The Politics of Natural Hair

Recently I came across a posting on Curly Nikki’s site that asked the question, “Does Natural Hair Make You Blacker?” If you are a Black American then more than likely you have explored this question or even had a discussion about it with friends. So does natural hair make you Blacker? In  my opinion…yes and no.

For some, the process of growing out ones hair can be a very intimate and political experience. I have mentioned this before but for me personally, this is/was true. Growing out my fro is close to me because when I was younger I often received a variety of reactions to my hair, much of which was aligned with how others interpreted my bi-racial identity as a problem (ironically, my hair was almost exclusively in a low-cut, Cesar style).  I grew up in an area with a very “Black or White” mentality and way of thinking.   My hair was heralded as “good” compared to some of my other Black peers. This was often an uncomfortable experience for me because while a part of me appreciated the positive attention, there was another part of me who felt disconnected from the other Black kids at my school and in my community. I thought I, nor my hair, was any better than anyone else and it took me a while to understand how those reactions actually said more about my peers felt about themselves than about me.

Needless to say, now I know that people have different interpretations of what it means to act or “be Black” and I have come to accept my own personal definition of my “Blackness” and I do my best to not oppress others by expecting them to ascribe to my beliefs.  That being said, “being Black” does refer to a set of stereotypes, both good and bad which sometimes I embrace and sometimes I reject.  I think that is an important part of seeing yourself as both an individual and a part of any collective group.  For me, having an afro does offer me a connection to my heritage as a Black person, most specifically a Black American.  Does it make me Black, absolutely not.  Does being Black make me any less Puerto Rican? Not to me! Does having an afro make me militant and anti-White? Not a chance.

When I decided to grow out my hair, it was empowering for me on several levels. To start, it was a way to both accept and reject the notion of having so-called “good hair”. Showing my fro proudly is a way to embrace my racial identity not only as Black man but more generally as a man of color with an eclectic heritage. For me, the variety of my hair strands and patterns is a nod to my roots in both Africa and Puerto Rico and I am as proud as ever to show that. *peacock strut*

Rocking a fro daily is also a way for me to reject some of those gendered norms set for men (of color). Only with more confidence in my identity am I able to sport my fro and deal with the perceptions from others about my loose natural hair. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, and very pointedly I might add, “What are you gonna do with it? When are you gonna braid it? Corn rows? Dreads?”  The point I’m trying to make is that people will always make assumptions.  We all do.  That is what people do.

To tackle the question, “Does natural hair make you Blacker?” is an insurmountable task.  I don’t really think there is any way to fully unpack what “Blackness” really does mean.  Maybe it has very little meaning for our day-to-day lives, I don’t know.  Like many of you out there know, the definition varies from person to person BUT (and that is a big BUT), when you think of what it means to be Black you usually think of stereotypes (both positive and negative) that you have learned over the years.  Having natural hair may or may not be one of those stereotypes.  We all have these of each group we come in contact with.  If someone asks you what it means to be White, you also think of a set of stereotypes that you have learned over the years. The same goes for Latino, Native American and Asian people.  Hell, we all even have a set of stereotypes for biracial/multiracial people too.  So does natural hair make YOU blacker? Only you can truly answer that question.

Product Review: Donna Marie Dream Curling Creme

DMDCC
Source: Amazon.com

Since I started to grow out my hair a few years ago I’ve been searching for that “perfect product” that will give me both moisture and definition.  I’ve tried different gels, puddings and creams but I’ve found the gels make my hair uncomfortably crunchy and stiff so for the past few months I’ve been looking for something that gave me a touchable fro.  I’ve heard good things about Donna Marie products and I finally decided to purchase some a little while ago and I have to say I’m pretty impressed!  For more information about other Donna Marie products I’ve used, check out my review of the Donna Marie Curling Gelly.  On to the review!

Packaging: Like the Curling Gelly, the packaging on the creme is bright and pretty feminine.  As you can see from the image above it’s mostly pink with some swirly details and cursive font. I understand that Donna Marie went through a brand redesign not too long ago to get this current label. It’s nice but not really my cup of tea. In general, I usually prefer more simple and natural designs.

Consistency: This is a curl cream (or creme as they call it) so it’s pretty thick and creamy.  I tend to slap on products pretty liberally and this really lends itself to that. The cream holds together pretty well and you can invert the tub for a second or two without too much movement.  Given it’s so thick, it’s probably best for thicker hair types like mine.  It actually reminds me of Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding.  The only real negative for me is that the product is a little tacky and doesn’t slide through my hair as smoothly as I would like.  I usually rake the product into sections and haven’t tried just smoothing it on so that might make a big difference.

Smell: So the smell is a mix between a tasty vanilla dessert and some plastic-y, synthetic type smell.  It’s hard to describe but overall pretty pleasant. I think most people who like sugary type smells will enjoy it without being overwhelmed by it.  A thumbs up for me.

Price: I got the product directly from Donna Marie online and it retails for $18 for 16 ounces, making it a great value for those looking for mostly natural styling products.  I’m heavy-handed with product and this even lasts me a while.

Overall Impression: To date this is one of the best products I have used. With the exception of it being a little difficult to distribute through my hair, it gives me the definition and soft hold that I was looking for.  I stocked up on a couple of jars in preparation for the colder months as the air tends to be pretty dry here in NYC.  So, if you’re looking for a mostly natural product that delivers results then I would say that this product is definitely worth the try. It has a permanent spot on my rotation.

Have any of you used it? What do you think?

MANE MAN: Nicol Kanai

Nicol

While trying to evade the quicksand of YouTube one night I bumped into today’s featured MANE MAN Nicol.  Nicol hails from Japan, has a great sense of humor and was happy to talk with us about his experience with his dreads.  Check him out!

Tell us about yourself.

First, my name is Nicol Kanai I’m mix blood type Black and Asian so we call it Blasian lol. I’m from Japan cause my father is working in Japan and he is chef 😉 I don’t look like high school student but YES I AM. I’m 16 years old. In Japan dreadlocks people are unusual so it’s hard to keep locking and grow my dreads ;(.  I found a salon in Japan but it’s really, really expensive, like $500-$1000 to get dreads.  But, when I was 12 I saw one musician named Michael Franti and his dreads are so cooool! And I thought I wish I could try dreads and now my wish has come true 🙂

Have you always had dreads? If not, what other styles did you try?
I loc’ed my hair about 1 year ago before that I had an Afro ;).  I tried Line on my head, Mohawk hair and so on ….
Nicol
Nicol with a few different styles.
What do you do to your hair on a regular basis (what’s your routine)?

I use organic shampoo to wash my dreads and i use (Jamaican) Mango and Lime & Olive moisturizing product and aloe mist for dreads.

What sort of reaction have you had from friends, family and strangers about your hair?

My homies are not pure blood type so they said to me “that’s better  “you look natural now”, but Japanese people always said to me, “How did you do that!? How did you wash your hair !? Can I touch !?  It’s always ends with a question mark. And I’m at a Japanese high school now and teachers are annoying! (They say) “Cut your hair!! If you are not gonna cut your hair, you are going to quit school!”  And I said to them fuckers that this is natural for us! This is us…don’t you get it!  Why can’t I show my culture? You guys don’t know how mix (people) feel!  Now teachers don’t say about my hair anymore 🙂  But there is thing that I got to do …I have to score more than 50 on test, never miss or be late for school, etc.  But I’m ok with that 🙂

What’s been the most challenging part of your journey
How to show my dreads on video 🙂  Cause video and real (life) is different so I tried to show my dread like they would like in person  🙂
For more on Nicol, check out his YouTube page dreadupdate.  Here is a video with him talking about his current products.

MANE MAN: Ethan Zohn

Ethan Zohn
Ethan Zohn

Today’s MANE MAN is a former reality tv star and a living inspiration.  Ethan Zohn first came across my radar many years ago when he appeared in a little show called Survivor.  These days Zohn is model survivor fighting his battle publicly with cancer, all the while sporting those trademark locks of his.  This dude has seriously awesome curly hair….like seriously awesome.  And did you know that man is an author, commentator, and invented things too?! I want to be like him when I grow up.

Not only known for his trademark mane, Zohn is not your typical reality tv star, he is also a philanthropist as evidenced by his organization Grassroots Soccer which he founded after winning Survivor.  Grassroots is a non-profit HIV/AIDS prevention oriented organization focused on the prevention of the virus in Africa.  Using his background as a professional soccer player, Grassroots spreads awareness by using soccer as a medium.  Fitness + awareness is always a good look in my book.

Zohn and Morasca, NYC Marathon

Zohn recently completed the NYC Marathon this past weekend and according to reports, will resume cancer treatment in the next few days.  I have never met Zohn, but his generous spirit is evident through his efforts with Grassroots and his participation in the PETA campaign with longtime girlfriend and partner (and fellow Survivor contestant) Jenna Morasca.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Morasca before and I wish them both the best as Ethan continues to forge on with his treatment.  You both have great enduring spirits and only deserve the best!  Please send Ethan well wishes on Twitter @EthanZohn and remember to celebrate Movember and the health of all the men in your life.  Feel free to check out a recent interview with Ethan at US Weekly here.

Product Review: Aussie 3 Minute Miracle

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle
Aussie 3 Minute Miracle

As most of you know, I’m absolutely crazy for conditioner and after reading some reviews online I finally decided to check out the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep Conditioner (yes, it’s actually spelled that way and I have absolutely no reason why).  I got it with a few other items from Soap.com so it was pretty convenient. In honor of this review, you should attempt to read it in 3 minutes or less. The only prize = glory.

Packaging: So the packaging is pretty standard Aussie Fare: it’s purple, there’s a kangaroo…enough said.  Truth is, the bottle is smaller than I imagined for some reason.  It’s not packaged like a traditional conditioner though.  There are ribs on the side to help with handling it in the shower (I assume) and the bottle is meant to be kept inverted as you’re meant to squeeze the product out.

Consistency: This was, by far, one of my favorite parts of using the product.  It has a thick, creamy-like consistency. Apparently I was too excited to read the directions before using it so I didn’t notice the nifty little squeeze nozzle.  I unscrewed the cap and used about two big glops (scientific term, of course) for my entire head.  It spread pretty well and I used a little bit of water to help it along.

Smell: Maybe it’s this funky cold thing that I’ve had going on lately but I couldn’t really smell this product too well.  What I was able to smell reminded me of every other Aussie product which is a bit too perfumey and artificial for me.  BUT, and that’s a big but, I didn’t notice the smell lingering after I used it so it didn’t bother me too much.

Price: I got the product for $3.85 from Soap.com and I assume that most drug stores carry it over a similar price on the ground.  Judging from the amount I have left after one use I definitely have at least a few more uses before it’s gone so 4 bucks for this ain’t so bad.

Overall Impression: This product is somewhat of a little miracle.  I actually can’t remember the last time a product slid through my hair like this one did.  I have ridiculously thick hair and after about a minute or two my hair melted like butter.  After my hair dried it was moderately soft and cloudy although I wish it was a bit softer.  But overall, it turned out pretty good.  So if you’re looking for a quick deep conditioner then try it out.  It’s worth the money and readily available at most drug stores.

Fairy Knots!

Single Strand Knots, Fairy Knots…whatever you want to call them.  I simply refer to them as THE DEVIL.  I never knew about these buggers until my fro started growing and I felt these little bumps on some hair strands. The first time I noticed one, I stopped and asked myself, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?”

I got to Googling (yes, this is firmly a verb now) and found that many folks with longer hair experience fairy knots.  But why are they called fairy knots?  Because they look some little fae burrowed into my fro and decided to tie my strands like shoe laces.

Sookie Stackhouse
It's all Sookie's fault!

So how do you deal with them? Well, I’ve read a few different approaches.  Some suggest cutting off the hair strand just below the knot so you preserve the length of the strand.  Some people say keeping your hair moisturized or in protective styles will fend them off but most of the time I just yank the strand right out.  I know, I know,  but that’s just my default response and it doesn’t hurt.  Truth is, whenever I really think about it, I try to snip them off with scissors when I’m home but I’ve been diagnosed with HIHD (Hand In Hair Disease) and I tend to discover these buggers when I’m sitting at my desk at work or on the subway.  Maybe I should carry scissors in my messenger during the day…? Oh wait, Black man + scissors + random bag searches in the train station…I think I’ll pass.

 Have any of you had any luck fighting off these things? Help a brother out!

MOVEMBER HAS COME!

Take a listen to Gorillaz as you read these facts about men’s health:

 

“The average life expectancy for men is five years less than women (presently 77 years old compared to 82)”

“1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.”

“Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.”

“Four times as many men commit suicide compared with women.” (Source, Movember U.S.)

MOVEMBER IS UPON US!  Every year on the night of October 31 men around the nation shave their moustaches and facial hair in preparation for Movember.  Started in 1999 in Australia the trend has grown to promote awareness for men’s health issues, most specifically prostate cancer. Individuals raise funds all month by serving as walking billboards for men’s health…and regrowing only their moustaches during November.  Movember benefits organizations such as LIVESTRONG (the Lance Armstrong Foundation) and the Prostate Cancer Foundation among others.  Since 2004 global funds have raised $174 MILLION!  I’m sure that money goes a long way…are you going to participate?!

For fear of looking twelve without my ‘stache I am going to have to pass on the shaving ritual but during November, the site will post about men’s health issues in an effort to promote awareness about the issues affecting men today. Men can participate by participating in the regrowing of the stache and the ladies in our lives can participate by helping us raise awareness (and funds) for men’s health research.  If you’re interested in participating, check out the U.S. Movember page and sign up!

Men, HPV and Gardasil

As you may have heard, yesterday the CDC released a recommendation encouraging young men and boys to get the HPV vaccine. HPV can lead to genital warts but otherwise may have no noticeable set of symptoms.  Up until this point, the vaccine has only been marketed towards young women and girls to prevent cervical cancer. Well, new research suggests that not only does the vaccine reduce the risk for cervical cancer, it also reduces the risk of anal, throat, mouth and PENILE cancer!  Who knew!?

In addition, other sources suggest that throat cancers from viruses (such as HPV) are seen more often in men than women (Source,  You Beauty). Symptoms of HPV related  throat cancer include trouble breathing  and a hoarse voice (Source).  Guys, this means that not only should your female loved ones consider getting the vaccine, so should you! As with any important health information it’s best to speak with your primary care physician before getting any treatment.  You should also check out the CDC page here for more information about HPV.

If you’re concerned about the safety of the vaccine, consider this quote from Dr. Anne Schuchat of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases:

“The committee also undertook extensive review of data on vaccine safety.  Through middle of September nearly 40 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States.  The clinical trials that have been carried out in smaller numbers have shown the quadrivalent HPV vaccine to be safe for males as well as for females.  The most common adverse events or side effects that can occur following HPV vaccination include injection site reaction, headache and fever, and those reactions have tended to be mild or moderate in intensity” (Source: Decoded Science).

mane man: Pasha

Here at mane man we’re all about the hair.  When I first met this guy I thought that he had awesome curly hair (and quite the sense of humor).  I’m happy to introduce you to Pasha!  Read a little bit about his experience with his curly mane and what he does to maintain his ‘do.  Pasha writes for the Examiner about special education and Autism.  If you’re interested in reading more about Autism subscribe to his page. Check out my interview with Pasha below!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Pasha and I’m from Los Angeles. I work with special needs children as a therapist and teacher, mainly children on the Autism spectrum. I also write about special needs kids for Examiner.com

Have you always worn your hair curly?
Well I don’t own a toupee so I don’t believe I “wear” my hair. I promise that’s my only sarcastic comment for the rest of this thing. In any case, my hair has always been curly since birth, except for a weird few months in 2006 when I cut it really short and it grew out straight. But it curled back up soon after that. Although it has ranged from frizzy curly fuzz ball to sexy curly coif.

Young Pasha

What do you do to your hair on a daily basis (what’s your routine)?
Other than conditioning it, I just use some anti-frizz, leave-in conditioner, because my hair can get uber fuzzy. Then I sort of press it down in certain problem places, like on the sides, so it doesn’t stick out throughout the day. I always feel stupid after coming out of an interview, for example, and look in my car’s rear view mirror and see a Bozo the Clown frizzy hair clump sticking out of the side of my head.

What reaction have you had from friends, family and strangers about your hair?
My mom, of course, never wants me to cut my hair, because I’ve had the same curly baby fro since I was a baby. All my yearbook signatures, from middle school to high school, in some shape or form, discuss my hair, that I should never cut it and that I should take care of it. However, at times, looking through my old pictures, it could get pretty out of control. I had a ponytail phase, a not brushing it at all phase, none of which proved very fruitful for my romantic life in high school or early college. But once I got it under control, I found that the ladies would become jealous of my hair because they apparently have machines and devices that curl their hair, whereas all I have to do is wake up in the morning.

Pasha's current style.

Do you have any favorite products that you would recommend?
I use Garnier Fructis anti-frizz stuff, mainly because they smell good and are affordable.

Anything else you would like to share?
Curly hair can be a blessing and a curse. My friends from high school will never let me live down the time that we were sitting in band rehearsal and I reached into my hair and pulled out a dead bee. It was then that I decided I would stop my haircut embargo and get my haircut regularly. Up until then I refused to cut it.

Thanks to Pasha for submitting his story! Subscribe to his LA Examiner Page for more about information about Autism and special education.

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A modern man's lifestyle guide to hair, health and everything in between.