As growing up braids using attachments, relaxers and weaves were not part of my day-to-day life at all. My mum was extremely patient and care for our hair every time until I was about 10 because by then she trusted me to do it myself (with limitations though I was not allowed to leave it anyway I wanted). By 10 years old I was responsible to braid my own hair every 2 to 3 weeks (yeah I already knew how to do it!) and nothing else! I actually give thanks now to my mum to not allow me to be exposed to chemicals or be a victim of traction alopecia. When I first started watching videos on YouTube and found natural hair journey videos some ladies and girls (meaning underage) mentioning they had a relaxer since they were 3 years old! I was shocked because even though I did not really knew by that time how relaxers are powerful chemicals I knew any type of chemical couldn’t be any good at all especially at such young age. Well I still won’t judge anyone for their choices as each individual deserves their own individuality but children should be allowed to grow healthy and not be forced to relax their hair due to parents not knowing how to care for it. That’s where we natural hair bloggers come in.
The origins of “bad hair”
Society makes us believe that kinkier textures are “bad hair” and this is mostly due to what happened in the past when ignorance and lack of knowledge led nations to judge and portray negatively our hair! Since slavery times that they tried to cover our shine by inventing different types of laws. There was this law in Louisiana, United States in the 19th century which was known as the Tignon laws which forced dark skinned women, creoles and mixed race to wear a turban style wrap on their head when outside or working inside their “owner’s” house to avoid them outshining their caucasian counterparts as they wore intricate hairstyles which caused jealousy among caucasian women and a lot of attention from their men. Even though head wraps were from old time part of blacks culture here they were used in a negative way. There was also laws which permitted a caucasian woman to order any of her non-caucasian maids to shave their heads if their hair was seen as more beautiful and attractive than their caucasian female “owner”. All this brain wash caused most of the slave descendents living outside their land to forget many of their own culture and habits including how to care for their hair (bet they didn’t even had the time to think about such things). Also contributed to a growth of negative complexes on the appearance of their hair and skin as all the bullying made them (us) believe that they were inferior or “unpretty” which is actually far from the true! This later led to the invention of relaxers which contain caustic soda/sodium hydroxide known as lye as the main ingredient. In case you didn’t know sodium hydroxide is a highly alkaline substance which when active can melt almost anything including your disulphide hair bonds turning it straight! (be aware that caustic soda is also used in soap making but is not harmful as it is all used up in the chemical reaction with oils as long as it follow the right guidelines)
How relaxers really work
Relaxers, whether with or without lye, have a very high pH (very near the top of the scale). In other words, they are caustic. Relaxers break the hair down. Relaxers work because they break the bonds that actually give strength to the hair. This causes the hair to straighten. Therefore, relaxed hair is, by definition, weaker than natural hair. Relaxers also deplete the hair of sebum (the oil your scalp secretes). Combine that with heat and you can really end up with a problem. Hair that has been straightened will be weaker than if it were natural and will be more prone to problems.- Toxins in cosmetics Health Effects of Hair relaxers at www.mtholyoke.edu.
My experience with relaxers and weaves
Yes ladies this is no joke relaxers work by making your hair weaker full stop. If you are lucky to have thick hair strands you might escape some of the problems such as breakage and actually manage to grow healthy relaxed hair, but for some of us this is just impossible. My experience with relaxers was not good at all. I have very kinky, curly hair with thin/fine strands and high porosity so retaining length is already harder naturally imagine relaxed! My mom texturized my hair once when I was 14 for a event but did not keep up retouching because she felt it was damaging my hair (she and me did not know about all these relaxer effects on hair yet, all conclusions were taken due to what we saw). Two years passed by and I was bored with my hair so I begged her to relax it, this time for real and it was disastrous. I already did not know how to care for it when natural (did not moisturise frequently because I was taught water could damage your hair and other mistakes).
16 years old me
I took almost a year to recognise the breakage and used to blow dry my hair at the salon I was an apprentice at the time and retouched my roots once during this time. I did not retouched more often because I used to do braid-outs and did not felt the urge to retouch all the time. After a while I started to experience extreme breakage so I never retouched again started braiding my own hair as I did previously and let it grow out unconsciously. One day decided to cut of the ends because they were so different from my natural texture (my mum almost killed me that day, long hair on women is greatly appreciated in our culture). Later when I was 19 I was firstly introduced to weaves and thought this was the solution for all my hair issues because I basically could forget about my real hair and cover it with an always perfect artificial sewn wig… But I was wrong! I even texturized my hair to blend with the weaves textures better. This worked well for a while and my hair grew a lot but NO EDGES (I’ll say it again: NO EDGES!) when I noticed my already not that strong hairline was disappearing I had to stop. Don’t get me wrong I think weaves are a good protective style as long as they are not damaging your hair and you are not using them as an escape to mask yourself because you do not feel confident enough to use your real hair. We have to start teaching people that kinkier hair textures are acceptable, beautiful and manageable you just have to learn how to do it.
My weave to transitioning to natural hair experience in pictures
Here are some more pictures of people who use weaves and/or relaxers regularly.
All of these women who use weave/relaxers all the time have some type of alopecia chemical or traction (even braids if too tight can cause this). Chemical alopecia caused by relaxers and traction alopecia weaves from pulling and suffocating hair for long periods of time. So here is the evidence relaxers and weaves actually damage hair. There are studies with evidence that relaxers can actually cause fibroids on the uterus and that it can have other health effects on women.