All About Edges!

Edges: There's nothing wrong with not slicking 'em back.
Edges. Baby hair. Hairline. There are so many ways to describe our hair's perimeter. All over hair blogs, natural and relaxed alike, there are plenty if tips and tricks to help maintain healthy edges and prevent breakage and balding. But do we really understand our edges beyond the anecdotal and experiential? Let's investigate those delicate dames on the periphery of your ponytail.

What Are Edges?
I must admit that when I first began writing this post, that very question stumped me. And apparently, it stumped the internet too. Nowhere online was I able to find a definitive source saying, "Hey, these are edges. This is what they're for, and why they exist." Nowhere. So what did I do? My own brand of research. I'm sure most of you aren't interested in the inner-workings of hair, so I'll make this short and sweet. Essentially, on the human body there are three types of hair -- vellus, terminal, and intermediate. Vellus hairs are those short (no more than a few centimeters) hairs that contain little to no pigment, like peach fuzz. Terminal hairs are pigmented, longer hairs that grow on the scalp, and other parts of the body. Intermediate hairs are just that, intermediate. They can vary in length (although are usually shorter than terminal hairs), and tend to be finer in texture and less-pigmented than terminal hairs. Through my research, I gathered that our baby hair aka edges are indeed intermediate hair. Note: someone may come along and prove me wrong -- but for now I'm going to act like I'm

What Edges Are NOT:
For the purposes of this post, it is important that we distinguish between edges and breakage. Typically, genuine edges (or intermediate hair) can appear unruly, but to some degree 'lay down' on the forehead (and often in the opposite direction of the rest of the hair). Cue: Chili from TLC.

Quite possibly more famous for her edges, than her singing...
But I digress. If you find that your baby hair is sticking straight up, or is getting progressively farther and farther away from the front of your forehead, you don't have an edge problem. You have a breakage problem. We will talk about remedies and combating breakage a little later on.

Just to review, your edges should not look anything like this:



What Is Our Fascination with Slick/Taut Edges?
Fair warning: this section is pretty much just my opinion on the matter. Much like our obsessions with relaxed hair, heat straightening, and weaves, I believe that most of us to some degree, covet the sleek look of our straight-haired counterparts.  Even for those of us that embrace our natural texture, we still want tamed edges so as to not look "unkept". The question here becomes, who determines what looks unkept and what does not? Maybe your idea of kept hair comes from your experience as a child, when your mom or granny burned your ears (and sometimes your forehead) pressing those edges so your ponytail was super slick. Take it a step further and ask yourself, where did they get their information on kept and unkept hair? If you're like me, your parents and grandparents are a product of the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's -- and are quite possibly (knowingly, or unknowingly) victims of an aggressive and centuries old Euro-Centric beauty campaign determined to deride and debase the aesthetic value of women of color. Compounding this phenomena are the methods that we as women (myself included) pursue(d) to achieve this inherently biased standard of accepted beauty -- chemical burns from perming. Heat burns from pressing combs. Hair breakage from ProStyl. Traction alopecia. The list goes on. Sometimes, the discussions about our hair need to get that deep. :::dismounts from soapbox:::

Do's and Don'ts for Edges
Up until very recently (like three weeks ago recently), I was obsessed with unnaturally slick edges via EcoStyler gel -- even calling myself out-smarting the gel's hardening tendencies by layering with coconut oil and water. But once I started using my DIY fluffy styling cream, I realized that I liked my soft, natural-looking edges much more than my taut, gelled ones. But hey, that's just me and what works for my hair. Despite my soapbox rant earlier, you still have to do what works best for you. Besides, what kind of post about edges would this be, without some do's and don'ts for your baby hurr'?

My DIY fluffy styling creme + water + satin scarf edges
  • Waxes or wax sticks (just be sure to moisturize underneath...waxes do seal hair and prevent moisture from entering. I'd hate for your edges to break off from a lack of moisture penetrating the hair)
  • Alcohol-free pomades
  • DIY fluffy styling creme + water (my personal favorite)
  • Tying a satin scarf around the perimeter of your hair for 10-15 minutes, or more
  • Slicking hair with a soft bristle brush
  • Slicking hair using any of the above products + the back side of a fine-tooth comb (I borrowed this one from back in the day when I used to get my hair hairdresser would always finesse my edges with a little bit of holding spray and the back of a rat-tail comb)
  • Drying gels or hair sprays
  • Pulling ponytails or clips too tight on the hair
  • Wearing your ponytail, bun, or pulled-back hair in the same area regularly
  • Tying a cotton scarf around the perimeter of your hair
  • Hard bristle brushes
  • Fine tooth combs
  • Extra-tight braids, cornrows, or flat twists
The Bottom Line
As we learned earlier folks, our edges are fine. They are sensitive. They can, and they will break. If there is too much trauma, you will experience breakage. Keep it up for too long, and you're looking at proximal trichorrexis nodosa (translation: weak, thinning edges with little white bumps and breakage), traction alopecia (aka no edges), and the possibility of either condition being permanent, or taking 2-4 years to reverse. I'd much rather have fuzzy or unruly edges, than none at all. How about you?

Sigh...Naomi Campbell


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  2. This is informational and comical at the same time. I didn't know there were categorizations and names for hair types but the statement ". . for now I'm going to act like I'm" and these pics of examples of edges are true, but hiliarious. Thank you! LOL

  3. Thanks....good info and again....funny!