Categorized | Hair Care

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Hair Pressing – A Natural Styling Alternative For African American Women

Many African American women are turning away from chemical relaxers in favor of natural methods of maintaining their hair. There are many beautiful styles that can be accomplished with healthy, chemical-free, afro textured hair. Twists, braids, sisterlocs, natural afros, are just a few of the many options. One hair maintenance option that often gets overlooked, or looked upon negatively, is pressing. Hair pressing is when tightly coiled, or highly textured hair is straightened using a heated appliance such as a pressing comb or a flat iron. Pressing, if done properly, can provide another means for the natural African American woman to wear her hair without chemicals. Hair pressing has advantages and disadvantages. In this article we will look at both to help you decide whether or not pressing is for you.

Advantages:

  1. Pressing is a chemical free way to straighten hair. Unlike the chemicals in relaxers which often irritate and damage the scalp, pressing requires no chemicals to straighten the hair.
  2. Pressing is reversible if it is not done aggressively or too frequently. One misconception that people have about pressed hair is that it has to be done so that the hair is stick straight. Pressing hair to this extreme causes hair damage by permanently altering the protein bonds in the hair. If hair is pressed at a reasonable temperature, and it is not done too frequently, the hair will revert to its natural texture when it is washed.
  3. The heat from pressing helps oil penetrate the hair shaft. If you press your hair using a natural hair oil, you will find that the heat from the pressing comb helps the natural oils to penetrate the hair shaft, which helps the hair to be softer.
  4. Pressing is relatively inexpensive. Unlike chemical relaxers, which must be maintained with touch-ups every few weeks, wigs, weaves, and extensions, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, hair pressing is very cheap, and with practice, can be done at home.

Disadvantages:

  1. Pressing is reversible. Unlike a chemical relaxer, if your hair is pressed and you get caught in a rain storm or sweat profusely, you will find that your hair will revert back to its natural texture before you intended it to do so.
  2. Pressing can cause burns if not done carefully. To press hair you are using a heated appliance, and you must be careful when you use it. If you are not careful, or not paying attention to what you are doing, you may burn yourself.

Some women feel that wearing pressed hair is a denial of their ethnic heritage. They believe that wearing their natural textured hair is an affirmation of who they are and that anything else makes them artificial. I understand that feeling because I felt that way too at one time. I don’t feel that way anymore, but I also don’t believe that pressed hair is for everyone. Pressing is just one additional way for the African American woman to take care of her hair. As you can see, just like any other hair care method, pressing has advantages and disadvantages. The choice is up to the individual as to whether or not pressing is for her.

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