After 10 years of relaxing my hair I decided to stop. The caustic chemicals in relaxers would often burn my scalp and yet I continued to use them for such a long time. Why?
There is a huge social pressure on black women in particular to wear their hair straight whether by relaxing or hair extensions. In our society long straight hair is seen as the ideal which most woman black or otherwise strive for. Afro hair is the complete opposite and is often regarded as being difficult and unmanageable. There is a concept of having "good hair" or "bad hair", "good hair" having a looser texture whereas "bad hair" is coarser and very tightly coiled and therefore less desirable. With these negative connotations and the ideals set by society we see younger and younger girls, sometimes as young as 5 and 6 years old relaxing their hair. Would you dye a child's hair at that age? Probably not. So why will some mothers allow these harsh chemical, potentially carcinogen chemicals to come into contact with their child's skin?
It's very rare these day to find a black women who has never chemically processed her hair at least once in her life. Go in to a room of black women and you'll be hard pushed to find someone wearing their hair naturally. So you'd think that there must be something to gain from relaxing simply due to its popularity. A major advantage to undergoing this caustic process, well not really. In fact, relaxers severely weaken the hair as well as a substantial loss of elasticity . Relaxed hair is prone to breakage, so much so that some women will see very little hair growth year after year.
Although I choose not to relax my hair any longer, I have nothing against women who choose to relax their hair. I am concern that women use them because they feel it's the only way they can deal with their natural hair and also when women continue to relax despite being burnt time after time after time.
Today there is more information available than ever about how to deal with natural hair. Certain methods and products we once used haven't been doing us any good. Whether relaxed or natural these tips will help keep your hair as healthy as possible.
- Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulphate in shampoos. This harsh detergent is very drying something we don't need.
- Avoid mineral oil. It clogs pores on the scalp inhibiting growth and dries out hair by creating a barrier on the hair shaft. Ironically mineral oil is found in most of the products aimed at afro/relaxed hair. Also look out for petrolatum, paraffin liquidum. Natural vegetable oils and butter are far superior and also contain nourishing vitamins.
- Only comb hair when it soaking wet and saturated with conditioner (natural hair only). Combing dry hair will cause breakage and frizzing. Start from the end and work up to the root. And be gentle!
- You don't need to "grease" your scalp. The scalp is just skin and using traditional mineral oil containing hair oils can block pores.
- Wet you hair often. Contrary to popular belief water is your best friend and is the only way to moisturise the hair. You cannot moisturise you hair with oil alone! I recommend washing at least once a week, with just wetting and conditioning in between.
"Take the kinks out of your mind, not out of your hair" Marcus Garvey