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One Million Hair Follicles

June 3, 2018
One Million Hair Follicles

I am practicing the school of thought where I speak as positively as possible about my baby girl’s hair so that the good vibes will have a trickle-down effect. This works sort of in the way of the “ask and you shall receive” maxim. In the recent past, I have had a tough time finding the most ideal solutions that her dense afro will accept. I have spent many dollars on special equipment and Type 4 products and little bows, just to have some of them clash with her hair or with our budding routine. Jai’s hair is stubborn and exceptional, reluctant to moisten, compressed all over. Her curls reach her shoulders, but one would not know this because of the compact nature of her tiny ringlets. 

As the steward of her hair care, I am beginning to understand the gravity of my responsibility; even as she is still so young at age 2, our bonding over her hair nods politely towards physical and mental teaching moments. I recognize that self-esteem and favorable representation starts in our home and with me, mommy, as a curly-haired role model. This will be one area through which I am uncompromising.  

Jai may not always love her curly hair, but mommy can help foster an appreciation of it.  

We’ll learn how to work this together. We must. 

According to the New World Encyclopedia, “. . .the average human head. . .has about 100,000 hair follicles.”  

I am completely certain, however, that Jai has one million hair follicles.  

The reality behind this attribution can be due to the incredible thickness and the coily texture that she inherited, graduated results of that lovely machine called genetics. It is known that the thickness of African American hair “. . .results from a combination of both the size of the follicles themselves and how many of them line the scalp,” according to an article published by Stanford University. “The size of the follicles determines if the individual hair strands are thick or thin. Large follicles produce thick hairs. Equally important to hair thickness, the number of follicles on the scalp determines the actual number of hairs crowning the head. Lots of hairs equal thick hair.” Jai’s individual follicles are neverendingly vibrant and awake and producing perfectly healthy hair strands, almost overnight. These strands conveniently do not like to be touched, and we live through what is called “tender-headedness.” 

Jai has a lot of big follicles in small areas of her scalp. Not regrettably, something like a million of them, for sure. This makes our (silent) agreement that much more resolute. 

More so than the biological gift behind her hair halo are the implications of her own cultural endorsement. For decades, “black hair” has been a weight of controversy and pride, of adoption and negation, of abandonment and reception. It is one of the few celebrations black Americans have adapted as symbolic of feeling and illustration behind the whole of “the experience.” Black hair, like clothing and phrases and choices, are deliberate expressions of personalized truth that takes some time and patience to mold into. 

My daughter, and the way she sees her hair, will differ greatly with how I have come to love my own and how I look at hers. It is essential that she finds her way within its conceptual depths, that she builds a rapport with the messages her hair sends out to the world as she will with countless other aspects of her life.  

I paint the starting line for my young Jai. I encourage increasingly-thriving conversations and introspection. I enforce deep conditioning. I am confident that I can preserve a healthy system for her to follow as she ages. Though, she will have to find her own brand of hair glory. 

Work Cited 

Strehlow, Anne Tecklenburg. “Ask a Geneticist.”  Stanford at The Tech-Understanding Genetics, Apr. 26, 2005, Accessed Jun. 3, 2018. 

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