Are Hair Extensions Hindering Black Hair?

05/09/2016 14:03 | Updated 05 September 2016

For many years now, black hair has been hot-combed, relaxed and weaved into submission to conform to the smooth and shiny manes that we see in the media. Even today, black and mixed race girls are conditioned to believe that their hair is unacceptable or unprofessional in its natural form.

Hair extensions have long been an essential tool in disguising anything natural and over the years has led to some serious repercussions in how we view black hair. Lace weaves and weaving in particular are popular methods as they have the ability to completely transform the entire head into a smooth, silky style.

Weaves are somewhat of a taboo subject and the hair struggles of afro hair is something often not talked about and it's certainly not polite to ask! But could a more positive natural hair image encourage less of a reliance on the weave?

When we see natural hair, it is still often seen as more of a statement and draws out a national debate. It is perhaps even seen as being rebellious or political and goes against the straight hair standard we are so conditioned to seeing.

Solangle Knowles, who is widely known to embrace her natural locks, has been brutally mocked and criticised for embracing her 'unkempt hair'. Responding to an interview with Essence magazine about her haircare secrets, many people voiced their disgust online with one person actually comparing her look with that of a homeless person.

The Mirror even jumped upon Beyonce's mum Tina Knowles when she popped out one day with her curls brushed out;

The 61-year-old brushed out her curls for a full-on look but unfortunately those frizzy ends didn't quite work. We embrace the natural look, but Tina looked like she was having a serious 'off' day.

An incredible way to talk about black hair in this day and age. Even four-year-old Blue Ivy Carter has put the internet into a frenzy about her hair with people criticising Beyonce for leaving it in its natural state. With such a public backlash over something as simple as showing off your hair, hair extensions have offered a shield of protection against criticism for young black women, despite the potential long-term dangers of continuous usage.

Full head weaves take a very long time to do, can often be pulled very tight and can have a detrimental effect on the hair follicles over time, especially around the hairline. Traction alopecia is the more extreme but very possible form of hair loss when you are heavily reliant on very tight, heavy weaves.

Back in 2012, Naomi Campbell shocked us when pictures surfaced from her holiday in Ibiza, that revealed a severely receding hairline. Her many years as a model and an ultra-reliance on tightly-woven hair extensions, have caused unfortunate irreversible damage that no longer gives her the option of a natural hairstyle.

In the late 80s and early 90s of Campbell's career, it would have been absolutely out of the question to see any evidence of her natural hair. Her model superstardom would most certainly have been cut very short without hair extensions to give her the super long, silky hair she is most commonly photographed with.

As the natural hair debate continues, extensions are used now by both black and white women to transform their hair instantly into something longer, thicker, even curlier now. When used in moderation they don't cause any serious long-term damage and can simply serve as an enhancement into your natural hair.

Hair extensions are here to stay but with the growing support of the natural hair movement, it will encourage black and mixed race girls to embrace (and most importantly love) the hair they were born with. Eventually the sight of an afro won't cause people to think it's revolutionary or some sort of protest and learn to admire black women for the variety of hairstyles their hair has to offer.