All Articles Tagged "relaxers"
It Wasn’t The Perm, It Was Me: How I Figured Out My Hair Was A Broken Hot Mess Because Of MY Actions–Or Lack Thereof
Me and this hair of mine have been on a mighty bumpy ride over the years. As I’ve written about before, I’ve been on a loc journey for almost 10 months and the whole experience has been eye opening, frustrating at times, but definitely worth it. To see what my hair is capable of doing without me meddling in its growth is captivating to me, and after years of doing too much and too little to my hair, I’ve realized that locs are perfect for me. Why? Well, in these early stages, aside from retwisting a few fuzzy locs, when I get up in the morning, I don’t have to do much at all anymore. And that makes me happy, because I can be extremely lazy. And I think it was that laziness that was the downfall of my hair for all these years that it was struggling to grow past my shoulders.
I’ve been natural for almost two years now, and before then, I had put every form of chemical in my head that you could think of: regular relaxers, texturizers, permanent hair color, etc. Tell people that I was using that creamy crack like that these days and they’ll be sure to give me the boo boo face and point out all the negative things it allegedly did to my hair. And by all accounts, while shiny and straight, my hair was struggling. Hair at the nape of my neck was broken, my hair wouldn’t grow past a certain point (once again, my shoulders), it was often dry, and I was shedding like a dog just trying to figure out a hairstyle. But when I look back on the tiring experience of trying to keep a relaxer in my hair consistently and trying to keep my hair in tact after the fact, I honestly believe that the reason my hair was broke, busted and disgusted was because of my own lack of serious maintenance to it.
While having a discussion about hair with my coworkers just this morning, I reminisced about my many bad hair days and I noticed that the ongoing trend in each of my hair stories would be that I was doing too much or too little to my locks. Let me keep it real: After a week of rocking freshly relaxed hair, I would wear a ponytail damn near five days out of the week. The ponytail might have stopped at a different place (higher when I was trying to be cute, lower when I was just trying to get out the house on time, to the side when I was doing THE most), but it was strapped tight on my head and covered in half a tub of Pro Styl brown gel. If I was trying to do something different, I would wet my hair and then put gel on it to play like I had wavy locks. I would have those ponytails in so tight that they would leave a ferocious dent in my hair every night. And even though my mother consistently warned me that the continuous ponytail look would be the death of my hair, I had no time (in my opinion) to try anything more elaborate.
When I did try to jazz things up, I just made things worse. During my early years of high school I was single-handedly trying to bring the flip curl back, so every morning I was in the bathroom, curling iron on FLAME as far as temperature, curling the end of my hair, and throwing some bangs in the front. To top it all off (and break it all off too), I would spray some holding spray on my head and hit the streets. I had every kind of high powered curling iron, flat iron, crinkle iron and more, and every morning I could smell my hair burning as I rolled it around the barrel. Healthy head of hair? Anything but.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, not only were the relaxers I put in my head not done consistently, as in every six weeks (child please, I relaxed my hair three times a year, maybe four if I had some extra money), but I would often do nothing to protect my hair at night. When I wasn’t rolling around with my bare hair falling out on a cotton pillow, I was putting on a gel-stained cotton bandana that was doing just as much damage. I barely knew how to wrap my hair, and when I was feeling really lazy and didn’t want to figure out what direction I would wrap my hair in, I would just put a few rollers on it and hit the sack (of course they wouldn’t stay in).
As you can see people, when it came to my hair, I was living foul.
When I think back on all those years of gel, and spray, and heat, and deadly ponytails, I was doing more damage to my hair than any perm could really do. Half of the battle to healthy hair is maintenance, and mine consisted of Blue Magic and hoping for the best. I was doing length checks for hair I was half -a**ed taking care of, but expecting better and longer results. Honestly, the last time my relaxed hair was done and done well was by the hands of my mother waaay back when, and I can attest to the fact that when she was taking care of it for all those years before I got experimental and then bored, my hair was draping–and healthy. I cared so little about my hair as I grew up that it was no wonder I didn’t mind when I made the decision to cut it all off and start over.
I could sit here, and others can sit here and bash relaxers for days based on their personal experiences, but sometimes you have to be honest with yourself about the part you actually play in the damage that’s done to your head. It’s very possible to have long and luscious relaxed hair, but it takes more effort than walking out of the salon and hoping the layers and neat-ness of it all will stay in place for more than just a week. The beautician can’t do it all. And at the time, I wasn’t ready nor willing to put in the effort necessary. But after years of watching my hair struggle, I decided to stop hoping my hair would work itself out on its own and actually decided to do right by it. I’m a reformed hair slacker, and while my hair isn’t perfect, it’s in a MUCH better place than it used to be. *whips locs*
During a recent trip to the hair salon, my new stylist, who happened to be white, asked about my ethnicity. When I told her I’m black and Italian, she said, “Your hair’s beautiful. You must get this from your Italian side.” Picture my face falling to the ground.
Last month, a white woman who shall remain nameless because I have to see her regularly commented that she liked my hair. That seemed innocent enough, until she said it was nice because it wasn’t “too kinky.” Excuse me?
A few weeks prior, a black man I met at a club said he knew I had “something besides black in me” because I’ve “got that good hair.” Black relatives and friends have proudly used the “good hair” phrase to describe their own hair as well as mine, apparently unaware they have bought into white supremacy in the process.
On the flip side, some people have suggested that I get a relaxer or a Keratin treatment, as if coiled hair is a disease that only harsh chemicals can cure. I stopped relaxing my hair when I was 16 and have no plans to relax it again. I like my hair in its natural state; I enjoy wearing it curly, blow-dried straight or twisted in rope-like strands depending on my mood and the occasion.
But just last week I spoke with a woman who, despite clear indications that I was happy sans chemicals, and despite the fact that I did not ask for her advice, insisted that relaxers have improved since I last used them and I could probably find a mild one that would work well on my hair. Work well to accomplish what? Help me conform to her warped standard of beauty?
Generally, I don’t think these people are trying to be malicious. I just think they’ve been mentally programmed to believe that whiteness – in all its manifestations — is superior, and these ideas are so deeply engrained in their psyche that they are no longer questioned or even acknowledged.
Many people don’t realize that when they use the term “good hair,” they’re essentially saying that black hair is bad. They don’t grasp that if beautiful hair “must come from my Italian side,” the implication is that my black ancestry could only produce ugliness. They don’t reflect on why they prefer hair that isn’t “too kinky” and why they can’t see coiled hair without suggesting some sort of chemical treatment to straighten it. They’ve simply become brainwashed by a society busy sending messages in both subtle and glaring terms that white is right.
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The road to natural hair is paved with good intentions. The joy of not being a slave to routine chemical processing and heat styling certainly is alluring for many. Many natural hair divas will tell you they find there’s more freedom and versatility in styling hair in its natural state. There are many more positive reasons for going natural; it all depends on who you ask.
I went natural for all those reasons three years ago, ready to embrace my natural coils and free up my schedule and budget in the process. Unlike many other naturalistas, I didn’t do the “big chop” (or BC as it is called in the natural hair community). I just let the relaxer grow out, relying on weaves and blowouts during the transition phase. When the relaxed hair finally grew out, I tried out a few low-maintenance natural hair styles, but was disappointed that I didn’t have the length or the talent to recreate all the fabulously luscious styles I saw the natural hair divas on YouTube rocking.
One attempt at a two-strand twist turned into a messy four-hour ordeal that left me with disastrous results. I followed the directions on the curling product jar to a T, or so I thought. The end result was a frizzy, tangled mess that looked like the ‘before’ picture in a hair product ad. Talk about an epic fail. I felt as if I had let my natural hair sisters down. I was losing hope.
Impatient and indecisive about the direction I wanted to take with my hair, I weaved it up for a couple of months while I decided what my next style move would be. After the weave I thought I would get a blowout for a couple of weeks, mainly to check my hair growth. There was only one place I would go for my blowout; the place where dreams were born and legends were made. Several of my natural hair girlfriends went to the same Dominican salon and their hair looked healthy, flawless and fabulous. I didn’t need much convincing or an appointment for that matter. So to the Dominican salon I went.
I had heard horror stories about the excruciating heat you’re subjected to at the Dominican salon. Someone told me about her one and only experience at a Dominican salon, complete with amusing re-enactments of weeping and gnashing of teeth. She made it sound like it was hell fire and damnation. But I had so many other friends who went to these salons and had great experiences and hair to prove it. I decided I would go through the experience just one time to check my growth and wear my hair in a different style for a couple of weeks.
The stylists at the Dominican salon were wonderful. They welcomed me into the Sisterhood of the Fabulously Flowing Blowouts with open arms. Literally. When I walked into the salon, I was greeted with a hug and immediately ushered back to the spa-like shampoo room. I walked past rows of women under dryers with what looked like ear muffs on their ears. Ladies in the stylist chairs getting their hair blown out didn’t seem to be in tears or crying out in pain. All I knew was that I wanted to get the same flowing end-results they were getting.
When it was my turn to meet the hair dryer, it was hotter than I would have preferred, but it didn’t kill me. All I knew was that 45 minutes after I walked into the Dominican salon with my tightly coiled afro, I was leaving with a sleek, bouncy chin-length bob. I was now a member of the Sisterhood of the Fabulously Flowing Blowouts.
Fast-forward three months later. My visits every two to three weeks were starting to take a toll on my hair. I started noticing hair breaking off around my temples and along my hairline. The strain of the heat was beginning to show. No amount of sisterhood hugs could erase the fact that I was losing the natural hair I had spent more than two years to grow. As much as I hated to admit it, I had to leave the sisterhood.
When it comes to Dominican salons, I can say I’ve been there and done that. I’m not knocking the experience though. I have countless family members and friends who have been going to Dominican salons for years, and their hair is so sleek and healthy you’d think they had perms. I just know that it’s not for me. It’s been almost three months since my last visit to the Dominican salon, and I’m starting to see a little evidence of growth around my edges. Maybe after all I put it through, my hair has forgiven me.
This article is for you if you’ve thought or said the following things:
“I have a child with a head full of hair and I don’t know what to do with it!”
“Oh baby, my child’s hair looks nothing like mine, what do I do?”
“Oh baby, my child’s hair is so dry/fine/curly/kinky/thick, I’m just trying to figure out how to keep it healthy!”
Are you a parent who is struggling to figure out how to deal with your child’s hair because they don’t have a similar texture to your own? You’ve mastered the art of your hair and then your bundle of joy comes into the world with a beautiful head of hair that you just can’t figure out. Or maybe you always go to the salon to care for your hair and it’s not a good idea to try and convince your two-year-old to sit still to get their hair done at the salon too. It’s a common problem that plenty of parents face, but I’m here to ease the struggle.
By Jessica Dufresne
It’s the never-ending black hair debate: which is a safer option, natural or relaxed? Too often, relaxing gets the shaft, mainly because of the age-old assumption that it’s too damaging. (The moral arguments are a whole other topic.) In reality, the only times when relaxing is bad is when it’s not applied correctly, done too often, or you’re simply not taking care of your hair. Contrary to popular belief, you can have perfectly healthy, strong hair with a perm—as long as you know what and what not to do.
Why not relax?
So is it actually possible to have healthy locks despite perming? “Absolutely,” says celebrity hair stylist Tippi Shorter. “It is a chemical that alters the natural structure of your hair, but there is most certainly such a thing as healthy relaxed hair if you’re using it properly.” Shorter, who works on the healthy manes of Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Jada Pinkett-Smith, among others, says any damage experienced is due to “over-relaxing, using products that are too harsh on the hair, and trying to get an unrealistic finish.”
Just like Shorter, hair stylist Winston Scully, a 22-year hair industry veteran and owner of Hair Vibes salon in New York, contends that when it comes to relaxers, it’s all about the process. In fact, he says what causes damage is when a relaxer is left too long on the hair. Its active ingredient, lye (which comes in the form of different types of hydroxides: sodium, calcium, etc) has—as we all know—the power to break down any substance (remember the scene in Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, where the soda can melts?)—but that’s only if it’s allowed to sit for an extended period of time. So as long as your perm is washed out when it’s supposed to be, you won’t have to worry about your hair melting off your scalp.
When you do decide to perm, it doesn’t pay to shop around or to assume you know which one to use. Shorter says just like all hair types are not equal, neither are all relaxers. “There are brands that I favor because they contain way more essential oils, they’re gentler, they don’t smell, they don’t irritate the scalp, they have a no-lye version, a sensitive-scalp version, or are compatible with hair color.”
According to Scully, while all relaxers contain a type of lye (the chemical that breaks down the curls), the conditioning agent is what separates the Hawaiian Silkys of the world from the Mizanis. “[when deciding which perm to use] I’m looking for one that contains the conditioning agent that is going to be beneficial to the individual’s hair.”
And how do stylists know which is best for you? Both Shorter and Scully agree that’s determined by careful examination of the hair and by experience. That said, both also discourage women from doing home perms. “I’ve seen so many horror stories,” says Shorter. “I know times are tough financially, but it’s hard for me to recommend or suggest someone to do it.” However, she does concede that if self-perming is a woman’s only option, “ I will try and steer [her] the best way possible.”
Time heals all damage
Overprocessing occurs when a relaxer is applied onto already-straightened hair—so it’s imperative to wait before touching up, or risk damage (and in case you think going natural will solve that problem, Shorter and Scully beg to differ). When you visit a new hairdresser, make sure it’s been at least six weeks since your last touch-up. The exact time to wait will depend on your texture and cut, as some women can go as long as 12 weeks in between touch-ups, while others may need them as frequently as every two weeks. Keep in mind that a good hair stylist will not perm your hair if you don’t need it (no matter how much you think you do).
Keep it tight
Regardless of whether or not your hair is chemically treated, the same maintenance rules apply: regular deep conditioning; trims every six to eight weeks; moisturizing your scalp; and even the right kind of roller set. A good set will leave you with a bunch of rollers on your head, as opposed to a few, which occurs when there’s too much hair per curler (and that volume, says Scully, causes stress on the hair). And, of course, your nightly habits matter: wrapping or roller setting and wearing a silk scarf are highly recommended.
How you choose to wear your hair doesn’t speak to the type of person you are, but how you take care of it does. You can use a relaxer for most or all of your life and, if it’s done right, it won’t cause any damage to your health or hair. The bottom line is there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with chemically straightening your hair, and it’s not a question of being addicted to “creamy crack;” if something works for you and doesn’t jeopardize your well-being, stick with it. There’s an old saying that everything ain’t for everybody and the same applies to hair.
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A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology definitely adds a point to the #TeamNatural tally with a published paper from researchers at Boston University linking hair relaxers to uterine fibroid tumors in women and early puberty in young girls.
Led by Lauren Wise of Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the two- to three-times higher rate of fibroids among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers.
Women who got their first menstrual period before the age of 10 were also more likely to have uterine fibroids, and early menstruation may result from hair products black girls are using, according to a separate study published in the Annals of Epidemiology last summer. Three hundred African American, African Caribbean, Hispanic, and White women in New York City were studied. The women’s first menstrual period (menarche) varied anywhere from age 8 to age 19, but African Americans, who were more likely to use straightening and relaxers hair oils, also reached menarche earlier than other racial/ethnic groups.
While so far, there is only an association rather than a cause and effect relationship between relaxers, menarche, and fibroid tumors, as Tamika Fletcher, co-owner of Natural Resources salon in Houston, pointed out in a Fox report, the hair care industry isn’t regulated by the FDA so there’s no telling what black women are putting in their hair and how harmful those products may be.
These studies go way beyond the damaging effects chemical relaxers may have on one’s hair, women and girls may be damaging their reproductive systems with some of the hair products they use, making it even more critical to know exactly what you’re putting in your hair and in your body.
How do you research the hair products you use and make sure their safe?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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There’s a lot of talk about over-processed relaxed hair, but under-processed hair also poses a problem for women with relaxed hair (especially those who prefer the bone straight look). Under-processed hair is easily straightened with a flat iron but very noticeable when your hair is wet or dry; and if you’re one of those women who obsesses over your hair, the lack of uniformity will irk you, and the damage under-processed hair can cause will have you a bit worried as well. But don’t fret. Here are a few tips to help you identify under-processed hair, find out what causes it, and to do something about it.
How to Spot Under-Processed Hair
- The under-processed parts will have a looser curl or wave similar to the results that a texlaxer would give.
- Your hair dries frizzy.
- You may notice more tangling in those areas.
- It will feel drier and more brittle than the rest of your hair.
- It will revert when water or water-based products are used.
Causes of Under-Processed Hair
- Using a weaker relaxer for your hair type.
- Rinsing your relaxer out way too early.
- Not smoothing the relaxer through your new growth.
- Coating your hair with too much product before you relax.
- Changing the relaxer you normally use.
How to Correct It
Attempting to do a corrective relaxer yourself can result in you over-processing parts of your hair that were perfectly fine. Now, if it’s just a little patch of hair in the front that needs correcting, that can easily be done at home. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case.
I highly recommend consulting a professional stylist that you trust to aid in the process. Before you schedule your appointment, meet with your stylist to show him/her the specific parts that are under-processed so they will know what they are working with. The goal is to get all your strands in sync with each other to prevent unnecessary breakage, and at the end of the day, everyone should be happy–especially your hair.
Have you ever had under-processed hair and had to go through the corrective relaxer process? What was the outcome?
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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.
Weaves, wigs and extensions are all the rave with women- especially black women. They’re great on one hand, because they can be used for protective styling while letting you maintain an incredibly fabulous look. But on the other hand, if worn incorrectly, they can (1) make you look a hot mess while (2) slowly but surely balding you in the process.
Last week I read an article in The Grio about a recent study that concluded very tight weaving is linked to a permanent type of hair loss that affects black women. The clinical term is central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, which means “scarring hair loss.” It is something that occurs only in black women. And to date, there is no treatment for it.
As a doctor, I wasn’t surprised by this recent study. I’ve shared this information about weaves with family and friends for years. Prolonged pulling at hair strands, which primarily happens when wearing tight weaves/wigs, causes scalp inflammation, hair breakage, and ultimately balding. And if going bald wasn’t bad enough, black women also add insult to injury when we rock hair pieces that also look a hot mess because we choose not to pay attention to important things like styling, maintenance and hair hygiene. We’ve all seen those ratty, bird nest-looking weaves and wigs. Not a good look.
Weaves, wigs and extensions are not just something you should slap on your head without much forethought, care, or even precaution. A lot can go wrong if you do. But does this mean that you can’t rock a fierce weave, wig or hair extensions? No- of course you can! But if you do, you have to pay very close attention to your hair, as well as the styling and maintenance of your weave/wig. It’s all your hair- even the part you paid for So take care of it- and love it! Here are six tips on how to rock a weave and not look a hot mess or go bald in the process.