Dagblad Trouw

So much effort to get it straight

by Arlette Dwarkasing − 22/03/03, 00:00

Mireille Liong-A-Kong could not find one book in Dutch about the care of frizzy hair. But what should you actually do with a book? Hair care simply means: good shampoo, conditioner, an occasional visit to the hairdresser and that's it?

Not if you have frizzy hair, assures the 35-year-old it specialist. Frizzy hair is the driest and most fragile hair type, she now knows, because via the internet she found a lot of American literature - even scientific studies - about her hair type, called afro hair in America. Due to the western influence, women, and later also men, started treating their frizzy hair with chemical products. To get it straight (relax). Or at least make it suitable for 'western' hairstyles.

Why do women do that, Liong-A-Kong wondered, and what options do I have if I don't want that mess in my hair anymore? She has now written all the information that the Surinamese born Liong-A-Kong together in her own booklet under the title 'Kroeshaar - what you need to know and more'.

For example, according to Liong-A-Kong, what you should know is that there are different types of frizzy hair. Those many little curls can have a 'zigzag shape', a 'wavy line with mountains and valleys' or look like 'multiple O's'. And all those chemical products, which are also widely available at black hair hairdressers in the Netherlands, ruin your hair. The author also experienced this.

“I've relaxed my hair for years. That's a kind of automatism. When you become a teenager, you do. Then it's over with pigtails, buns and braids. But when I came to the Netherlands to study when I was nineteen, my hair broke off regularly. Then I started looking for alternatives. Isn't it crazy that you have to use chemical crap to look good? My boyfriend at the time accused me of having a complex: you want straight hair, by Western standards. But relaxing has nothing to do with wanting to be white. In our culture it has everything to do with growing up: as a woman you also want something different with your hair."

And it can be done differently, Liong-A-Kong shows in her book, without harmful substances. Only women, but also their environment, have to overcome a threshold. Back to 'natural hairstyles', but then we also have to get rid of the image that many braids, twists, cornrows, bantu knots or dreadlocks are 'offensive' or 'unrepresentative'. She writes: “During slavery, African hairstyles were perceived by the western world as offensive and ostentatious. (...) As a result, braids were considered "unrepresentative" for a very long time. Until the eighties, Liong-A-Kong knows, there were lawsuits in the United States about whether or not to wear braids in certain positions. "People in the hotel industry, for example, who refused to put chemical stuff in their hair in order to keep their job." But also recently in the Netherlands the dreadlocks of a flight attendant were reason for a conflict with her employer. “People often think about dreadlocks: 'how dirty, she doesn't wash or comb her hair'. It is definitely washed, just not combed. But a comb through your hair every day is not a natural way of taking care of your hair for frizzy hair. Brushing too often can break hair.”

Liong-A-Kong wants to get rid of the imposed standards. "We frizzy haired people have to set a standard for our hairstyle, show what we find representative and what not." In America, women are a bit further along in this. There, 'only' sixty percent of women with frizzy hair choose to relax, compared to ninety percent in the Netherlands. Her booklet full of care tips and suggestions for 'natural hairstyles' should change that.

Article from Trouw