Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our Hair is Killing Us

We are letting our hair kill us:

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – About a third of black women cite complications of hair care as the reason they do not exercise or exercise less than they would like, according to Amy J. McMichael, M.D., the lead investigator of a study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

McMichael, associate professor of dermatology, specializes in hair and scalp diseases, ethnic and pigmented skin diseases, and general dermatology and skin care. “I see a lot of African American women in our clinic and had noticed how many of them are overweight. This puts these women at risk for hypertension, diabetes and other serious problems.”

In fact studies show that 77 percent of black women are overweight or obese, McMichael said. “I thought it would be interesting to look at what role their hair plays in their amount of exercise. Many African American women with coarser hair use either heat straighteners or chemical products to straighten their hair. Depending on how coarse or fragile their hair is, they can’t just wash their hair after exercise without having to go through the whole process again, and that can take hours. Over-washing fragile hair can make it break off easily.”

McMichael and the team of investigators from the Department of Dermatology, the Division of Public Health Sciences, and the medical school interviewed 103 black women about how much and what types of exercise they do, and the time, expense and complications of caring for their hair. Sixty-four of the respondents had relaxed their hair by various means.

All of the respondents believed it was important for them to exercise. And 50 percent stated that they considered changing their hair to make it easier to exercise.

To read the rest of the article click on "
Dermatologic Barriers to Exercise in Black Women" in the left sidebar under "Articles."

I'm not unsympathetic to the hair issue. But I will readily admit I don't understand it. When I had hair I still exercised and exercised hard. I never allowed my hair to stop me from working out, but then again I rarely went to the beauty salon either, unless it was to get a relaxer. So, I rarely had a hairstyle I had to "protect." I've talked hair on this blog before, but as the study notes there are no easy solutions. If you have straightened or relaxed hair, you're gonna sweat it out. There's no way around that if you're working as hard as you should work.

To those who navigate their workouts and their hair, how do you do it?


Nona said...

I've worn my hair in every conceivable style: long natural, short natural, shaved, dreadlocks, braids, straightened and it has never stopped me from doing anything. e.g. when I was in Barbados at Christmas, I went to the beach almost every day for three week and that never caused my straightened hair any problems. I simply rinsed out the salt water when I got home (although if it was dry by the time I got home I would just leave it), applied a leave-in conditioner and let the hair air dry.

I will admit though that a shaved head (which as of yesterday,I now have once again), is the easiest of all the styles because I don't have to spend any time on it or any money on shampoo or conditioner ... I found dreadlocks the most burdensome.

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JJ said...

Welcome to the shaved head club (again) Nona! Yeah, I let mine grow in here and there so I keep the shampoo around but it lasts much

VOD said...

I worked out when I was permed. I NEVER thought my hair was so serious that my health should suffer. Now that I'm a (proud) dreadhead, it's even better. Come home from the gym, rinse or shampoo whenever I want, and that's it.

Going Natural said...

I agree that we limit/compormise ourselves too much because of our hair. This is why I initiated and America's Next Natural Model. You can read more here:

keyalus said...

I keep my hair relaxed but I also workout 6 days a week. I now have a routine down that keeps my hair healthy and growing. I do a co-wash after sweaty cardio, condition and throw it back into a bun. I do a full wash every week. It isn't the sexiest look but it keeps the hair on my head and the weight off my hips. I will wear my hair "down" but only when I have something special going on.

Eb the Celeb said...

meaning they dont want to sweat out that new do...

Tamika said...

First, I want to say that I happened to learn about this site while reading an article in Heart and Soul magazine. When I saw that it was started by a southern girl who needed to break the cycle of 'southern eating' I knew I had to check it out. I struggle with my weight and after a long discussion with my sister about the 'science' behind it all and we wanted to test it out. I just decided a few weeks ago that I am going to monitor more what I eat, opt for a 2000 calorie a day diet and just eat healthier while exercising daily atleast 30 minutes. I have lose 3 pounds in two weeks just from doing that. There's no going back now!

I will visit regularly for tips and blogging updates.

Tamika said...

I also wanted to add that I just decided to go natural, something I have not been since I was 12. It really has nothing to do with exercise though. I exercise regardless, its just something I have to do.

Going Natural said...

Can I ask why you decided to go natural? Just curious as to what motivate women to go natural. See my site and you'll understand why.

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