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Reuters offends: Black women avoid daily hair washing but not due to exercise

As the Sun Times found out with the news headline "Fright 214" controversy, which the Asian American Journalist Association deemed stereotypical, oftentimes it helps to have a diverse news staff.

Head & Shoulders products are commonly used as dandruff shampoo.
Head & Shoulders products are commonly used as dandruff shampoo.Photo by Carlos Alvarez

Hopefully Reuters will take that cue when writing hair and health articles, such as "Hairstyles may keep some black women from exercise."

Granted there are definitely some hairstyles, especially for women with relaxers, that require quite a bit of maintenance after exercises such as swimming, high-intensity aerobics or Bikram yoga, the latter two of which would sweat out a perm.

But that Reuters article takes things a bit too far with the offensive line, "[Black women] may not want to wash their hair more than once a week to keep their hairstyle, and may avoid sweating because of that."

In general, especially for women who choose to use relaxer in their hair, whether black women choose to wash their hair daily, weekly or bi-weekly has nothing to do with keeping a hairstyle or sweating.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), "Let how oily your scalp is determine how often you wash your hair. If your scalp is oily, wash hair more frequently than if the scalp was drier."

Even in serious cases, such as the common skin disease seborrheic dermatitis (which may lead to seborrhea, more commonly referred to as "dandruff"), AAD suggests that white people wash their hair once or twice per week with medicated shampoo. But AAD goes on to state that black people should wash their hair once per week. American Family Physician agrees that daily shampooing for black people is not necessary for dandruff.

And for women who have chemically treated hair, which is still very common in the African-American community mainly due to relaxers, AAD continues to confirm washing hair less often: "If you have chemically treated hair, your hair may be drier, so you may want to wash it less frequently."

Web MD backs the hair-washing statement with, "The longer, thicker, curlier, and more processed your hair, the longer it can go between washes."

Black women regularly use hair oil products, such as shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil and olive oil, because of naturally thicker hair that dries out much easier than thinner or oily hair types. While some women wash their hair more because their hair types are oily, black women with thicker hair require more oil and conditioner to avoid dry scalps after using sulfate shampoos. To wash thicker hair excessively with shampoo not only makes hair even drier but may lead to hair loss regardless of how often a woman exercises.

Black women may be taking fair flack in the overweight and obesity crisis. CDC's 2011 to 2012 rates state that 56.6 percent of black women were obese compared with 37.1 percent of men, and The Chicago Community Trust reports that 62 percent of Illinois adults are overweight or obese.

But the hair debate has gotten out of hand. Fitness should be cause for concern, but the assumption that black women are vain enough to choose a hairstyle over hygiene is intolerable.

After contacting Reuters repeatedly to correct this error when the story was written, the request was denied.

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Additional Notes: Skip to 14:00 in the included HuffPost Live video to go directly to speakers discussing black women's hair and fitness.