Healthiest Fashion Statement:

The Return of the Afro

A few years ago, pop sensation Justin Timberlake was “bringing sexy back.”  After years of mechanical and chemical treatments to African American hair, comedian and TV star W. Kamau Bell appears to be “bringing nappy back.” 


For most people of African descent, the natural state of their scalp is to be covered with tightly curled hairs.  In America, much effort is made to override that genetic tendency, resulting in the appearance of straight hairs.  Whether using harsh chemicals such as relaxers, tight braids like the corn rows hairstyle, weaves that clip and pull at the roots, or intensively heating the hair, for years straight has been the style.

Take a look at these powerful African American women:

Pop sensation Beyoncé 
First Lady Michelle Obama
“Scandal” actress Kerry Washington

The straight hair they exhibit is the results of ongoing treatments and/or weaves.

Supermodel Naomi Campell reveals the other side of the runway. The problem with unbending naturally curly hair in these ways is that ultimately, the hair and the follicles can be permanently damaged. 
Heating devices such as hot rollers, curling irons, flat irons, blow dryers and hot combs can make hair brittle and broken.
Inflammation from chemical irritation and tension placed on the follicles from braids and weaves cause the hair unit to shrink and eventually scar.

Scarring alopecia (hair loss) cannot be reversed, resulting in patches of baldness, shown here by Tennis champion Serena Williams.  A fair-skinned young person may think that tanning is attractive.  We know now that this insures wrinkled, blotchy and leathery skin later in life, the opposite of glamorous.  Similarly, years of straightening hair may lead to damaged hairs and baldness, a look that is extremely unlikely to be promoted in a beauty magazine.

Quvenzhané Wallis (say that name three times fast!) was 6 years old when she shot “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” an independent film about a girl being raised in Bayou squalor by her mentally ill father and his alcoholic neighbors.  She is exposed to the elements, surviving on little food in a flooded swamp.
There is nothing healthy about her lifestyle, with one notable exception: The lack of processing of her hair.   
Without societal pressures, she is allowed to develop a full-on Afro, 1970’s style.

Though her character should expect to have severe psychological issues as an adult, at least her follicles have been given an early start at staying strong. No one expects style choices to change overnight, but social transformation begins somewhere, perhaps with a comedian and a small actress in an indie film.

Runner up, Healthiest Fashion Statement:

 Is Tanning finally passé?

Tanning 2012: Later, Snooki!

Despite knowledge about sun damage and skin cancer, sun tanning and use of tanning beds is still rampant.  2012 showed at least two positive changes in the media.  First, the anti-role models of the TV show “Jersey Shore” hung up their thongs and tank tops and will no longer promote artificial pigment augmentation.  Second, news of a tanning addict possibly endangering her daughter prompted a burning hot SNL spoof by Kirsten Wiig.  We can only hope that 2013 ushers in an era where overly-tanned family members spawn interventions rather than celebrations.

© 1996-2013 Vail Reese M.D.

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