Jan 31, 2009
By Dr. Linda Amerson

There is so much history in black hair and scalp care. Below lists some comparisons to reveal how far haircare and scalp care has come from the 1700's to present day professionals of Cosmetologists, Barbers, and Doctors of Trichology.

1) Past - Before the 1700's, in Africa, the natives would artistically carve combs out of wood and ivory. Hair was styled and ornamented with clay, beads, flowers, ribons and combs.

Present - A variety of decorative combs, beads, butterflies, flowers, ribbons, chopsticks, ponytail holders, and numerous other decorative hair accents are worn. Hair accessories are a million dollar industry.

2) Past - Braiding the hair was often symbolic and could for example, indicate social class, if a woman was single, in mourning, or a high priestess.

Present - Braiding the hair is very fasionable, and is worn on atheletes, actresses, models, national, state and city officials, entertainers, men, women and children. Also, a variety of patterns, designs and details are worn regardless of social class in America.

3) Past - The name "HalfHeads" was the name given to the royal runners of the Dahomey Empire. They shaved one side of the head and carefully shaped the other in a style closely resembling the American version of the Afro.

Present - The Afro, Afro-Puff, and combination braid designs with Afro Puffs are very popular among men, teenagers, and women alike. Various lengths and shapes are worn.

4) Past - During the early 1800's, the 'table fork' was used by African Americans to comb the hair. They also used the 'table knife' as a curling iron, by heating it over an open flame, then wraping the hair arount it.

Present - Combs are available in abundance. Just to name a few, there are detangling, styling, rattail, picks, and haircutting combs in materials of plastic, metal, rubber, wood, etc. Furthermore, electric, flat irons, chi, and thermal curling irons are used to enhance today's hair designs.

5) Past - As a dry shampoo for the hair, grits, corn meal, and powdered charcoal was used.

Present - There have been many advancements made in shampoo. There are shampoos available for oily, dry, normal, damaged hair textures, etc., and water is used to properly rinse the shampoo from the hair.

6) Past - To eliminate bacteria on the hair and scalp, sulphur and hog lard was used.

Present - A Dermatologist, or a Doctor of Trichology can address bacteria and fungal infections on the scalp.

7) Past - Slaves slept in barns in the hay where their hair picked up insects, (head lice), and their bodies picked up body lice. Hog fat was applied liberally to the entire body to kill body lice.

Present - Today, head and body lice are almost unheard of in the African American culture. Mattresses are most commonly used worldwide for sleeping, and personal hygiene in most African Americans is a daily routine, and hair and sclap care is practiced weekly or every two weeks.

8) Past - Wild apple leaves and chicken fat were cooked together to be used on the hair and skin to condition and oil it.

Present - A variety of hair conditioners for various hair types and textures, and lotions are used on the skin for moisture and fragrance.

All questions and inquiries should be forwarded to Dr. Linda Amerson at 817) 265-8854, or at

History information was obtained from the following books: "Curly Hair" and "400 Years Without A Comb" both by Willie L. Morrow, and "Milady's Black Cosmetology".