Is a hairdo more important than health?


A number of obstacles may stand between a person and exercise, and hairstyles may be one of them for black women, according to a study.

Researchers found about two in every five African-American women said they avoided exercise because of concerns about their hair, and researchers say this is concerning, given the US’s obesity epidemic.

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McMichael and her colleagues, who published their findings in the Archives of Dermatology, said hair care could be tedious and costly for black women.

“As an African-American woman, I have that problem, and my friends have that problem. So I wondered if my patients had that problem,” said Dr Amy McMichael, the study’s senior researcher and a dermatologist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

McMichael and her colleagues, who published their findings in the Archives of Dermatology, said hair care could be tedious and costly for black women.

Rochelle Mosley, who owns Salon 804 in Harlem in New York City, said some of her clients come in once a week to get their hair straightened at a cost of about $40 (R340).

To keep their hairstyle, they may not want to wash their hair more than once a week, and may avoid sweating because of this.

To find out if women were putting hair above their health, the researchers surveyed 103 African-American women who came to the dermatology clinic at Wake Forest University in October 2007.

They found that more than half of the women were exercising for less than 75 minutes a week, which is less than the US Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. That’s also less than US women on average, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2007 that found about half of all US women were exercising for close to 150 minutes a week.

More than a quarter of the women in the new study said they did not exercise at all.

About a third of the women said they exercise less than they’d like to because of their hair, and half said they had considered changing their hair for exercise.

McMichael and her fellow researchers found that women who avoided exercise because of their hair were almost three times less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. That finding, however, could have been due to chance.

Also, scalp issues, such as itching and dandruff, played a role in the women’s decision-making.

McMichael acknowledges they surveyed only African-American women, and that they can’t say whether this is a problem shared by other ethnic groups.

“It is a really important conversation that African-American women want to have, and they’re looking for solutions,” said McMichael.

Salon 804’s Mosley said, based on her 22 years in business, she was not surprised by the findings.

Mosley said some women planned their visits around their exercise schedule, but she tried to find a hairstyle that would work with physical activity.

“If you don’t have a healthy body, then you aren’t going to have any hair to fix,” she said. - Reuters

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