By Angela L. Braden
The hot comb and its predecessor… The black woman’s friend or enemy?
Well, that simply depends on if you like naturally curly hair or hair that lays smooth and straight after being torched with a metal object.
Let me begin here… This is not a political piece to proselytize black women to put down the hot comb. This is simply a historical review of the hot comb and its evolution to the current flat iron.
In the early 1900’s, the hot comb is introduced in France to straighten the naturally curly and/or coarse hair of Egyptian women, who desire a “straighter, more smooth” hair texture.
In the 1920’s Annie Malone, an African American woman, took the hot comb invention and filed a patent for it, robbing either the Egyptians or the French from making millions on the invention. Madam CJ Walker, one of Malone’s workers gave the hot comb the remix and widened the teeth, making it easier to glide through and straighten the so called “kinky” hair of women of African descent.
Both women, Malone and Walker, made millions for their inventions of the hot comb and other black hair products.
Almost one hundred years later, black women are still using fiery hot metal to straighten their hair. They’ve abandoned the antiquated hot comb and picked up the electrical flat iron.
The current flat iron comes with varying technology. Some flat irons are made out of ceramic, while others are made from silicone. Which ones work the best? That depends on who you ask.
These flat irons range from $10 at your local pharmacy to $350 in specialty beauty stores.
And instead of using petroleum grease to protect the hair like they did back in the day with the hot comb, fans of the flat iron use lightweight oils to protect the hair from the intense heat.
Controversy still exists over whether or not the hot comb and its younger cousin, the flat iron, damages the hair and scalps of black women. Some black women sware by the flat iron, while others say it’s the cause of widespread alopecia in the black community.
And the social controversy around black women’s desire to straighten their hair still exists. Some people criticize the use of these tools to straighten hair simply because it is believed that black women are straightening their hair to be loved and accepted by the white community. And there are some black women that insist they like to use these tools to convert their hair into a more manageable texture: nothing more or nothing less..
Which is true? I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder or the one who holds the $350 flat iron in their hand.