The latest novelty sweeping the celebrity world is White stars adopting Black children. The most notable examples, in of the last few years, have been actresses Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock and recording artist Madonna. While many people applaud these celebrities for being progressive in their thinking, there are a few “hairy” issues that some hair stylists would like to “comb out” with them.
Most people understand that Black children usually do not have hair that is as silky, wavy, or straight as Caucasian or Asian youngsters. Therefore, the needs for styling and maintaining healthy, well-groomed hair is going to be different. Kari Williams, who has a Ph.D. in trichology and is the West Coast hair and scalp expert spokesperson for Carol’s Daughter, is well aware of these differences.
“It’s not a Civil Rights issue,” said Dr. Williams. “But in today’s image-crazed culture, school-aged children are just as concerned about the way they look as adults, because it plays a larger role in acceptance.”
As a trichologist, Williams offers services that differ from dermatology, because her specialty focuses on the scientific study of hair and scalp disorders. Although it is known in the medical industry, it is a rare area of study with few doctors in the field. Having a doctorate in trichology and a license in barbering, Williams is one of the foremost experts on hair and scalp restoration in Southern California.
Williams noted that within the African American community, children, particularly girls, are often subjected to hair alterations (i.e., chemicals or devices for straightening or curling frizzy or kinky hair) that can damage the hair, scalp, or follicles. Additionally,she said changing the texture of children’s hair can have a negative psychological effect on their self-image.
“Unfortunately, White parents with biracial (children) or transracial adoptions run a higher risk of damaging a child’s hair due to their lack of familiarity and experience with Black hair,” the doctor said. “When a child’s hair is damaged, because a parent unknowingly exposed them to harsh chemical relaxers, for example, it can scar the child’s self-esteem.”
Black parents also are guilty of damaging their children’s hair but not as frequently as non-Black adoptive parents of Black youngsters, Williams added.
Regardless of who is doing it, in the early development of a child’s self-image, perceptions that their features–e.g., hair, face, body shape/type–are inferior can have lifelong effects on their behavior and interactions with others.
A Yale University study of the psychology of “bad-hair days” found people’s self-esteem declines, when their hair is badly combed or ungroomed.
Unkempt hair makes people feel less smart, less capable, more embarrassed, and less sociable. The study participants were Black, White, and Asian Yale students. The study also showed that men were more likely to feel a drop in confidence on days, when their hair is styled poorly.
Poorly styled and groomed hair can definitely have a negative effect on pre-school and elementary-aged children. Something as simple as a child’s hair can be an easily overlooked area that White adoptive parents do not truly understand about their Black children, at least initially. This can lead to questions about the cultural implications for a Black child raised by a White family in a predominantly White community, the hair specialist believes.
In addition to working with Carole’s Daughter, Williams operates Mahogany Revolution Salon in Beverly Hills, where both White and Black parents have sought out her expertise regarding their Black children’s hair.