I feel like everyone should know by now that touching or making negative comments about someone else’s hair (especially ethnic hair) is unacceptable. Yet, there are those few stragglers who still don’t know (or maybe they do know) what they’re doing or saying is harmful or just plain annoying. It’s 2018–I hope you’re not doing anything on this list, but if you are, it’s time to change your ways.
1. Don’t touch BEFORE you ask to touch.
And just because you asked, it still doesn’t mean you can touch that person’s hair. Whether you think their hair texture is beautiful or you’ve never seen that kind of hair before, you’re making that person feel like an animal at a petting zoo. No means no. If that person gives you the privilege to touch their hair, do not run your fingers through it. You’re most likely going to ruin that person’s hairstyle, make it extra frizzy and tangled, or accidentally rip some strands out when you try to get your hand back. Even if they’re your friend, ask or establish when or if you can touch your friend’s hair. Get it? Got it? Good.
2. Don’t say, “I like your hair better when it’s straight” or “Why don’t you straighten your hair more often?”
These are a couple phrases that aren’t meant to be offensive, but are. Many people with ethnic hair have straightened, relaxed and hot-combed their hair to fit “white” standards of beauty. Many are going through the process of getting their natural texture back and getting rid of their damaged locks. Many are trying to embrace this part of themselves that they were told not to by society or people in their life. The last thing they need to hear from you is that you don’t really like how their hair looks naturally. Compliment them when their hair is straight if you really like it, but don’t make them feel bad and ugly when it’s not.
3. Don’t say, “Ugh, my hair is getting so nappy.”
Nappy hair is tightly coiled and coarse hair (a synonym of kinky). Historically, it was (and still is to some) a derogatory term used toward and about black women. It’s offensive and annoying if someone with straight hair gets a few tangles in their hair and deems it “nappy.” It’s not nappy at all. You just need to swipe a comb through your hair twice and you’re fine. I suggest checking out this article for a deeper explanation of why the term can be offensive: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2007/04/12/why-nappy-offensive
4. Don’t ask, “Is it real?”/”Is it fake?”
I’m saying this mainly for black women because there’s a stereotype that black women can’t grow their hair past their shoulders and whatnot. If their hair looks long, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s not real. And even if the hair on their head is fake, so? They look cute and don’t need to be bothered with questions about if it’s real or not. If they want to let you know what’s up, they’ll let you know. Don’t just assume.
5. Don’t be so disgusted or surprised that people with ethnic hair don’t wash their hair every day
Washing your hair every day is actually not good for people with straight hair. It’s an even worse idea for people with naturally curly or frizzy hair. Some people truly don’t need to wash their hair for weeks or even months *gasps* because their natural hair oils don’t travel down their hair strands or create grease/build up on their scalp quickly. This doesn’t mean they don’t shower for those weeks or months they don’t wash their hair. They just throw their hair up in a ponytail or put on a shower cap. It’s a pretty common thing to do actually.
There are more sayings that bother people with ethnic hair, but I felt like these were the top five I, and many others I know, have experienced or heard time and time again. If you already knew not to do these things, I’m proud of you. But please spread the word, because there are some who still don’t have a clue that they’re being offensive or annoying. For a better tomorrow, save someone with ethnic hair the trouble of explaining or experiencing this today.