Friday, November 21, 2008

Hair Pressing destiny

The other day we worked on Hair Pressing.

It is a technique that many african american women used to use on their hair to straighten it without the use of chemicals or permanent relaxers. Most women just use a flat iron now, but some of the old school ladies refuse to have it done by flat iron.

Pressing combs are special heavy combs made out of metal that you put on the stove or in a special heating stove. You then have to comb through the hair slowly and firmly both on the top and on the underside. It is kind of a long process, because the amounts of hair you take are small to make sure it gets as flat, sleek and smooth as possible.

Well, we pulled out Destiny, our african american doll, and plugged in all the stoves and started heating up the pressing combs. Unfortunately for us the class who had learned this technique previous to ours failed to properly clean the combs. The room filled with smoke from the oil sheen and other oil based products left in the combs.

Of course we test the combs on a paper strip first to make sure they are not too hot before putting them on the mannequin hair. And you have to coat the hair with a thermal protectant, like Oil Sheen. So the hot combs, the oils sheen and human hair...

Our classroom was BILLOWING smoke out the door. You could smell burning hair and we set the fire alarm off. Every time someone would pass by they would wrinkle up their nose and say something like "Whew, you guys must be burning hair in here". It was horrible. The teacher dragged in 3 different fans to blow it out and to keep it away from the fire alarm(again)

And the Oil sheen was just as bad. It is oil in aerosol form, kind of like cooking spray, but finer and mistier. So when you spray it, it swirls through the air and lingers like a gentle fog on a drizzly morning in San Francisco. so between the Oil Sheen fog, the burning hair and the smoking combs , by the afternoon I was DONE. It took everything out of me.

We had all straightened our Destiny dolls, all burned ourselves on a comb and I know for sure we had burned our mannequin heads at least once. The girl next to me, Cammy, said "Ma'am I am truly sorry about that ear. May I recommend a good plastic surgeon?"
But I got a 96%, which is better than I thought I would do in this curriculum. By biggest fear is melting or burning hair. But I find myself growing more confident working with african american hair. Now that I understand the structure of the hair and the differences between caucasuian hair and african american hair I am not as timid.

today we are finishing up our finger waves (which by the way I threw my wave comb across the room I was so frustrated) and next week it is onto ethnic chemical relaxers and perms.
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