Why Are You Straightening Your 5 Month Old’s Hair?

August 9, 2012  |  

If you’re on Facebook long enough, you’re bound to find something to pique your interests, whether it’s ratchet, enlightening, inspirational or disturbing, something will catch your attention. And today I just so happened to stumble upon a very disturbing image.

The picture, which was originally linked to a post on Green and Gorgeous , is that of a baby less than five months old, whose hair has been straightened. From the brief correspondence, we can’t tell whether this baby’s hair was relaxed, flat ironed or hot combed. But whatever method this parent used, the fact that he/she straightened a five month old’s hair, borders on a Child Protective Services violation. As Jennae Petersen of Green and Gorgeous mentioned:

… Relaxers. Freaking. Burn. I say this from years of experience that started when I was in third grade. And babies have tender, sensitive scalps, so I imagine that putting relaxer on an infant’s head for more than a minute or two would result in burning. Also? Hot combs. Freaking. Burn. I can still remember, at age 5 or 6, cringing in my aunt’s kitchen whenever the hot comb got anywhere near my neck or ears. I remember how terrible it burned when my aunt’s hands slipped. I remember the smell of my hair burning. And this is when I was old enough to sit still for the process. If a hot comb was used on this baby, do you really think she was able to sit still while it was being done?

Thankfully, the child looks fine but this business of straightening an infant’s hair was dangerous and reckless to say the least. One uncoordinated, infant-like turn, squirm or slide could have been catastrophic. This baby would have had a burn on her face or scalp, all because her parent wanted her hair straightened.

At 5 months your priorities should be eating, letting somebody know when your diaper needs to be changed, trying to get people to pick you up, growing, playing and sleeping. That’s really about it. A 5 month old just shouldn’t have to sit through a hair straightening session.

Maybe the hair straightening was just the action of a bored parent–which is a whole other problem. But most likely, the straightening of this hair was trying to achieve some type of beauty standard. In which case, I fear that type of messages this girl will receive as she starts to further process the actions of her guardians. Before this infant was able to speak, walk or feed herself, her parent has told her that her hair is a priority and must be straightened, even at the endangerment of her safety.

For the record, I’m natural and I fully believe in health benefits of forgoing the use of texture-altering chemicals. However, I also believe, wholeheartedly, that a woman, or even young lady, should be able to choose how she’s going to wear her hair. As a child who had a relaxer at 5 years old, I wasn’t given that choice. It didn’t matter at all at five. But at 18, when I decided to cut the perm out of my hair, I wondered how my hair experiences would have been different if I’d never had a perm. Would I have learned how to swim? Would I have had to worry about breakage? Who knows, but if drastic hair decisions like whether or not to apply a relaxer had waited until I was old enough and mature enough to make them, perhaps I would have chosen something different. And that’s an opportunity I fear this parent is robbing this baby of already, at five months.

Some will argue that this is just hair and really not that deep. That’s partially true, hair itself is not that deep but the way we feel about our hair–whether it grows from our scalp, someone else’s or is manufactured in a lab–and how our hair makes us feel about ourselves is very important. It’s is a form of self expression, a source of beauty and for a lot of women, a form of self acceptance. Hopefully, these parent(s) aren’t teaching their daughter to devalue her hair, as it grows out of her scalp before she learns that as a baby, girl and woman, she’s so much more than that.

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