Should Children Get Relaxers?

April 29, 2011  |  

 

I can remember a time not too long ago, when natural hair was definitely not the way to go. It was something that you needed to “press” or “perm” for it to “look right.” And you could count on one hand the number of natural haired women on TV. Fortunately, things have changed. We have many black women in the mainstream wearing and supporting natural hair. And most recently I was put on to the Dead Prez’s “The Beauty Within”- a beautiful song celebrating natural hair.

Hair is a hot topic among black women. And many times it comes in the form of the relaxed vs. natural debate. Let me go on the record with stating that I’m a natural hair woman. I am anti-relaxers. But I do not press my beliefs on black women who choose to relax their own hair. Black women are adults and can make their own hair decision. So with that aside, I’d like to turn this topic over to black children- specifically little black girls.

Lots of natural-haired women who transitioned first started getting relaxers when they were children. In fact, it’s very common for most black girls to get relaxers. I got my first relaxer in kindergarten. And just like me, many natural haired women confess that they never even knew what their natural hair looked like before they transitioned– which is pretty sad. Oftentimes parents start their daughters off with relaxers at a very young age. They will relax their child’s hair to make it “more manageable,” “socially acceptable,” or even “more attractive.” They will even make comments to their child about how relaxed hair is “better than” natural hair. And unfortunately I’ve seen so many cases where parents choosing to relax at an early age ultimately led to their little girl(s) developing issues with self-image, self-esteem, and even serious hair problems (i.e. hair loss).

While I think that grown women can do whatever they want to their hair, I personally do not believe relaxers should be used on children. Why?  My reason is threefold.

One, from a professional standpoint, I don’t think relaxers are even healthy for adults, let alone children. Remember the soda can scene in Good Hair? Two,  I think relaxing a child’s hair to make it “socially acceptable” and “attractive” will ultimately lead a little girl to reason and believe that their natural hair is something that’s “less acceptable” and not as “attractive” without some sort of chemical alteration. And three, it is my belief that the decision to relax a child’s hair is also about a lack of knowledge about natural hair care. And considering all the current advancements in hair care, like tons of wonderful natural hair products, natural hair websites, as well as natural hair salons, I think we are at the time where relaxing a child’s hair should be the rare exception and not the rule.

Little black girls really need positive reinforcement about their natural beauty. And relaxing a child’s hair at an early age, before they’ve even seen their own natural hair, and before they’ve been taught to appreciate and style their own natural hair, could ultimately lead to hair related issues later on in life. Grant it, a child may grow up and ultimately decide that she wants a relaxer. But that decision should be made only after she has been given the opportunity to develop a positive self-image through loving and appreciating her natural hair.

What are your thoughts on relaxers and little girls?

If a child/parent does want a relaxer, when do you think is the most age appropriate time to get a relaxer?

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