Flat and twisted black hair structure

Flat and twisted black hair structure

The naturally weak hair of black people was a blessed trait in the African natural environment, but it became a cursed trait when they left Africa. African descendants have suffered from hair damage and various scalp diseases since they were forced to move and sold as slaves. With this issue’s cover story, BNB Magazine introduces the congenital background of various diseases that occur on their hair and scalp, as well as the latest beauty product that helps to manage the hair and scalp.

1. Hair Anatomy


2. Inherent characteristics of black hair

Africa is where the origin of mankind began. The relatively small and weak primates were gradually pushed out of the jungle where competition for survival was fierce. Even in the new environment, the weight of life was no different. The ancestors of mankind, being pushed away from powerful predators into a barren environment like the desert, faced another unexpected enemy threatening their survival. It was none other than the hot sun.
The human body has evolved into a form suitable for survival under the hot sun. The hair on the whole body gradually disappeared, and only a few places on the body, such as the head, groin, armpits, and eyes, remained in a curly form. The remaining fur mainly performed the function of protecting those areas. Hair protects the head from hot UV rays and lowers body temperature, while groin and armpit hairs reduce friction and improve ventilation. Eyebrows prevented rainwater from flowing into the eyes. This evolutionary biological assumption is a hypothesis that everyone generally accepts, although the scientific basis is weak.
Typical hair characteristics that blacks inherited genetically from African natural environments include:


• Curliness.
As is well known, the most striking feature of the hair of African descent is that it is curly. The degree of curling is expressed by the medullary index. The lower the number from 100, the stronger the curling. In terms of the medullary index, the average is 50-60 for blacks, 62-72 for whites, and 75-85 for Asians. Eskimos 77 and Tibetans 80. If the average is less than 80, curls appear.
Why did our ancestors evolve their hair into curly shapes in Africa? It is easy to understand if you see hair as a product of adaptation to the environment. The curly hair of black Africans has the advantage of being well ventilated between the scalp and the hair, and the space between the strands of hair to facilitate sweat discharge.

Hair Types by Race (source: www.sheamoisture.com)

• Grows slowly.
Black hair is relatively slow compared to other races in terms of growth rate. According to a study in the field of dermatology, It is said that the hair of East Asians such as Korea, China and Japan grows an average of 1.3cm per month, white people 1.2cm, and black people 0.9cm.
The late-growing hair of African descent is also considered a product of the environment. If your hair grows too quickly in a hot, dry environment, long hair can increase body temperature and increase the excretion of water in your body.

Source: Loussouarn et al(2016) “Diversity in human hair growth, diameter, colour and shape”

• Thin hair.
Black hair is thinner than white and Asian hair. In Quadfrieg’s Ph.D. paper on the basic properties of Afro-American hair, hair thickness was measured, with the average of 55μm for Blacks, 77μm for Whites, and 85mm for Asians. It is also reasonable to interpret this as the result of evolution in a form that adapts to each environment of high and low temperature.

Sources: Loussouarn et al(2016) “Diversity in human hair growth, diameter, colour and shape”; Quadflieg’s Doctoral Thesis “Fundamental properties of Afro-American hair”

• Dry
The scalp of black people tends to have a lot of sebum, but the curled and irregularly shaped hair shafts hinder the smooth movement of sebum. So, it is difficult for moisture to be supplied to the ends of the hair. When Dr. Franbourg and colleagues of France, who studied hair characteristics by race, measured the water absorption rate of hair, they found that the water absorption capacity of black hair was significantly lower than that of Asians and Caucasians. When the water absorption rate is low, the hair becomes more curled. You may have experienced the cuticle on the surface of wet hair open and your hair straightens out. Black hair with low water absorption rate is made to minimize body water discharge through the hair in the hot and dry environment in Africa.

• Hair grows irregularly.
Asian and Caucasian hair, whether straight or curly, has a linear and uniform hair stem. On the other hand, black hair is highly irregular. One can see how the thickness is uneven when measuring the cross section by cutting the hair from the root to the tip. Irregular hair like this helps to make your hair curlier. Breaks are inevitably seen in parts with smaller diameters. In the natural environment of Africa, hair doesn’t have to be long, so brittle hair might be a blessing.

Micrograph of flat, twisted black hair (source: Quadflieg’s Doctoral Thesis “Fundamental properties of Afro-American hair”)

• Weak and easily broken and cracked.
As such, the main characteristic of black hair, which is ‘crumbly, bumpy and thin,‘ eventually decreases the elasticity of the hair and weakens its resistance to pulling force. The so-called tensile strength drops. Black hair with low tensile strength is thin and weak, so it is bound to break and crack easily. This too would have served as an advantage to help survival if we consider the natural environment of Africa, where there is no reason for long hair.



3. Diseases of hair and scalp caused by acquired factors

As we have seen earlier, black people are born with weak hair by nature. Although it may seem paradoxical, the fragile hair becomes a shield to protect them from Africa’s harsh natural environment. However, after becoming a slave and being placed in an unfamiliar social and cultural environment, they had to follow a completely different aesthetic standard. In doing so, they were forced to modify the genetic traits. In the process of grooming the hair according to the new aesthetic standard, the hair became even weaker than before, resulting in hair loss, and various skin diseases appeared on the scalp.

  • Scalp disease due to use of chemical hair care products
    In the new world they were dragged into, straight hair, not curly, served as an aesthetic standard. Black people started using harsh chemical hair relaxers to straighten out tangled, curly hair. The main component of hair relaxers is sodium hydroxide. This gray, cloudy solution is commonly referred to in Korea as Western lye. This chemical product has a strong alkaline pH of 12-14.
    According to research on the side effects of hair relaxers, hair relaxers destroy essential amino acids in our body, resulting in increased hair vulnerability. Sometimes it also causes Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare incurable disease. This syndrome is a rare disease that causes skin deprivation throughout the body.
    In addition, scalp disease can also be caused by an allergic reaction to weaving or glue products used to attach hair extensions to curly hair.
  • Hair damage and breaks
    Black people’s hair naturally breaks well, but this breakage gets worse with hair care. This appears when excessive physical force is applied, or excessive chemical products are used. The main causes are when physical force is applied such as brushing, combing, braiding, excessive heat, or excessive use of hair glooming products containing chemical ingredients such as gels and hair sprays.
    Taking biotin supplements can help with damaged hair. In order to reduce hair breakage, hair care experts advise to stop using the hair relaxer for at least 8-12 weeks. You should also avoid using straightening tools such as irons or hair dryers that apply heat directly to your hair. It is best to use a soft brush or comb with a wide gap. Finally, avoid hair massage or scratching. Particularly, people with seborrheic dermatitis damage their hair more easily if they scratch the scalp.

Biotin Supplement

  • Traction alopecia
    It is the most common alopecia in the frontal and temporal parts of the head of black women due to the use of hairstyles and hair pieces that repeatedly pull hair over a long period of time. Symptoms are relatively rare on the occipital side. It causes a lot more alopecia when traction hair styles are used immediately after chemical use.


Points to be aware of in order to prevent traction alopecia are as follows:

  • Avoid hairstyles that pull hair for at least 2 weeks after using chemical products.
  • Reapplying the relaxer to the head that has already been applied should be avoided.
  • People with pain, tingling, papules or scabs on the head should not perform hair traction.
  • Older people with severe hair damage should avoid tracting hair styles.
  • It is forbidden to use hair dye and relaxer at the same time. It should be used with a minimum of 2-week term.
  • using hair dryers or irons on hair using a relaxer.

Traction alopecia case (source: nytimes.com)


  • Various common scalp diseases
  1. Chronic relapsing inflammatory conditions with itching, scaling, and erythema
    Often referred to as seborrheic dermatitis, this symptom can also be observed on the forehead, eyebrows, nasolabial folds, and ears. It is accompanied by dandruff and is caused by overgrowth of Malassezia yeast in the scalp. It can appear as an allergic reaction to hair care products containing parabens, sulfates, phthalates, preservatives or artificial flavors. This symptom is more likely to occur with dry skin.
    To relieve or treat symptoms, it is helpful to reduce the use of hair gels, sprays and spritzes, and use a shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis that is free of chemicals such as sulfates. In addition, zinc pyrithione is known to be effective because it prevents the hair from drying out.
    When using a shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis, apply it directly to the scalp and wait for about 5-10 minutes before washing it off. The shampoo should be used once a week, and in the meantime, you should wash with regular shampoo and conditioner more often than usual. It’s also helpful to apply natural oils to your scalp for dry skin. If the disease is serious, you should be prescribed steroids or immunomodulatory drugs from a dermatologist.
  2. Psoriasis
    For this symptom, a thick, scaly plaque on the scalp, which may develop into psoriatic alopecia, appears. Plaque is a thick, silvery or reddish layer of cells that often causes pain. It can spread to the neck or behind the ears. It is essential to use a shampoo exclusive for psoriasis treatment. In severe cases, steroids are used.
  3. Tinea capitis
    A round or oval rash of various sizes occurs on the scalp, and plaque occurs like scales. In this part of the scalp, hair is easily broken and removed, causing partial hair loss. It is infectious by direct contact and can also be transmitted through sharing hats. They should be kept clean and antifungal medications should be applied.

Black woman shocked by alopecia

4. Solution for hair damage and scalp disease

Precautions for preventing hair and scalp damage suggested by a dermatologist – Crystal Ugochi Aguh, M.D. – Johns Hopkins

  • Ask your stylist to create looser braids or dreadlocks.
  • If you have braids, remove them after three months.
  • If you wear a weave or hair extensions, remove them after eight weeks.
  • If you have relaxed or dyed hair, make sure these treatments are applied by a professional. If you still notice breakage or hair shedding, avoid chemical treatments completely.
  • Minimize (or completely avoid) heat styling, including hair dryers, flat irons and curling irons. These wear out the hair and can lead to major hair loss. (source: www.hopkinsmedicine.org)


5 good oils for alopecia

coconut oil: Coconut oil is definitely the best oil for hair loss. A few other arguments can be made, but this oil has certain properties that are good for hair loss. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which fights various bacteria and fungi on the scalp.
Infection of the scalp causes the hair follicles to swell and significant amounts of hair to fall off. Coconut oil is known to be the only oil that completely penetrates the hair follicles and rebuilds them in and out, reducing the possibility of unnecessary damage.

olive oil: The common olive oil found in each home kitchen not only makes great dishes, but also contains abundant amounts of vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids that promote hair growth and prevent hair loss.

castor oil: Castor oil, called pimaja oil in Korea, has a deep cleansing function. The triglyceide component of ricinoleci acid in the oil performs antibacterial and anti-inflammatory functions necessary to combat scalp infections, fungi and bacteria. Castor oil helps your new hair grow faster, thicker and healthier while strengthening your hair roots and reducing hair loss.

lavender oil: Lavender oil has the function of promoting hair growth by supplying oxygen and necessary nutrients by promoting blood circulation in the scalp. In addition, it has the effect of removing nits and head lice, which are one of the causes of hair loss. Antibacterial properties are a bonus.

almond oil: Almond oil is known as a natural “moisturizer” due to its softening properties. Almond oil, which contains vitamins E and D, along with minerals such as calcium and magnesium, is an oil that can help prevent dry and brittle hair.


5. Editor’s Picks: Hair Products to Stop Your Suffering

1. Shampoo and conditioning
Cleanliness is the best way to prevent disease. However, in the past, shampoos or conditioners added with chemical components only worsened hair loss by damaging hair and blocking pores. Now, there are many products specializing in the health care of black people’s hair and scalp that contain only natural ingredients.

  • Hair loss
    1. SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampoo
    2. Andalou Naturals Argan Stem Cell Age Defying Shampoo
    3. Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Shampoo
    4. Renpure Biotin & Collagen Thickening Conditioner
    5. ArtNaturals Argan Hair Growth Conditioner

  • Scalp inflammation
    1. OGX Extra Strength Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
    2. Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Deep Cleansing Shampoo
    3. RedKen Scalp Relief Dandruff Control Shampoo
    4. Acure Buildup Balancing Hemp & Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner
    5. L’Oreal Paris EverFresh Antidandruff Sulfate Free Shampoo

  • Damaged hair
    1. Ion
    Thickening Shampoo
    2. Proclaim Coconut Oil Anti Breakage Conditioner
    3. OGX Thick & Full Biotin & Collagen Shampoo
    4. Moroccanoil Hydrating Conditioner
    5. Neutrogena Triple Moisture Daily Deep Conditioner


2. Oils and Treatments
The best way to protect their light and fragile hair is to apply oil to keep it oily. From traditional hair oils that have been loved since the past to various natural oils released recently are contributing greatly to protecting the hair. In addition, there are many treatment products that minimize the damage of braiding and wig use.

  • Hair loss
    1. FSG Laboratories HA•E CBD oil
    2. Wild Growth Hair Oil
    3. Ogx Biotin & Collagen Oil Treatment
    4. The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian Promoting Growth and Retention
    5. Marc Anthony Grow Long Anti-Breakage Oil

  • Scalp inflammation
    1. AbsoluteNewYork Hair Treatment
    2. Ebin NewYork 24 Hour Anti Itch Scalp Care
    3. Ogx Renewing Argan Oil of MoRoCco Penetrating Oil
    4. Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Strong Roots Spray
    5. Shea Moisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Scalp Exfoliato

  • Damaged hair
    1. Universal Beauty Coconut Butter Creme
    3. Smart Care Virgin Argan Growth Oil
    4. Oradell ‘Don’t touch my hair’ Leave-In conditioner
    5. Moroccanoil Treatment Light
    6. Macadamia Natural Oil Healing Oil Treatment


3. Wig and braid hair preventing scalp disease

With the development of technology, the braid products released these days pay a lot of attention to hygiene and weight. There are increasingly lighter, more hygiene-conscious products on the market, and using them in the right way can reduce the risk of hair disease. A range of easy-to-wear wigs that do not require the use of adhesives may also be a good way to prevent scalp disease.


Cover Story BY BNB Magazine
BNB MAGAZINE October 2020 ©bnbmag.com