Friday, 20 March 2015

Is There Such A Thing As 'Mixed-Race Hair'?

*For the purpose of this post, I will be discussing people of mixed black and white heritage.

Before I get on my high horse, I just want to say that most of my life, I assumed that all mixed-race* people had a certain type of hair. I assumed they all had hair with a looser curl-pattern (read curly), that was easier to manage and that could grow long with seemingly no effort. Well, I say all but.. there were the 'backfired' ones. The odd ones here and there who'd end up with a head of kinks just like mine. Long kinks, yes, but kinks nonetheless. How we derided them! What was the point of being mixed if you didn't have 'good' hair?! And it wasn't just me who thought like that. These were all commonly upheld beliefs when I was growing up. Go on, admit it.

My daughter was born with dark, straight hair but as she got older, it started getting lighter-coloured and curlier. One day someone said to me, 'She's getting that .5 hair'.
(A 'point 5' or 'pointie' is a mixed race person. Also commonly used was 'half caste' and, more recently, 'nusu-nusu' but .5 has stood the test of time - I can't speak as to how PC any of these monikers are). Anyway, I looked at my daughter's hair and thought, 'So she is.'

Eventually, I went natural and started experimenting on our hair. My daughter and I had such different hair that it was twice the learning curve for me. I got pretty good at it, with lots of advice from my friend Mama Mgeni, and I started getting people asking me, 'How do you get her hair so curly??' I'd always give them my daughter's hair regimen, then wonder why it wasn't working for them. I'd secretly think that maybe they just weren't using enough conditioner, or raking the hair just so; honestly, I was such a twat.

What I wasn't taking into account was that mixed race people have hair textures as diverse as anyone else, even those from the same parents. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how superficial my belief was that mixed hair was all the same. After all, black people don't all have the same hair. Neither do White or Asian people. The same things that apply to us, like coarseness and porosity, are much more relevant when it comes to creating a regimen and selecting products than mere racial heritage. So surely the idea that mixed hair all falls solidly into one category just makes no sense. 

Unfortunately, there are companies out there who bank on these presuppositions. Mixed Chicks, for example, is a popular line, basically a by-mixed-people-for-mixed-people type of thing. A quote on their website reads:

 'Be a proud part of our multiracial movement..."MIXED CHICKS" your curls'

To me, this is the same way companies such as Dark & Lovely have for years marketed products specifically for black hair, even though the ingredients were pants and we could just as easily have used 'caucasian' products.

Every now and then, on natural forums, I'll see a question that reads something like, 'Hi, my daughter is biracial/has mixed hair/is mixed black and white. Any suggestions on what I should use on her hair?' And I slowly get my high horse out of the stable and start pontificating on the irrelevance of the child's racial makeup (I'm still a twat, just a better informed one).

My daughter has fine, low density strands of medium to low porosity. Her hair is prone to dryness and tangling but is easily weighed down by products. Oil and heavy products do not work for her so we use a light leave-in conditioner in her hair. This regimen may not work for someone with denser hair with coarser strands, even though they may both have curly hair and both be of mixed heritage. The reality is this, if you understand the basic makeup of the hair, you are more likely to understand what will work for it, rather than just trying XYZ products because so-and-so has sorta/kinda the same hair. This applies to ALL of us by the way, not just biracial people.


  1. Love this post! Both of my mixed-race daughters seem to have very different hair thus far. My older daughter's hair is thicker, darker, and has a slightly looser curl pattern (though her curls are still really tight). My baby's hair is super fine, lighter in color, and has the tightest, tiniest little corkscrew curls I've ever seen! I assumed all of our babies would have the same hair - but they don't! :)