By: Arti Patel
“Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?”
This was the question that inspired actor Chris Rock to release the documentary Good Hair. The documentary takes a deeper look into the hair product industry aimed at African-American women and how these woman are constantly being pressured to have “good hair.”
Rock interviews major industry women including artist Eve, actress Raven and Nia Long. While all women have different reasons for their personal haircare, Rock strives to answer the tougher questions as to why women spend thousands of dollars for hair pieces and what are the bigger costs behind that hair.
“Creamy-crack” for sale
The first part of the film breaks into the relaxer industry and its origin. The main ingredient of a relaxer is sodium hydroxide and Rock experiments to find out exactly what damage a relaxer can cause. He visits a scientist who has three cans of pop dipped in sodium hydroxide. After four hours, the can is almost gone, as Rock tries to show exactly why so many African-American women and men feel “the burn of the perm.”
For young girls, the burn may just hurt more. Rock finds hair stylists and mothers who have their young daughters have perms as early as the age of three. This process would not only help young girls fit in among “other hair styles” but also normalize the motto that, “everyone is supposed to have a perm.”
Diamonds better watch out, there’s a new friend in town
Rock puts his money where his mouth is. He introduces the weave industry or the “graduation of the wig,” which makes millions of dollars every year alone in the United States. Just one piece of weave can have a price tag from anywhere from $1000 to even $5000.
For these weave-wearing women, Rock’s interviewees describe this as a social movement. At a time, having weave was almost a secret. It was most seen when “white women would ask black women how their hair grew so long overnight.” Today, it’s nothing in that nature. Women talk to one another, share their dealers and stylists and always ask one another that one question: “Where did you get your weave?”
India’s hair market
But where does this weave hair actually come from?
Human hair is India’s largest export, but their is a spiritual path Indian women take to shave their heads. The process of sacrificing one’s hair to God is called tonsuring and 85 per cent of both men and women in India have had their heads shaved for religious reasons. A journey that may be seen as a way to get closer to religion and God is cut short as sacrificed hair becomes shipped to Los Angles to become a profit.
There is both the manufacturing companies that collect, groom and export human hair and then there is the black market in India, where women are victims to this idea that gold equals hair. Rock interviews a man who is involved in hair-selling black market and asks him how he collects hair. Cutting a woman’s hair while she sleeps or watches a movie is the most popular. The “I Am Legend to I Am Bald” notion is more valuable for the industry and woman are being “scalped” for their hair, not even knowing which celebrity wears it next.
Ugly truth about the beauty industry
The hair business is a cut throat one. Good Hair both educates and pokes fun at an industry that so many people sweep away. When he is not comparing the burning sensation of a relaxer to giving birth or getting shot in the face, Rock wants his audience to know that “good hair can put you in the poor house and if you’re not careful, it can burn down your house.”