HAIR CARE: SOME WORDS OF ADVICE FROM MADAM WALKER’S GREAT-GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER, A’LELIA BUNDLES
No doubt about it! We are always looking for ways to make our hair look better.
Lots of women write to me asking advice about hair care. Sometimes people are looking for miracles and the “magic bullet” to cure their hair problems. Unfortunately there are no magic potions or secret formulas.
As my friend, Leila Noelliste of Black Girl with Long Hair (www.bglhonline.com) says, “You have to spend time getting to know your hair.” She is so right! Many sisters have spent most of their lives alienated from their hair and doing everything to alter it. As a result, they’ve never learned how to care for their natural hair or discovered the array of possible styles. If you choose to perm or straighten your hair–which is fine with me, if that’s what makes you comfortable–you might find that giving your hair a break from time to time and exploring and experimenting with your hair without straighteners can be an affirming exercise.
I’m a writer and not a hair care professional, but I grew up in a household with parents who both were hair care industry executives. I make it my business to stay current on what’s new in the industry and to be aware of the new “Madam Walkers” who are doing amazing things with hair care. I’ve spent a lot of time studying the history of the black women and hair. Along the way, I have absorbed some knowledge that I’m happy to share with others. Let’s just say I know enough to know that no one product can overcome all the other things you may be doing to abuse and damage your hair. What you eat and drink, whether you exercise and how much stress you have in your life all affect the health of your hair and scalp.
When Madam Walker created her line of hair products in 1906, there was no hair care industry. You couldn’t just walk into a drug store or beauty supply and pick from dozens of shampoos, ointments, conditioners, sprays and gels. She didn’t have a laboratory or a research and development department. Based on what she knew at the time, she relied upon a system of cleansing the scalp, massaging and applying a petrolatum-based ointment. Since that time, hair care professionals have learned that women of African descent need moisturizer and lighter creams more than heavy, greasy ointments that can clog the pores of the scalp and make dandruff even worse. My guess is that Madam Walker would be innovating and creating new products today that responded to the new scientific-based knowledge.
Just as Madam Walker focused on the importance of healthy, well-groomed hair, so do I. Conditioning, moisturizing and cleansing are the keys to beautiful hair whether you choose a style that is natural or permed. There are hundreds of great products available. Like most women, I have my favorites, but I stay open to all the new innovations and product lines. And these days it seems there is something new every week!
I love to see modern day success stories like Miko and Titi Branch of Miss Jessie’s Originals, Lisa Price of Carole’s Daughter and Nadine Thompson of Soul Purpose. In the spirit of Madam Walker, they are taking what she helped start to an entirely new level and answering the needs of 21st century women. They represent the legacy of success that Madam Walker and the women entrepreneurs of her generation started. I urge you to choose your hair care professional as carefully as you would choose your physician and to think about where you are spending your money.
Every day I come across a new blog or website or article with tips for healthier hair. Below are a few that I have found especially interesting (and I’ll be adding more as I discover them).
Oh, and by the way, Madam Walker DID NOT invent the perm, the hot comb or the straightening comb. Click here to read Linda Jones’s NaturallyCurly.com article about that myth and click here to read about Francois Marcel Grateau, a Frenchman who developed curling irons and other heated hair care implements in 1872 when Madam Walker was only five years old.
For hair care updates, join A’Lelia Bundles on Facebook at Black Hair Historian.
If you are experiencing severe hair loss or scalp problems, I urge you to speak with your physician and to make an appointment with a dermatologist who specializes in scalp ailments that affect black women. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on hair loss appeared in the New York Times on January 15, 2010.
“When Hair Loss Strikes, a Doctor is a Girl’s Best Friend”
NaturalSelectionBlog: Interesting and timely updates on hair care and the hair care industry
MySalonScoop.com: Walker Descendant Keeps Legacy Alive
February 10, 2010
A’Lelia Talks about Hair
“Tell Me More’s” Michel Martin Interviews A’Lelia, March 27, 2009
A’Lelia on Natural Hair:
Other voices on Natural Hair
LeCoil.com Natural Hair Photos
MADAM WALKER AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
CEO TV Interview (July 2011)
CHRIS ROCK’S “GOOD HAIR”
See A’Lelia Bundles’s brief appearance!
What others are saying about “Good Hair”
Rebecca Fortune’s Blog compares “My Nappy Roots” and “Good Hair”
A’Lelia’s thoughts on “Good Hair”
A’Lelia and “Good Hair” in Heart and Soul
ARTICLES ABOUT MADAM WALKER
HAIR CARE INDUSTRY HISTORY
Harvard Working Knowledge Review of Geoffrey Jones’s Beauty Imagined
HAIR CARE SITES
Lisa Price’s Carol’s Daughter
Nadine Thompson’s Soul Purpose
Titi and Miko Branch’s Miss Jessie’s Original
Turning Heads Salon and Day Spa/Harlem
Cornrows & Company/Washington, DC
Sisterlocks/Dr. JoAnne Cornwell
Barry Fletcher/ Washington, DC
Dr. Linda Amerson’s Hair and Scalp Clinic
International Hair Care for Women of Color TheBeautyPot.com
More articles and blogs about Madam Walker
Dr. David’s Blog 2/26/08
Learn more about the Madam Walker Theatre Center, a National Historic Landmark and former home of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company: