Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Natural Hair: The US Surgeon General Explains Why Health Should Trump Hair

If you do a google search for Black women, hair and exercise, 12.5 million results pop up. There are seemingly endless blog posts, articles, and videos dedicated to the dilemma so many black women face regarding their health and hairstyles. The ability to exercise freely without the worry of ruining or sweating out a style is one of the main reasons some Black women decide to ditch the chemicals and embrace their natural texture.

I know that in this forum I am preaching to the choir and this is not new news. But, in case you are unaware of the issue, this excerpt sums up the sentiment:

According to the American Journal of Public Health, less than 30% of minority women in the united states get the right amount of exercise, one of the reasons being "The hassle of keeping their hair looking good".

"They don't want to mess it that style up once they leave that salon, because it's like look what I just did, I just sweated this out, and now I have to go back and curl it the exact way she did it," says Hair Dresser, Kendra Johnson. {excerpt credit}

It may seem like a trivial concern to people with loosely textured tresses. I can see how straighter-haired women may not understand why their kinkier-haired counterparts would sacrifice their health and fitness levels for beauty. However, for those of us with kinky and curly locs, we understand the pressures that come with attempting to be deemed socially acceptable, especially in the workplace. Even with all the advances in the natural hair movement, many women (and men for that matter) continue to face discrimination and unfair treatment due to rocking their naturally kinky, coily and curly hair.

Well according to the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, this issue is serious and not just limited to African Americans. In a recent interview with CNN Health, Dr. Benjamin explains:

"Other ethnic groups would come up and say the same thing. I’ve heard it from Hispanics. I’ve heard it from a couple of my older white patients that I have at home. They’re saying I get my hair done every weekend- I don’t want to be exercising after I get my hair done." {excerpt}

According to Dr. Benjamin, it is as much about money as it is about looks.

"If you go out and spend $40-50 to get your hair done, you don’t want to go out and get it all sweaty and wet that afternoon before you got to show it off." {excerpt}

(Click here to read the interview in its entirety.)

While I did not get into regularly working out until a few years ago, well after going natural, I can totally relate to not wanting to mess up a fresh style. As most of us know, in addition to being expensive, often times a trip to the salon is time consuming. Time and money are precious commodities to most people I know and it is logical to not want to waste either. Now I have much more freedom with natural hair so workouts no longer phase me. (Ahem, when I am on my workout game. Currently my "game" consists of broken sleep and mommy time, lol. But I digress...)

After reading all of Dr. Benjamin's interview, I was interested in what others had to say in response and I scrolled through the comments. Uuuuugggh. Why did I do that? Sometimes I forget just how ignorant, uninformed, and down right racist people can be outside of my natural hair blogiverse. I guess one good thing always comes from it, though. Just when I think we are over-saturated with info about natural hair, my stuff included, I see we have oh so far to go to reach the masses. So many people still just don't understand Black hair and all its complexities.

Anyway, what are you thoughts on the interview? If you are relaxed/transitioning, how do you fit in both health and hair? If you're natural, have your workouts increased or stayed the same?

For some YouTube inspiration, check out this video from BeautifulBrwnBabyDol's channel. In case you don't know, she works out a lot and has many cute styles that stand up to her sweat sessions.Love her!


  1. i TOTALLY understand. when i was relaxed i refused to workout friday thru sunday; you know, prime date night(s)... i thought it'd change when i went natural, but quite the contrary, it did not. now i don't want to mess up my twist out/braid out/ blow out... i will say that if my hair is in two strand twists, i have no problems working out, but typically by friday, i am ready to wear my hair in an out style. still trying to get around that whole hair/gym conundrum.

  2. When my hair was short enough for a wash ago I worked out without worrying about my hair.

    Now I work out Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. I wash and twist my hair Sunday. Monday/Tuesday I wear the twist pinned back into a bun. Wednesday I untwist. This routine works ok. My Friday/Saturday hair isn't that great looking.

    I'd like to be able to rinse my twist mid week but all of my hair products go straight to my scalp when I do that.

  3. Sadly I think many of us put our hair before our health. I think when I wear my hair in its natural state I work out more because I am less focused on messing up my hair.I think if we focused more on our health by working out, eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water, we would see a boost in the health of our hair. My favorite styles that I wear to the gym are my cornrows, pony tail puffs, and twists.



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