Reasons Not to Relax Your Daughter’s Hair

by Sherrell Dorsey of OragnicBeautyVixen.com

I mention all the time the Just For Me story that too many of us recollect. That dreaded moment of sitting in our mama’s kitchen saturated with the creamy crack waiting for the burning to begin before she would wash it out. A ritual that’s been practiced in the black community that has dire consequences I’m sure that if our mama’s knew then what we know now about chemicals, especially the harmful effects of relaxers, they would have skipped the kit and just given me my Cleopatra braids from the jump.

Thank God that we’re waking up as a community, going natural, teaching each other how to go natural and creating products that cater to our natural hair.

If you’re still not convinced to leave your child’s hair alone here are my top 4 reasons why you shouldn’t relax her precious mane:

You’re Lazy

Yes I said it. Parents that relax their children’s hair because it’s more “manageable” haven’t taken the time to learn what products and techniques can help them best maintain their child’s hair. Brands like Curly Q’s, Curls, Kinky Curly Kids, Mixed Chicks and Carol’s Daughter Princess Collection cater specifically to children’s hair. You can find detanglers, shampoos, conditioners, curl enhancers and everything you need to tame the “un-tameable”. If you’re not that interested or have the time to invest, do like my mom did and enlist the help of an auntie or hair salon.

It Can Kill Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem

When we relax our children’s hair, what is it that we are really saying to them? That your hair is so bad we have to completely change the texture! Why isn’t it cool for them to rock their afro loud and proud? I officially went natural the first time in elementary school. I rocked twists and braids and you know what? I had more hair on my head than most of my friends with relaxers. Being of African decent we should be proud and honored of what grows naturally from our head. Not change it to fit into a European image of beauty. Think deeply about your own subconscious ideals about beauty before you make an impact on your little princess.

You’re Exposing Her To Long-Term Health Effects

We all know that relaxers no matter if they’re made for kiddies, no “lye” or olive oil. They are still toxic! Not only do you risk scarring your child’s scalp but there have been studies linking long-term use of relaxers to breast cancer in African American women who’s products are dominated with estrogen-containing chemicals. Please tell me: Is it worth it?

You Could Ruin Their Hair Before It Get’s A Chance to Grow

Kids are still new to the world with their skin and hair being very fragile. Adding chemicals to their hair at a too early age can damage their fresh new hair. Just like braiding too tightly. Let your child decide at an older age if they want to go the relaxer route but don’t press it when they’re strands are already delicate.

Remember, you can always straighten her hair and allow her to rock different looks. Instill in your daughter early that there is nothing wrong with her natural hair and she is beautiful in all different types of styles.

How do you feel about the child hair relaxing issue?


Sherrell Dorsey is a natural beauty expert, writer, speaker and advocate of health, wellness and sustainability in communities of color. In addition to creating OrganicBeautyVixen.com, Sherrell writes beauty articles for Tyra Banks's beauty and fashion site TypeF.com, Jones Magazine, MySalonScoop.com and Posh Beauty. Follow Sherrell on twitter at www.twitter.com/organicvixen and connect with her on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OBVMedia

20 Weigh in!:
fabwtalk said...

I agree with this post 100%. My mom, love her dearly, started relaxing my hair when I was 10 yrs. because she just could not and did now know how to handle my natural hair. That was back in the late 80's early 90's and back then we had way less knowledge then we do now about maintaining and caring for natural hair. I cut my mom slack because it was different back then but the mommy's of today should just know better.

MrsWardy88 said...

I remember me and my cousins would argue over which girl we wanted to be on the box. I remember singing, "JUST FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEE!" LOL.

How do I feel about relaxing a child's hair? I feel that its an issue thats being tackled more and more now.Its a process to reverse our brain wash of maintaining black hair. Its not going to happen over night. And in the end, everyone will still not be on board with being natural. But I can say its getting better.

L said...

I made the dreaded mistake of relaxing my daughter’s hair out of frustration. The worst part is that my daughter’s hair wasn’t unmanageable and I knew better!!! I was simply not a very good stylist and in a fragile state of mind at the time I did it. I actually took her to my hairdresser and asked her what I should do. She was the one who told me that this box of “just for me” was not a relaxer, and in the fragile state of mind I was in at the time, I believed in her “professional opinion” and did no research. She explained that it’s what she used on her daughters hair, which was a beautiful head of long and wavy textured hair. I proceeded to go to the store to get a box so she could give my daughter the same look. Well, lo and behold…she was bone straight and loving it. I wasn’t so sure after it was all said and done. In the end, it was a DISASTER!!! Her hair was fried!!! I eventually took her and myself to another stylist who nursed her hair and gradually cut off the perm as she transitioned back. Although it has come back, it has never been the same and simply doesn’t seem to grow anymore. She was only 5 years old when I did this. She is now 7! I hate that I did it and would never ever do it again. I started looking at these sites and found ways to manage her hair. However, its been a chore teaching her to love her curls. I wish I could post a picture to show them to you. When I see this pic, I ask myself…How could I?

the eXclusive said...

I was always amazed as a kid by my friends who had relaxers. My mom and granny would straighten my hair with a pressing comb religiously for the first 14 years of my life. But by the time I got to high school, I would see the other girls with what I thought was "easier to manage hair" and begged my mom to let me have a relaxer. By then, she felt I was old enough to make decisions about my own hair. Even though I've been natural now for almost three years, I completely believe that littler girls are too young for relaxers. Mothers should think of relaxers like they do makeup. You wouldn't let a 8-year-old wear lipstick, but if they want to graduate to gloss at 13, then you need to educate them on the risks and benefits of wearing makeup. It's the same thing with a relaxer. Until they're old enough to understand what it is, how to use it, the risks and benefits, don't use it.

Melodee said...

I remember when my daughter was about 4, up until then her hair was not an issue for me I could wet the brush and it would stay put. Then her texture started to change and I didn't know how or what to do with it so I pulled out the pressing comb.

From that point, it was kiddie perms on and off until I got tired and sent her to my stylist at about 11 yrs old. If I knew then what I know now she would be rocking her natural tresses now instead of being in the process of transitioning. So I admit I was definitely lazy and uneducated/mis-informed about how to care for her hair and mine (I'm 2 yrs 3months natural!)

So if I could do it all over again, I would have left her hair in it's natural state. My daughter is 18 now, and hopefully she will pass on her hair care knowledge that she will learn from her journey to her children.

NiqueAmo said...

If I ever have a child she will not be getting a relaxer. I don't remember exactly when or why I got my first relaxer. I don’t even remember asking for it. My hair was always a pretty good length so I’m not sure what the determining factor was for my mom. I do know it was sometime around middle school because I remember sitting in math class peeling scabs from my scalp because I scratched. (I hated math…..lol). I don’t know what the market was then but I received a Revlon. Once older I remember me and my cousins used to laugh about how we used to have scabs and was thankful for No-Lye relaxers…..really!(smdh) However, I have become an advocate for my little cousins encouraging their moms to just say no.

Nkoyo Robinson said...

Moms don't beat yourseleves up, we have the tendency to that sometimes. The good thing is your making the change! My mom didn't give me a relaxer. She saw the damage it did to her hair and just said NO. I remember being at dance school on Saturday mornings and smelling that smell, of sweat and chemicals. When I turned 16 my mom asked if I wanted a relaxer and I responded so fast No Thank You. I just remembered that awful smell and seeing some of my friends with no hair line. I'm grateful to say that I've been natural all my life. That's not to say that heat damage hasn't ever hit me but I'm thankful for a mom who realized and instilled in me that my Nigerian hair was good enough. Thank you mom!

honeybrown1976 said...

If I ever have a daughter, a relaxer will be a no-no. I want her to love herself completely. Hair is not an exception.

I have two boys now. So, thankfully, it's a non-issue (by the way, my boys love to grow their curls out).

Shanna said...

I'm 24 now, back when I got my first relaxer they didn't have the natural hair styling products and tutorials as options and my single mother who worked 40 hours a week used a relaxer as a way to make styling easy. She has now expressed regret for relaxing my hair. So if I one day have a daughter I won't relax her hair but I'll let her make the choice when she's old enough to do so.

Anonymous said...

i wish i never relaxed as a child..if i have a daughter Im going to teach her to love her hair and keep it natural. I remember my mom only partial relaxed my hair..only the back because that was rough...it was a stupid move..i wish i thought that then.. in high school i relaxed my entire head and it looked nice for a month..I never did touch ups or cared for my hair..i was very ignorant..but if i could go back I never would of relaxed my hair..but everyone wants to "fit in" and not look nappy..ignorance....Now i wouldnt care what people think and would of worked a fro or a curly pineapple because my hair may look nappy to some but its healthy, long and isnt damaged..

Anonymous said...

I think her article is a bit extreme and completely one-sided. I'm 24, and relaxed my hair from 7-21. My mother, who wore an afro proudly in her day, began relaxing my hair because of the pain I'd go through when she'd wash/detangle it. To her, it wasn't worth it. I know the horror stories about how some girls' hair breaks off and falls out post-relaxer, but fortunately that never happened to me. My hair has been healthy my entire life, relaxed or natural. It really bugs me that people think relaxed hair automatically means unhealthy. That's not always the case.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10/13 8:30 pm: Sorry, but your example doesn't necessarily prove the norm. I daresay it's not the norm for a lot of black women your age. I wish it was, though.

When I was a kid there were still plenty of adults who knew how to care for a head of natural hair in a way that didn't involve harsh chemical relaxers. Somewhere between then (1970s) and now that knowledge was lost and "quick and easy and pain-free" kiddie perms took over.

This is when I think of something I read either here or elsewhere in response to the question "Is natural hair a trend?" The response was "No: it's RELAXING that's the trend." Meaning that for most of our existence on this earth we as a people have known how to care for our natural hair. I am happy whenever a parent chooses to learn/relearn what "comes natural," so to speak. It tells me they're looking with the long gaze...

Pretebrowneyes said...

I'm kind of on the fence about this one. My mother relaxed my hair when I was about 8 and then I went through jheri and leisure curls before relaxing again in middle school. I relaxed my daughter's hair when she was 4 (texturizer but the same) and she went natural with sisterlocs at age 10. I've been a back and forth natural for about 10 years and am finally making the decision to stay natural (have been consistently for 2 yrs). My mother had a relaxer and curls...and now is natural herself with sisterlocs.

But...these were our decisions and there are mothers out there that educate themselves and still feel like a relaxer is the way to go for their household. Does that mean they are accepting eurocentric beauty over what curls grow naturally? Not always. There are the same amount of YT vids, blogs and messageboards that promote healthy relaxed hair that promote natural hair. Its what's best for them. As long as mama's not sitting her 3 year old down for a relaxer...I'm not seeing this huge problem. If a parent and/or child (of the right age) has researched the best way to maintain healthy relaxed hair with proper maintenance and care...its ok. There are far worse things happening to young girls than a relaxer. I loved my hair relaxed as I do natural. I do wish I had taken more time to understand my daughter's texture before relaxing but that's me. I think we need to remember that relaxers aren't always this evil thing that lazy people put on their daughters. Sometimes...its just what is. Not good nor bad...just is.

Just my 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

I had my first at-home relaxer when I was around 8, during the late 70s. I relaxed regularly until I was 29 and pregnant with my oldest son. Thankfully, even with a relaxer, my hair was always healthy and grew like a weed.

I don't fault my mom for relaxing my hair at such a young age. I believe in the old saying, "When you know better, you will do better." I went natural in 1997 and I can say from experience that now there is a wealth of information about natural hair care and an abundance of products that didn't exist even 10 years ago.

My opinion is that there is no need to relax anyone's hair, child or adult. With the right care regimen, you can achieve manageability and gorgeous styling with any texture. Granted, it does take time to educate oneself and patience to persevere on the road to finding the regimen that works best for you and your daughter.

Avoiding exposure to harsh chemicals is the healthiest hair option. No one can credibly dispute that fact.

However, I try not to judge other parents or anyone who chooses to relax. I get so annoyed by naturals who are quick to label relaxed women as self-loathing. Likewise, I think it's unfair to label moms who relax their daughters' hair as lazy.

As natural hair ambassadors, we need to be positive and constructive, not judgmental, in our efforts to share information and promote natural hair.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty said...

Lord I'm so guilty of doing this. I relaxed my daughter's hair at age 5. I know. Terrible but I didn't know any of what I know now. She's going to be 17 now and has very short hair :-( I feel it's my fault because I really didn't know what else to do but now that I do know, she feels she must have weave and to have weave she feels she must have a relaxer so her edges and the hair she leaves out is straight. * sigh. The thing is her hair is a little kinky but she would get the bomb twist outs if she would go natural (yes I did just say the bomb. Don't judge. I'm from the Bronx LOL)

Miriam G said...

I'm a 22 yr old mother of 2- a 3yr old daughter with wavy beautiful hair and a 1 yr old son with beautiful thick curls. I was looking for different hair products to help with their hair and I found this site. I really am taking all of this in and I'll def be making sure I watch what products I put in my kid's hair, they both have a great grade of hair but I want to make sure I'm doing the best for their types. I've been back and forth with being natural and relaxed myself lol...just because. But I'm def floating more towards keeping my natural hair, even when its too thick to handle. Thanks Ladies/Moms for the info!
Ps does anyone know any good hair products- shampoos, leave in conditioners etc for kids?

andrea said...

Im going to say this i agree 100 percent with this article it is hilarious how some of you really believe that this article and the way people think isnt being brain washed. how dumb are you? I dont care if you think that was rude your ignorant!! point blank ! Let me ask you geniuses a question where and why was a relaxer invented? when you get that answer then try to tell me you are not trying to fit European standards . sisters being in denial doesnt change the fact you are . Again history speaks for it self . im saddened by yall and you want to say we shouldnt be judgmental? we have been judge from the beginning of time. and today are worse critics our ourselves. im tired of seeing my sisters harming their hair and selves because its more than hair. relaxing your hair is relaxing your mind and ,makes you one minded. i dont care if you got lucky and thats exactly what it is your lucky you hair didnt fall out. how the heck you going to say ooo well just because my hair is relaxed doesnt mean its unhealthy. lol your funny so not having all the protein bonds connected properly in your hair isnt unhealthy. sad uneducated souls smh...

Anonymous said...

Thankfully (or not), I got a relaxer when I was 17 - in secret.

My mother, who herself has permed hair, was 100% AGAINST getting my hair relaxed. I'm not sure if she knows about the dangers of relaxing, but her intuition told her relaxing a child's hair is just not right.

I'm sure the most mothers who relax their daughters hair believe they are doing the best for their daughters. This clearly shows how brainwashed we are into thinking straight is best, so much so that we have forgotten how to treat our own natural hair.

Putting 'Eurocentric standards of beauty' argument aside.Having straight hair without thought about the health of the scalp, is madness! Relaxers can strip paint, yes, STRIP PAINT (if you don't believe me, try it). this is what is placed on the scalps of these poor little girls.

Anonymous said...

relaxed hair is unhealthy hair...you're frying it into an unnatural state. You can have a good amount of length, shine, and flow but the actual follicles of the hair is damaged. You're bending it into a state with which isn't what it accustomed to. And forcing it to stay that way.

Meli said...

My mom used to comb my hair in box braids ever since I could remember. She would add colorful barrettes at the end of each braid and sometimes even coordinate the barrettes with the seasons. One Christmas season (I was 14) people started calling me Christmas tree in school. I was the only girl without perm in middle school and I begged my mother for a perm.

My first and only perm was "just for me" until I went natural at the age of 17. My mom fell for he idea that it was a more gentle kind of perm. Its impossible for a
child to not want a perm when they see everyone around them with one. I looked up to my mother and it appeared that one sign of womanhood was long silky hair.

The first perm was the best one. My hair was least damaged, long, i had volume and I had thick pony tails. After every perm I saw my hair get thinner and thinner. My mother and hair dressers would always tell me i had to cut my hair in order for it to grow. It was a vicious cycle to the point that I had short thin hair. Not to rag on girls with perms but after a while some girls' hair gets so thin that a blow out looks weird and makes you look like you have 4 strands of hair. Pony tails
look like they have 2 strands of hair. I find it sad to see little girls with damaged hair like this before the age of 10. In addition to the perms that gradually damage and decrease your hair, girls then feel mandated to get weaves to fill in those gaps. They slowly destroy their own hair and get weaves to fit in with The Eurocentric image of beauty.

The other day I saw a 1 year old with a blow out...I was speechless. I truly cAnnot wait to set a different example of beauty to my future children. I can wait to teach my future daughters and sons the beauty of their curls and the pros and cons of relaxing their hair.

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