One of the most annoying questions I was ever asked was "Why do you (i.e. black people) need to have different products anyway? Why can't everyone just use the same products?" - what was annoying wasn't the questions itself but the fact that the person didn't even let me answer. They just continued talking and every time I interjected with "Can I answer your question?" They just talked over me and ignored me. I was still annoyed about 2 months after the incident! I know, that's ridiculous - other people's stupidity should never impact one's emotions like that.
Anyhow, if you cut through the hair strand of someone with naturally straight hair you would find that the cross-section is round. Curly hair on the other hand has a flattened oval or elliptical cross section, this however is only one difference. It is the feature that gives our hair it's very curly shape.
In addition, African/African-American hair:
The fewer the number of layer the more chemicals can be used to change the hair - so a person with a 7-layer cuticle will take chemicals more easily than a person with an 11-layer cuticle; remember those people who complain that their hair just doesn't take relaxer? They probably have a thicker cuticle layer.
That said, flatter (elliptical) hair strands are easier to treat with chemicals so black hair may ultimately be easier to chemically manipulate.
In summary, besides the curl that you see, different hair types have varied structural and chemical features that impact how products work with the hair. This is why different hair types needs slightly different products.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I was a natural hair blogger and mixtress living between London & Chicago from 2012 to 2017. I always thought I was 4C but some say 4B; images below - you decide! Heather xx