History of the Hot Comb

I remember being a kid and having my Mom wash, detangle and blow dry my hair to prep me for my “special occasion” straightening.  She would take me to Ms. Biggins’ house, a kitchen beautician that could get the kinkiest hair silky straight with her hot combs.  I must admit, those weren’t my favorite moments but I did love the way my hair would shine and swang when it was all said and done.  Those are the memories that came to mind as I sat down to pen…well…type this piece on the history of hot combs.

Photo provided by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_comb

Many people including myself have believed or assumed at one point in time that Madam CJ Walker invented the hot comb. However, the first known hot comb was actually designed for curly Mademoiselles in France attempting to achieve the super straight and sleek look of Egyptian women in 1845[i]. Fast forward to the early 1900s when an African-American woman, Annie Turnbo Pope Malone obtains the first US patent for the hot comb.  The hot comb was simply one of the ways Ms. Malone sought to improve the hair straightening practices and techniques used by African-Americans at the time.  She studied hair textures for nearly a decade before developing her own line of products that were later marketed and sold door to door by trained saleswomen, one of which was Madam CJ Walker[ii].  Walker later followed in the footsteps of Malone by creating her own line of hair care products and improving upon the design of the hot combi.  Both women became millionaires through the marketing of hair products and beauty techniques.

Photo provided by http://shinebeautyculture.blogspot.com/2009/02/annie-malone-millionairess-hot-comb.html

Although today many women debate about the dangers of heat straightening, the invention of the hot comb was actually a safer option for most women in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Prior to its development, black women would slather their hair with oils and iron the hair straight, YIKES[iii]! This, as one could imagine, caused damage to both the hair and the scalp. The hot comb helped provide a more controlled method for straightening afro textured hair at the time.

The amazing thing about this tool is that it is still used today. Many women find it’s straightening abilities to be superior to the modern-day flat irons.  Regardless of any personal views on heat styling or hair straightening, this beauty tool is an important part of the African-American hair history and helped revolutionize hair practices in our community.

Did you read The History of African-American Hair (in it’s Natural State)?

Photo provided by http://naturalsunshine.ning.com/profiles/blogs/how-many-remember-the-sizzling-sound-of-the-hot-comb

[i] Hot Combs. (n.d.). Retrieved Januray 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_comb

[ii] Annie Malone, Millionairess & Hot Comb Inventor. (2009, Feburary 1). Retrieved January 2011, from http://shinebeautyculture.blogspot.com/2009/02/annie-malone-millionairess-hot-comb.html

[iii] Sherrow, V. (2006). Hair Straightening. In V. Sherrow, Encyclopedia of Hair: a cultural history (p. 186). Westport: Greenwood Press.


Uniqoze, SWB Blogger

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SistersWithBeauty® was established for the woman who embodies her own definition of natural hair beauty. This blog post was written by a SistersWithBeauty guest.

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  • Jwanzer18

    Friend….I can definitely say that I don’t miss my hot comb days. At the time I loved how getting my hair straightened looked…but hated the process. And luckily it wasnt something my mother did often. Great article….I never even knew who the actual inventor of the hot comb was. I guess I learned today…..lol

    • Anonymous

      Uneshia always does a great job…:) and yes the Hot comb..RIP..LMBO

  • Ayana McClain

    The hot comb was always good to me :) I have 2 at home now. :) My daughter does sometimes request for her hair to be straightened and while the flat iron sometimes seems quicker to me… I dont mind reverting to the pressong comb.  Luckily it is not to often either way, but those were some good kitchen moments.. When myself, my aunt, and my cousinns would be in the kitchen waiting our turn to get that hair pressed

    • Anonymous

      yes..the kitchen line..lmbo..memories

  • http://www.facebook.com/DYMONDPRINCESS215 Intisar Martin

    i am showing my daughter how I used to get my hair done, she be complaining about the Chi’s I remember having to wait for the irion to cool off and jumping before the comb touched my head…Holding my ear was the totrure I dont even put her through…she don’t know how blessed she is…causeI remember hearing my aunt blowing the comb and patting the paper towel, and I still got burn marks on my neck to this day lol…and she be crying about the lil bit of heat she feel. I dont even use grease…Now that was the stuff that made ya nose run and ya feet wiggle before the comb ever got to ya head…these kids today got it easy…

    • http://www.sisterswithbeauty.com/ SistersWithBeauty

      Yes Butterfly Intisar..:) The kids of today have no idea what it really meant to feel the steam..:) Happy to know you are keeping her well informed.. Butterflies UP!! thanks so much for reading and commenting. Be sure to share SWB with all the Butterflies you know.



    • http://www.sisterswithbeauty.com/ SistersWithBeauty

      …:) Thanks so much for reading.. and the picture made us chuckle too. All the memories came rushing back..:) Butterflies UP