by La Vonda R. Staples
Since I have embarked on the study of Africans in America I've been shocked on rare occasions. As Moms Mabley once said, "if you ever catch folks acting nice they're probably just not feeling well." Very little amazes me. I've recently been shocked to find out that there is a new condition among African Diaspora women. It's called traction alopecia and it is caused by the combined use of chemical relaxers and braiding/weaves as the ONLY style of coiffure maintenance. In this condition, women in their 20's are reporting to medical professionals with patterns of baldness seen in much older adults and those suffering from healthcare emergencies such as cancer. The condition is permanent. It is not reversible.
The purveyors of this condition are Black American hairstylists who have yet to demand national certifications in natural hair care. As of yet, there is no national training school for the care of African hair. There really is no standard in the FDA for the regulation of products for African hair. Additionally, we have yet to see a standard on age at time of application of relaxers etc. If it is against the law to get a tattoo before the age of 18 surely there must be an eye and skin test for the application of the caustic chemicals involved in relaxing hair. Concurrently, there must also be a standard for West African immigrants who engage in the styling of hair. Again, persons who braid her are NOT required to obtain a cosmetology license or education in skin conditions. They just open up shop and start braiding.
I've developed a background in beauty standards and applications from the gamut of the African Diaspora. From the black soap to the shea to the neem oil, I have sat down, shut up and let those women teach me their customs and cultures. More and more, the indigenous cultures are supplanted by Eurocentric ideology of health and beauty.
How can a medical condition be produced in a mere decade? Ignorance. Plain and simple. Traction alopecia is a condition of ignorance, low self-esteem of gender and low racial awareness. Makes me crazy just to think about it.