African American hair is often a challenge to style and manage, whether it is long, medium, or short. The idea is always to keep it clean and as natural as possible, because hard and harsh chemicals, as well as too much pulling, jerking and combing, can damage and actually ruin the hair, scalp and follicles.
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Braids, Locs & Twists
Braids, locks and twist styles can be worn using only natural hair, or with hair extensions (human hair or synthetic fibres). The style is very ethnically Afrocentric and as natural or close to natural as black hairstyles usually get, besides the afro and dreads. These styles are easily maintained with regular washings and usually take only minutes a day to style. They usually take about six to 12 hours to do, depending on the styling, and last between three and four months.
Dreads & Cornrows (or "Cornrolls")
Dreads or dreadlocks are a very natural and easy to maintain hairstyle for black people. The problem with this hairstyle is that many believe it happens due to neglect of the hair. The opposite is true. There are very specific techniques to "dreadlocking" neat hair and it includes keeping the hair and scalp clean, and the use of specialised waxes and creams. Cornrows are styled using an underhand or overhand "stitch" technique that keeps the hair on a continuous track as it is braided in parted sections.
Relaxed & Pressed Hair
Historically, black people, black women in particular, would have their hair done in a "relaxed" style using either a hot comb (flat iron) and oils for pressing natural hair, or using a relaxer chemical. Though there have been many discussions about the wisdom of chemical or heat-straightening of naturally curly hair, this style is less-desirable because of the hair loss, heat and pulling damage, and chemical destruction to the roots and follicles of the hair. For black men, relaxed styles are the same as the "conk" style noted in Section 6.
Weave 'n' Bob
The weave hairstyle is one of the more low-maintenance, but pricier and more unnatural hairdos for black people. The weave (using either natural human hair or synthetic fibres) does not typically take as long to tie in as braids, but it does require a substantial amount of precision styling and care or hair destruction will happen. The style usually lasts about two months between beautician visits and can be worn in many different ways, though the medium-length style is usually a "bobbed" type of style at the top or nape of the neck.
An Afro, which is worn above the nape of the neck, can indeed be a "medium-length" style. The length of the hair when pulled down the length of the neck matters. The short afro is close-cropped, the long afro is the big "bushy" type, and the medium-length style is the one that most afro-wearers use. This type of afro is not bushy or close-cropped, but piled and shaped up very neatly. Because most black hair textures do not fall down naturally around the face and ears unless "trained" (by chemical process or braiding) the afro is an easily adapted natural style.
Black Men and Hair Length
Though it is not uncommon for black men to have medium-length hair, most prefer it cut short, cropped close, shaven low in a "fade," or sheared completely off, bald. When black men wear medium-length hairstyles, it is either in the form of dreads, locks, twists, cornrows or braids. A very old-fashioned "do" that is sported by black men, but seldom seen anymore, is the "conk" or the relaxed and permed hairdo that would typically be worn by James Brown or Al Sharpton or in the movies by characters like "Superfly" (played by Ron O'Neal).
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