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Rachel Charlene Lewis
August 12, 2016 4:14 pm

In news that may come as a surprise to those outside of the black community, it’s official: Black teens avoid exercise because they don’t want to sweat out their hair. The study, published in BMC Obesity, reinforces once again the danger of racist, white beauty standards on the self confidence of black kids and young adults.

Dr. Susan Woolford, M.D., wanted to look into the exercise habits of black teens because of higher rates of obesity among black teens than white teens.

The study, conducted by Dr. Woolford, a childhood obesity expert and black woman, surveyed 36 black girls ages 14 to 17 in three states and found that black girls wanted to protect their straightened hairstyles, resulting in their not working out.

It’s so important that Dr. Woolford is doing this important research, especially as a black woman, because she’s able to bring cultural understanding to the situation in a way that positively impacts her ability to understand her research in context.

Exercise impacts black hairstyles in a big way.

Because you’re obviously sweating, the moisture can take down even the straightest of hairstyles.

While white girls flock to the gym without concern about their hair, black girls live in a different world when it comes to how natural hair is viewed and critiqued.

And a whole lotta work goes into getting black hair straight.

It isn’t easy at all to straighten black hair, so these girls are willing to make sacrifices.

From blow dryers and flat irons, to hot combs and relaxers, many black girls put major effort (and huge amounts of money) into getting their hair straight and keeping that way. In a world where girls — but especially black girls — are taught that beauty is everything, health and fitness is tossed to the wayside in favor of living up to ridiculously harsh, racist beauty standards.

At the end of the day, it’s of course up to black teens to decide for themselves if relaxing their hair is the right move for them. But it’s important that we examine this common decision in context, and recognize the role our society plays in making black girls feel like it’s better to protect their hair at all costs than to exercise.

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