Why weaves are so important in the 21st century

Why weaves are so important in the 21st century


By Riley Johnson, Mercy High School

November 2017


“And these four bundles of Brazilian straight don’t need to be left-leaning.” That’s what Killumantii, the rapper, says in one of her songs.

She is talking about hair weaves - the new hair trend of the 21st century, which has become popular all over the world. From Brazilian to virgin to remy (the highest quality of hair weave), it is important for a girl to have her weave. But a woman also needs to take care of her hair extensions. Killumantii is telling girls so in her lyrics. Left-leaning weaves are a no-no. In other words, if your weave is installed improperly, it can damage your hair and may even cause hair loss. The better the quality of hair, the better it is for the health of the scalp and hair.

Black women have had a long, complex relationship with hair. From the cold waves common in the 1940s and 1950s to the afros and cornrows of the 70s to the relaxed styles of the 90s, hair has always been what a Howard University-trained dermatologist labeled the “crowning glory” of black women.

Now weaves have become an extremely popular hairstyle, especially among the younger generation, said Tamara Johnson, an Owings Mills hairstylist with more than 25 years experience.

Natural hair has also become a hot trend. Natural hair was highlighted at the recent Miss University pageant when the contestant from Jamaica competed  while wearing a free-flowing afro.

Johnson said weaves can help protect the hair if they are put in properly. They give natural hair a break from the wear and tear of styling. If women go to the salon regularly to maintain their weave, their natural hair will grow.

Weaves also should not be left in too long. Regular trims and conditioning will help keep the hair and scalp healthy.

“I try to encourage healthy hair and for people to take care of their hair,” Johnson said. “It is an extension of your overall health. Healthy hair is important.”

The type of hair that is installed should not be cheap because that can cause allergic reactions. Using hair that is 100 percent human is best. Virgin, Brazilian, Remy, mink or Indian hair are good choices.

The hairdresser will braid natural hair and put the weave on top. She will be careful that the hair is not braided too tight or it will cause hair breakage around the edges of the scalp. This could lead also lead to bald spots and bumps. The braid pattern needs to be correct or the hair will not sew in properly.

After the weave is installed, it can be worn in many styles, including straight, curly, and half up or half down.
Some girls get what is called a leave-out, where there natural hair is left visible at the top of the head. Leave-outs should be blended well to match the extensions. They also need to be straightened with a flat iron, but not every day or it will cause hair breakage.

“The part you leave out does not grow as well as the part that is braided,” Johnson said.

If clients find they have health issues with their hair and scalp, Johnson will sometimes recommend people go to a dermatologist.

When asked about whether hair weaves are good or bad, Dr. Katina Miles, a Howard University-trained dermatologist, said, “yes and no.”

“If done correctly, hair weaves can help the hair grow,” she said.

Cornrows can keep the weave tight, she said. But anything too tight on the scalp causes tension and, over time, damages hair follicles.

“Hair is our crown and glory,” the dermatologist said. “From little girls, we get pretty bows to go in our hair … and (we are obsessed) over the concept of pretty.”

Some women are choosing to wear their hair natural, which means no chemical straightening and now weaves or extensions.

During the recent Miss Universe pageant, social media filled up with shouts to Ms. Jamaica for embracing her real hair.

Even when it comes down to natural hair, women have lots of versatility.

My cousin Andrean Harris decided to go natural four years ago to improve the health of her hair after perms damaged and thinned her hair out. Harris has said that being natural has improved the health of her real hair. It is thicker, stronger, and is definitely growing faster.

Women can get natural style tips from social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

While letting chemically processed hair transition to a natural hairstyle, women need to be patient and consistent. Don’t give up and transition back to old styles when you get tired of maintaining the different hair textures – the in-between stage - as you transition.

No matter the hairstyle, women must take good care of their hair or they may face health problems, Dr. Miles said.

Women have to be very careful of not singeing the hair with hot combs, curling irons and flat irons.

Other conditions have also occurred in women who don’t take care of their hair, such as alopecia,  a condition that can trigger hair loss.

These conditions can be treated.

“If you lose your hair and develop an ugly bald spot, it can be treated through injections of corticosteroid or blood plasma mixed with steroids or cortisone,” said Dr. Miles.

But it’s best not to let the hair get that unhealthy, Dr. Miles said.

From my own experience, keeping my hair done and making sure it's healthy is important to me. I have a weave that I maintain by visiting a stylist regularly.

Another cousin of mine, Danielle Harris, is not natural but has said that she relaxes her hair no more than twice a year. Harris also spreads out the time between relaxers to give her hair breaks. She wears “protective styles,” such as faux locs, braided styles and weaves. She wraps her hair at night and reduces the amount of direct heat she applies to it. Harris also takes vitamins to help stimulate hair growth.

I don't get weaves often, but when I do get them, I keep them in for a long time, which has resulted in natural hair growth.

I used to have a leave-out, but I changed to another style so my hair wouldn’t break off. I now get a lace closure weave, which is made of silk or lace to protect the hair.

I definitely make sure to protect my hair, maintain it, and embrace my natural hair.