining hair, there is no limit or trial she is not willing to try.

Learn more about me here:

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