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African-American women face challenges with hair dos and don'ts

By DALIA COLÓN

HealthyState.org

Summer weather can wreak havoc on anyone's hair, but for African-American women, moisture interferes with more than just our tresses. It lowers our willingness to exercise.

Like many black women, I've worn my naturally kinky hair straight since childhood. Sure, it took hours to tame my hair into submission with a hot comb or chemical relaxer, and I was spending $35 to $75 every two weeks on maintenance. But it was worth it. My straight hair was easier to comb and I liked the style.

But there's one thing that can undo all that work, all that expense, in a heartbeat: moisture. Like the kind from a summer rainstorm or a sweaty workout.

In a St. Louis University survey of overweight and obese black women, 48.6 percent said they don't exercise because they don't want to mess up their hair.

I can sympathize. I kickbox, do aerobics and yoga, bike and jog. I've even finished a couple of half-marathons. And after running 13.2 miles, the last thing I feel like doing is my hair.

So in February, after nearly a lifetime of sporting a straight bob, I asked my hairdresser to suggest a style more compatible with my daily exercise habit. She recommended a curly, moisture-proof 'do.

Now, instead of devoting hours to keeping my hair straight, I can spend that time loading my iPod with a playlist perfect for running in the rain.

Dalia Colón, a former staff writer for the Times and tbt*, can be reached at daliacolon@wusf.org.

For more on this topic, including videos and an interview with first lady Michelle Obama's hairstylist, visit www.healthystate.org/lets_move_good_hair.

African-American women face challenges with hair dos and don'ts 07/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 3:47pm]

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