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Is Relaxing Hair Child Abuse?

By January 27th, 202179 Comments

Is Relaxing Hair Child Abuse?

Is Relaxing Hair Child Abuse?
by Maria of

As we wrapped up my women’s studies course for the semester this week, I was to report a summary of my action project to the class. My action project was the very beginning to creating the Naturalista’s student group which has now, rather quickly, sprung into many different things. My class is small and comprised of white women save myself. They are now well educated on the several reason’s why chemical processes are bad and even dangerous. As I shared some of the stories, one woman asked me how young do most women start relaxing. I told her in my mother’s time, usually not until after 18 but I received my first one at age 9. THEY WERE SHOCKED. And their shock shook me, because I never thought about the actual danger that children are being submitted to. Then I said, “Well, that’s not considered too young, but, I know someone who got her first relaxer at 2.”

And then I thought about that, and realized what is taking place is child abuse. I NEVER wanted the burning and sores and puss I received after having my hair relaxed. I can recall sitting in class in sixth grade sliding small pieces of scab down my very long strands of hair so as not pull the hair out and give myself a bald spot. I remember feeling silly patting my head when it itched around white people. And I also remember purposely swinging my bra strap length hair so as to intentionally make other girls jealous.

Then it got shorter. And shorter. and shorter. Until my sophomore year of high school when I had to get a layered cut, short in the back, long in the front, to ease my mind in the mirror with the illusion that my hair was still long. My mom couldn’t always afford to get my touchup as often as I thought I needed and my new growth always came back quick. I remember a high school mate telling me I “needed” a perm bad and how jacked up my hair looked. One well meaning friend suggested her hair dresser “Bink” who would lay my hair “real flat” to my head. She did. I recall being amazed at how when I laid my palm on my head, there was no cushion to my scalp. I took the city bus two hours one way to have her get my hair “right.”

….but I’ve strayed. Why are we submitting infants to poisonous chemicals? One Naturalista told us her biggest wall to going natural is her mother. Her mother says the Naturalista’s hair is too nappy to not have a relaxer. I asked how old was she when she got her first relaxer. Two. Two years old. No one on the face of this planet has any idea what her natural hair is like. Her baby hair was processed. And while I am sure that her mother was well meaning and took care of her properly, where do we draw the line?

What is taking place in our minds that says it is okay to put our babies at risk by for the sake of giving them straight hair? I have a friend who says it is “self-hatred” but I prefer to say it is lack of knowledge. Because we have lost the knowledge of how to maintain our hair in the manner in which it deserves, we seek an alternative that is reflective of the larger, dominating society around us. As an African-American, I am too a member of that society, but the values and ideals that are held up as standard and normal tend to miscatogorize me as absurd. What’s worse, is that African descended women who are putting chemicals in young children’s hair are acting severally irrationally in order to be considered normal. While the objection reason it is simply easier to maintain a child’s hair who is resistant to sitting for long periods of time, when had easier over safety and sanity ever been okay. But that may be the clue to my query. “We” prefer unhealthy, life threatening, obesity inducing, fast food over taking time to prepare every meal which enables us to monitor what is going into our bodies. We rather sit and watch “the movie” over taking the time and sit to read the book allowing for self interpretation instead of accepting what is being forced into our minds. In school we memorize the answer instead of understanding the process. And now, we threaten the safety of our children and their self concept rather than learn how to care for our natural hair and encourage pride in it.

Weigh in!


  • paige says:

    I don't think it's child abuse. My sister and I received relaxers at a very young age – I was 3 and she 8. Although I wish my mother would have waited, I understand why she did it. She did not know how to take care of our very thick, long, course hair and felt that she had no other option…

    Growing up, our hair has been very healthy and easy to manage. My sister is still getting a relater and I have been 7 months natural so far and I love it 🙂 Its not like my family is against natural hair, in fact, they support me and just want it to be healthy.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ Anonymous July 22, 2010 2:19 AM "You know, I am not going to blame this all on slavery. Because if that is true, natural hair would be prevelant amongst Africans, and not just the ones that live in third world settings."
    Some of you don't seem to know much about African history. Most of Africa was colonized by Europe (some up until 50 years ago)which is how the idea of white supremacy and hatred of black features came to be on the continent. In addition American culture has a huge influence on the rest of the world. Alotta Africans try to emulate African Americans so this is part of why the perm culture has been long lasting and where the weave culture was introduced.
    Stop trying to make it seem as though black people have a natural dislike for their hair. There's a reason for that

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree. Relaxing the hair is child abuse, and I feel that a lot of African American parents feel pressured to relax their daughters hair,so they can fit into society idea of beauty.(European straight hair) It is very hard for children today to grow their hair out naturally because of the negative comments that they will receive from their classmates. e.g. My daughter tried growing her hair out naturally and she was picked on by several of her black classmates, too many times to count, to the point that I felt sorry for her and I decided to relax her hair. She is a very beautiful girl inside and out,and the whole experience for her was awful. Until, our race can learn to accept our natural hair as beautiful a lot of little girls as well as women will choose to relax their hair to avoid being ridiculed by their own nationality, which is soo ignorant.

  • Chaunece says:

    This conversation is so EXTRA to me. I've been natural for about 5 years now because I like the versatility. BUT I got my first relaxer when I was 5. I had very thick waist length hair. I didn't kick, didn't scream, I was never burned, never had scars, it didn't hurt, and I never dreaded getting my hair done. If anything I was tender headed and hated to get my hair combed anyway. I think people need to make a clear distinction between a relaxer being downright harmful in any capacity and the fact that maybe some people just don't know how to take care of hair in WHATEVER state it's in, and stop blaming damaged hair on the relaxer itself, but instead blame it on the person who administers it, and doesn't know what they are doing, or the person who doesn't know how to take care of hair. My hair was ALWAYS healthy, thick, minimal split ends and down my back. A relaxer has never harmed my hair or my scalp. I think that people just need to learn how to take care of hair in general and stop trying to put a blame on something. Yes relaxers have harmful chemicals in them…so does soda…so do prescription drugs. But if you use it properly you won't have adverse effects.And please stop blaming everything on self-hate! It's 2011 having straightened hair does not equate trying to look like a white woman anymore…it's a hairstyle, just like a braid-out, a puff, or a twa. People like to switch up their looks! I go from a large angela davis style fro, to bone straight flowing hair whenever I feel like it. Why? It's.just.a.hairstyle.

  • blessed says:

    my mother is biracial (italian and kreo ) and she has beautiful long hair but my dad has descent hair. and my hair was considered (good & long hair) until about age 7 it began to get really thick and lost a little of itscurl pattern and i couldnt handle it anymore really thick, long,and curly. so bout time it was time for highschool i got a relaxer and at first i liked it. it made my hair more managable but as time went by my hair began to breakoff . so now im going back natrual and its kinda hard. but moral of the story i hated getting relaxers but was told by my sisters who did my hair that it was too thick and nappy. whichis heartful to hear

  • Maya says:

    No. It's what you make of it. Some people are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've never heard any of this before. I got my first relaxer when I was ten. I skipped school, went to the dollar store, bought a box of the cheapest relaxer they had, and did it myself in a gas station bathroom. Never before had I ever had a whipping so bad as the one I got when I came home that day.

    My older sister (who left home and joined the military not long before I turned ten) was the one who did my hair. On Saturday morning she would chase my younger sister and myself across the neighborhood and drag us home to braid (cornrow)our hair. I hated it. I hated getting my hair done, I hated being the only girl in my class with cornrows (the other black girls wore weave and one or two had relaxers). I hated my hair and hated myself…or rather hated myself and hated my hair.

    I cut my own hair in class with safety scissors after my sister left and there was no one to do my hair (my grandma had arthritis and my mom couldn't be bothered to remember which was which let alone feed or dress us) so I relaxed it myself. My grandmother took exception to that but I always felt like I was ugly with my poofy hair (I have grade 3b but only just recently learned how to style it without straightening it first) none of the other girls I knew wore poofy pony tails, none of the boys wanted anything to do with me. My only friends were a Saudi Arabian girl who was made fun of for her religious headgear and a shy overweight girl.

    I blamed this on my hair. For me it truly was self loathing. I even made a promise to myself at the age of eight that I was never going to have babies with a black man because I didn't want my children to be called "nappy headed nigger brats" like I once overheard an older woman use to describe me and my sister to her friend at a grocery store.

    what were we talking about again?

  • Anonymous says:

    ..i'm happy that i'm natural now*

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with Latoya.
    I got my first perm when i was 3.
    My mum permed my hair every 6 months.
    She NEVER used heat on my hair. My hair was like waist length…when i start to take care of my own hair thats when it started to broke off. I think people take this relaxer thing tooo serious i'm happy that i'm natural but when someone decides to perm their childs her it's not that serious as long as they know how to take care of it!!

  • krissy says:

    I agree with a lot of the ladies before about the seriousness of the term child abuse and why, in most cases, relaxing a child's hair shouldn't fall under that catergory. Many women (and concequently their children) believe that bone straight relaxed hair is a "right of passage" or they are simply ignorant of the damaging effects of a relaxer. Either way the intent was not to harm and although that is not a justification for giving a child a relaxer, to classify it as child abuse would belittle the very serious issues that some children are forced to deal with (rape, physical verbal abuse etc…)

    I know my mom was overwelmed with my thick, mid back length hair growing up and perming it seemed like a viable option for a busy single mother. I didn't end up getting a perm but if I did I wouldn't have dared to call it child abuse because I knew it was my mom caring for my hair as best as she knew how.

    Something interesting though… Some white women go through the process of chemically manipulating their straight hair to get curls and it obviously isn't because they have the same slave history as we blacks do. I believe that hair discontent expands far past the black race and is a issue that must be corrected with the future generations. It's up to the parents to love and apreciate their own hair so that they can teach their children to follow in their example.

  • Kez says:

    Hey ladies,
    Great post, I guess my views/background basis is different in the sense that my mum LOVED my curls to death,(she wasnt too sure what to do with them mind you bless her but she loved them!). Im a white girl so for us, a little blondie looking Afro (and I mean AFRO) with tight spirals was amazing, so my Mum tried in her way to nurture my hair – i wasnt allowed it cut despite being called all sorts of names about my hair cos i guess it what quite strange or rather 'unique', at 11 when i started Secondary school (maybe your high school – from age 11-16?), i bEGGGGGGEd to get hair cut, my afro was to my elbows (curly), i cut it above my shoulder to bob length (well my hair dresser did – disater lol! Frizzed up tenfold!) . . it was only at 18 I got my first relaxer – as i was classsed as a young adult so to speak, before that my Mum would have never allowed me to put such harsh chemicals on my hair and she was so upset when I finally did! I had first curly perm about 14 i think (to make more manageable at the time) which mum was ok with as its far less agressive than Relaxer, though certainly no moisture treatment lol!
    I do personally think its a form of abuse putting such harsh chemicals on a little ones head/hair, be them 2 or 12 to be honest!
    I guess thats why people struggle with going natural as its been drummed in them to rid the curls they have . .its kinda of sad isnt it really…but i guess those of you who said your parents did it even though now you dislike it – maybe its just what they knew and their culture…? But i dont think its fair, i HATED my relaxer, only had one, the thought of doing that to a baby/child, i couldn't, to be honest, it wouldnt even cross my mind…someone menioned obesity too – it is the same thing, feeding your child so much they bevome obese, perhaps it is similar?
    Im glad my mum embraced my curls more so reading this, shame i didnt as much! xx

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't necessarily think that relaxing a child's hair is child abuse. I think most mothers do it because they don't know any better and the thought of having straight hair has been impeded into our brains since slavery. I remember my mother spending a lot of time on my hair as a child, washing it with shampoo formulated for causasion hair, not conditioning it, and it being tangled and hurting my scalp. My mother gave me my first relaxer at the age of 11 because she was starting a job and didn't have the time to commit to doing my hair. So she put a relaxer in it so that I could do it myself without all the hassel. Needless to say, my hair broke off terribly, and she stopped putting relaxers in my hair for a year until it grew back. I just recently did the big chop and I'm sporting a twa, and I LOVE it! I've never seen my hair completely natural (no braids, no ponytails, nothing!).

    Now we have things like the internet and natural hair salons that teach us how to properly maintain our hair with products designed for our hair texture. If we had these thing 20+ years ago, maybe there wouldn't be mothers our here relaxing their young daughters hair.

    What we need to do is understand that we are the most diverse race on this planet. There is NO other race like us. We come in all sorts of colors, hair textures, and sizes. We need to focus our energy on self-elevation. Koreans are making billions off of us every year because we will spend our last dollar buying some hair for a sew in or a ponytail. We can't even enter the hair-care market and profit off of it because they have it locked down. Time for us to embrace our natural beauty, make our own products for our hair, open our own stores with our own products and market them. Support our black businesses and spend our money in our own communities. Once we know, in our hearts, that we are beautiful and learn our to enhance our beauty without covering it up, then we will be free.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree that 2 or 4 years old is too young for a perm, but calling it child abuse is a little ridiculous. Someone said that intent doesn't have to do with the abuse, and that may be right in alot of cases, but if your going to call perming a kids head child abuse then I can say that my mom abused me when she gave me hot oatmeal and I burned my tounge on it.

    Really, i think that AA women perm their childrens hair not because they are trying to force them to assimilate into white america, but because they just don't know how to manage their childs hair as they probably didn't learn from their mother cause they had their heads permed too.

    I want to mention that I have NEVER been burned by a perm when I had them as a child, and I think alot of it comes from knowing what you are doing with the stuff. Maybe perms need to be taken off the shelves and put back into the hands of professionals in salons. Professionals would probably agree to an age limit and refuse to give them to young people anyway.

    I agree that natural is best, I've been natural for 15 years, but crucifying women by calling them abusers of their own children for having a misconception or even a lack of knowledge about managing natural hair is an insidious and counter-productive.

  • Anonymous says:

    I would have to say child abuse is a harsh term to apply to a situation that is an ethnic issue that applies to so many generations of African Americans. You have to remember, we were the victims of racism that still plagues our society today. We might be proud to be black, but many of us-especially women-are still finding it hard to embrace our hair let alone as icons of beauty. The only way to change attitudes is through education and showing positive examples of naturals. If we negatively address women who relax their child's hair, we will only face resistance. I think we are having a good affect on attitudes towards natural hair through blogs. Years ago, I would have been ashamed to wear my hair natural, but because of blogs such as curly nikki's & youtube, I've learned to care for my hair in its natural state. I think that's the key. My mother never had the knowledge on how to care for natural hair, therefore, she could not teach us. She waited to relax my hair until I was 9, but I would never call her abusive. She only did what she knew from her upbringing. Like I said, this is a generational & ethnic issue. While yes, 2 years old is way to young to relax a child's hair with such a harsh chemical, I don't think throwing the child in cps would solve the problem. It would only further divide us. With so many new natural products, and celebrations for natural hair, we're making a difference in changing attitudes.

  • Anonymous says:

    I dont think its child abuse, its not done with the intention of harming the child. I'm natural now, but I certainly don't think my mother relaxed my hair with the intent to hurt me, but she did it because my hair was getting longer (and with longer hair comes more tangles) and she was having a hard time caring for it (she would have back pain as a result of just washing and detangling my waist-long natural hair). I feel like a great deal of anger in the natural community is put on mothers for relaxing some of our hair at an early age, but some women just didn't know how to care for our kinks and curls. And although ignorance isn't an excuse, we cannot say our mothers didn't try and do the best they could with our hair with their limited resources at the time. They could have just given up all together and given us fades, but I'm pretty sure a great deal of us have memories of when mom used to carefully put in those pretty-for-Sunday-braids with barettes. So even though they may have brushed our hair with bristol boar brushes, combed it when it was dry, use petroleum based products and blow dry and straighten our hair, it was all done with the intention of making US look nice. Which brings me to another point, when I was growing up, some of our mothers didn't have youtubers and hair care forums teaching them everything we know today. So most of the care they had given to our hair, were either techniques past down from generations, or just pure creative maneuvering.

  • Aishah says:

    People have cited the lack of intent to harm as proof that relaxing a child's hair is not abuse. They've said that these parent's are simply ignorant and not abusive.

    While ignorance is not a crime it is also not an excuse! We need to do a better job of protecting our little girls and uplifting them and helping them realize the queens they are. We should be doing what's best for the child not what's convenient for us. Being a parent should never be about convenience…

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree of course on many things pointed out in this article, scarring and burning our children scalp is most definitely child abuse as in a physical AND emotional mistreatment of children. However I don't think that because a movie is as such and not a book, that it forces thoughts and opinions down our throats. I respect and love the art of film making and know that if it is done properly it gives people as much room to think and imagine as any book does. That was kind of a tangent but just wanted to throw it out there.

  • Tracey F. aka. Radianceunveiled says:

    This is in response to the question asked “Is relaxing a Childs hair child abuse”? This was an interesting topic as it was something that I have never even thought about. Growing up in my home I was on the opposite side of the coin of many girls growing up. My parents did not allow me to press or straighten my hair in any form but taught me to love my hair just as it grew out of my head. So I did not experience the physical or emotional pain that came with relaxing hair at such a young age. Looking back and even now in my adult life I thank God my parents raised me the way they did. The goal was not to fit into the norm or what society claimed was beautiful but to be proud of whom I am and to embrace myself no matter what others would say. So I really had to think about the question and as I pondered on my thoughts this is my view point.
    Child abuse can be defined as “harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare that occurs through nonaccidental physical or mental injury, or maltreatment, by a parent, a legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child's health or welfare” (Care House). Nonaccidental physical and mental injury sticks in my mind. According to many of the post and stories told by female women who remember when they where children and what they went through just to have their hair relaxed, I feel that it is a form of child abuse. I don’t think it is intentional abuse. Most parents did what they where taught was right and it is a cycle or pattern that was taught to them and it trickles down generation to generation. I think it is a lack of knowledge or lack of patients and desire to learn how to take care of our natural hair; especially, in this day and age where women want things easy, quick and fast. I think it is a generational curse of core beliefs that where instilled in us of having long flowing straight hair and that straight is beautiful and that we must wear our hair this way to fit in and be accepted by society. I know my mother combed my hair as a child so the question remains in my mind to the mother who combs her child’s hair in a matted state and see’s scabs due to the relaxing process? At what point does someone stop and think that something has got to be wrong with this process and why am I putting my child through this same agonizing process month after month just to have maintainable hair? So now the parent has picked up the traits of addictive behaviors at the child’s expense because instead of them stopping many parents just continue to repeat this same cycle over and over. This additive behavior begins to tare down the child mentally and physically. The child begins to develop core beliefs about themselves and what they think is beautiful and it is all ingrained in them starting from the parent and then into their adult life and sometime that cycle is repeated until someone breaks the chain. Then you have some parents who their children are older and don’t want to perm or relax their hair but they are forced this is abuse, abuse to the child’s emotional and mental well being.

  • LaToya says:

    I'm sorry that many of you have had bad experiences with relaxers, but I do not think that relaxing a child's hair is abuse. My daughter is 7 with natural hair that I have learned to manage very well. Her hair is healthy and growing. I have no doubt that if I did relax her hair that it would still be just as healthy because I know how to care for hair. Does that still make it abuse? Heck no! I think that some of you ladies take the relaxer hate way too far. Sometimes it really is just a personal choice, not self-hatred.

  • Anonymous says:

    If we must categorize it, then relaxing a child's hair fits more into the U.S, Department of Health and Human Service's definition of neglect. One of the definitions is:

    "An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

    People who love their kids still often do things that can be classified as neglect. Plenty of moms who love their daughters take them to get relaxers at a young age; I was 11 when my mom took me…and I was happy about it. But doing this is exposing a child to harsh chemicals. My mom took me to a professional, so she felt that she was doing something that was safe. I think it is just so ingrained in us that we need to "fix" our hair that we don't even thing about the risk.

  • Anonymous says:

    You know, I am not going to blame this all on slavery. Because if that is true, natural hair would be prevelant amongst Africans, and not just the ones that live in third world settings. I am not going to just blame white people either. I think with the invention of ways to straighten our hair many of us became lazy and used it as a cop out to not deal with our hair in its natural state. Also, lack of education and proper product and techniques. I know that the first time i tried to go natural 10 years ago I didn't know what to do. And there was not much out their to help. So i gave in a permed it again. I think with more education about our hair, more black women will wear their hair in its natural state. It is not those that are non-black that will have the objections, it is us. We need to change our perspective.

  • Unknown says:

    @Camille Acey www naturalwomanfilm dot com this film was released PRIOR to Rock's

  • Camille Acey says:

    I don't think it is abuse since there is no malicious intent. Frankly I think we are doing our communities a big disservice when we attempt to pathologize and criminalize rather than just focusing on educating. What, are we going to lock every relaxer administering parent away? Great, the black incarceration rate will quadruple overnight. What will that accomplish?

    In addition to education, I think the first step might be to lobby to get relaxers off of store shelves so that they can only be administered by licensed professionals. We don't sell those sort of chemicals in loose form in the stores for fear people could create dangerous toxins or weapons of destruction, but we do allow people to take it home and apply it to their own loved ones. Where else in our lives are people, regardless of education, acting as amateur chemists? Only in hair, only on the place right next to our precious BRAINS! Let's get at the brains we can, with knowledge. Sad to say, but the one person who did that on the widest stage was Chris Rock. That movie was very imperfect, yes, but who's got next???

  • Anonymous says:

    This is a very interesting topic. I have to confess that when my daughter was younger than 2 I put a perm in her hair. To me it was so "nappy" and not like my hair. I was young(17) when I had her. I worked and went to school and doing her hair was a hassle for me.looking back now I know it was a dumb decision and my step mom threaten to call ACS n me. She did feel like it was a form of child abuse. I am more educated and excepting of myself now and have natural for over 10 years. My daughter now 16 made the decision to go natural she exceots her inner beauty and loves her natural hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think it's a form of emotional abuse more than physical. The scabs that many of you experienced was due to an inexperienced hair stylist. It happened to me once and the person was a licensed barber (not cosmetologist). Ria's perspective was very enlightening because I never thought of it as a form of "lack of knowledge". That's very true. Most of us learned how to straighten our hair or keep our hair straight (no hot showers; playing too hard; swimming; feeling like the world is going to end if it even drizzles). To even deal with our natural hair was foreign.

    I do still believe there is self hatred when it comes to our appearance. We may love everything else about our heritage (Soul Food; Jumping the Broom, etc) but as long as we jump that broom with long straight hair (fake or not) we're ok.

    I have asked myself if I had a daughter what would I do. I would let her have a perm (I have my license to do hair). But she would be taught that her natural hair is beautiful. So therefore her decision would be based on curiosity & not because she feels she HAS to do it. That's a huge difference. Most Black females feel they HAVE to do it in order to be beautiful. My reasoning is let her get it out of her system now. Because when she turns 18 she will perm her hair & may NEVER go natural. What's always bothered me is the REASONING behind why we feel the NEED to straighten our hair. And women who can't even acknowledge the reason we started straightening our hair IN THE FIRST PLACE are in denial.

  • Anonymous says:

    "Abuse can be extreme or otherwise. Just as killing someone incidentally is still murder….Wouldn't be considered cold blooded but still murder none the less."

    No dear, there's "murder" and then there's "involuntary manslaughter", not even our justice system considers them the exact same thing lol.

  • Anonymous says:

    @ The comment made on July 21, 2010 10:54 PM "Many times, the abused will defend the abuser"

    It is really offensive for you to have the nerve to call mothers who make the choice of relaxing their children's hair "abusers". Calm down. No one is defending a persons poor choice of relaxing a childs hair, but what some people are saying is that, in most cases, it is a little EXTREME to call it child abuse. I wonder if it would be easy for you to look into the eyes of a severely beaten child and tell them that what they are going through is no different from another child getting a relaxer.

    I was abused and molested as a child, and I also received relaxers…it is extremely hurtful and INFURIATING to say that the pain and shame I felt from being physically abused and molested was in the same category as having my hair relaxed. The relaxer was heaven compared to the real abuse. Your comment shows your ignorance on the whole crisis of child abuse.

  • Anonymous says:

    I completely agree! I don't think receiving a hair relaxer constitutes child abuse. I view it as a hairstyle choice that will/may give a child self-esteem issues. I can recall growing up and not feeling beautiful because of my hair texture(3c/4a) and my mom put a relaxer in my hair. I think we also have to realize that in general our society is obsessed with straight hair whether black/white period. We just have to keep encouraging each other and keep participating in different forums, blogs etc. I want to tell each and everyone of you that you are beautiful and God loves you with all his heart! This is why we are so unique. We should be proud that he made us different. I feel beautiful everyday with or without a complement. complement your self daily and watch your self confidence sky rocket!!
    Dr. Chab

  • Anonymous says:

    Abuse can be extreme or otherwise. Just as killing someone incidentally is still murder….Wouldn't be considered cold blooded but still murder none the less.

  • Anonymous says:

    It's obvious that it is abuse by the overwhelming response in behalf of the harmful act. Many times, the abused will defend the abuser….."But he didn't mean to hurt me"…That's bologne!!!! All I know is that many more people smoked when they didn't know the hamful results. What's the difference? Whether you knew smoking was bad for your health, it still caused abuse and many died as a result. Sodium hydroxide causes permanent damage to the lungs, much like smoking. Abuse? Intentional or not……ABUSE IT IS!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Everyone has their own opinion and I can respect that however the term "child abuse" shouldn't be used lightly. I don't believe that applying a relaxer to a child's abuse. The fact that a child screams and cries when an activity is taking place does not constitute that the act is "abuse". Children cry when they go the dentist, when they get a shot at the doctor, when they have to take medicine, when they have getting their hair combed, when they take baths, etc. Relaxing a young child's hair may be questionable or not the best choice but I feel it's unfair to label a parent "abusive". The government has the right to remove abused children from their homes and place them in foster care. Do you really believe that children should be taken from their parents solely because their hair has been relaxed? Also, I'd like to point out I've seen plenty of children with no relaxer that have cornrows, braids and ponytails pulled so tight that their scalp has bumps, scabs and hair loss. Do you label these children as "abused" as well? This is all just food for thought. But I think some people on this forum should focus on extending the same acceptance to people with relaxed hair as they would like to receive for their hair choices.

  • Anonymous says:

    Let's get something straight, CHILD ABUSE IS A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE. There are children who are BEATEN, RAPED, MOLESTED, VERBALLY ASSAULTED, STARVED, and NEGLECTED, amongst other horrible things. To say that relaxing a child's hair is child abuse is not only ridiculous but its a slap in the face to the children who are going through the things I just mentioned. It is also an insult to the loving and dedicated parents who may make the choice to relax their young daughters hair. My mother relaxed my hair when I was 8, she was also the single mother of two children, worked two jobs, received little to no child-support, made all kinds of sacrafices for me and my brother, and would risk paying a bill just so me and my brother could eat. You are not going to convince me that she, in any way, abused me. Was it a poor choice on her part? Yes. Was it abuse? Come on now, no. Give me a break with all of that "just because its not intended doesn't mean its not abuse" garbage. Would you appreciate it if someone called you to a cold-blooded murderer if you accidently struck and killed someone in a car accident?

    Now, let me be clear. I'm not trying to downgrade anything that negatively effects a child. But some of you go to far with this hair stuff. I don't agree with child relaxers because that's a choice they should make when they are old enough to realize the hair health risk they are taking. But I don't think that every child or woman who has a relaxer will suffer from identity or self-esteem issues. I can go on all day about this subject but I'll save the rest for another time.

  • Tonya says:

    An example of what I am talking about can be found here at Naturally Leslie.

    She talks about her experience of being laughed at for her big hair…in todays society.

    My point earlier is exactly this. Now, imagine someone doing that to you everyday of your life year after year.

    That will be passed down from generation to generation.

    But, it looks like it is about to stop with this generation because natural hair is everywhere. And it is beautiful. And the concept that our hair is not beautiful can be changed one natural hair at a time.

    And I have nothing but love for every race…history is what it is.

  • Star says:

    I'll admit I went there & put a relaxer(a just for me) in my daughter's hair for the first time @ the age of 7 & man was that an HUGE MISTAKE! At the time I was still relaxed myself & was ignorant to natural hair. I figured that that was what she needed to manage her hair as well as myself. I tried pressing her hair but she would always scream @ that & the press never lasted long. So I just decided to put a relaxer in it & man, her hair didn't take well to it at all! It really broke her hair off as well did the pressing comb. I only did that once & decided after that, that I wouldn't ever put another relaxer in. She is now about to turn 12 & has been relaxer free since, she's %100 natural. She also looovvveeesss her natural hair & is so disgusted by relaxers & now I'm having the challenge of teaching her how to take care of her hair & getting her regimen down pack!I believe alot of mothers decide to relax their childs hair @ an early age for the convenience.They're just to darn lazy & tired to manage & take proper care of their childs head full of natural hair! My best friend relaxes her 9 yr old daughter's hair & has been since she was 6! She has a whole lot of thick long hair & she says that she relaxes it because its too much for her to handle! See, that's just laziness!How much you want to bet that that long thick mane will be no more by the time she's a teen? Mothers may not see the damage @ first but in yrs time of relaxing the damage is bound to take effect! Our women & children truly need to take the time to educate themselves about our natural hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    CAN relaxing a child's hair be child abuse? Yes, of course it's possible. Just like with anything else taken to the extreme. BUT to make a general statement implying that any parent who relaxes their child’s hair is committing abuse (like some of these comments are insinuating) is ridiculous. In most cases, it’s lack of knowledge and irresponsibility at most – not child abuse. Not everyone has experienced scalp burns or other physical harm from relaxers, and not everyone believes that relaxers are the ‘devil.’ It’s a personal choice, and up to the parent of the child (whether the decision is right or wrong in our opinions). Currently, to my knowledge, there is no age limit on relaxers. I believe there should be, but there isn’t one, nor does it say on the box ‘do not use on children.’ So unless parents/people actually do the research (which is smart, but not a requirement) they may not be aware of the potential dangers relaxing may cause. Ignorance is not a crime. The abuse and much of the blame falls in the hands of the companies that make and distribute the relaxers without disclosing all of the facts. If they were required to disclose all of the dangers and pose age limits, and parents ignored this, THEN it would be considered a crime/abuse.

  • Anonymous says:

    Anyone who likens relaxing a child's hair to child abuse is CRAZY AS HELL, and clearly has no idea about child abuse. I use to work at a social services agency and I know the meaning of child abuse. My mother started having my hair professionally relaxed when I was 5. Sure I kicked and screamed when I went to the salon but I also kicked and screamed when anyone tried to comb my natural hair. My mom did what she thought was best and I would never in my life say she abused me. I'm natural now because I like my hair curly, but I have no problem with ladies who relax. I really have to stay away from these natural hair sites because "The Natural Nazis" are nuts!

  • Anonymous says:

    I wish kidide perms didnt exist at all! I have had a perm since forever..I don't think I remember what texture my hair was like until I transitined and did the big chop a couple of months ago. Relaxers are painful and very harmful for children especially because they are not fully developed to within such chemicals to their scalp. I believe it is a form of abuse but is it the moms fault..not really. The black community has been brain washed to beleve what the image of beauty is. Maybe we should go to the root of the problem…salons telling mothers they should relax the hair and multimillionaire companies that produce and distribute these harmful chemicals in our communities…..-yoyo482

  • Chanel says:

    I wish mothers of small girls would not characterize their child's hair as "bad", but realize that they are "bad" at managing their childs hair type and texture. I wouldn't consider it child abuse, just a lack of knowlege. It's unfortunate that we raise our girls to think who they are isn't good enough due to their hair. And at the precious age of two….man.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think the point a lot of people are missing is that just because one didn't INTEND to abuse doesn't mean it's not still abuse. It harms the child, both psychologically AND physically – It is ABUSE.

  • Anonymous says:

    My first memories of quality time with my mother was the kitchen of our home on late Sunday afternoons–the dreaded wash, press, and curl day. Were the first and second degree burns on my ears, scalp, forehead, and nape of my neck child abuse? Well, I was terrified of that hot comb and the pain it inflicted on me. I couldn't understand, as a child, why someone who loved me would do this to me. By the end of this torture session, I was in tears and exhausted from being chased and pushed and burned into submission. Days later, the scabs from burns formed and healed, but I always knew that another Sunday session was not far away. I know that this scene crushed my self-esteem and changed the relationship that I had with my mother forever. Eventually, when she deemed my hair and our press-and-curl bonding time too much even for her, she sent me to the beauty salon for a different type of treatment. It was a relief for me to never have to go through the terror of a press-and-curl again, but my hair would go through the gauntlet of relaxer hell by the time I finally went natural as an adult. Did I love my mother? Yes, I did. Did she love me and want the best for me? Yes, she did. Do I forgive her? Yes, I do. Would I subject my children to hot combs and chemicals at a young age? NO WAY!

  • Anonymous says:

    Amen, Diva!

  • the diva says:

    You are so on point! My three year old has all natural, waist length hair, and she is forever getting noticed for it. While I appreciate the compliments, I wonder why is it so amazing too people? I mean these are people from every nationality, and they marvel at the length of it, and the texture of it… I hear them guessing (none to softly) about her ethnicity, and they usually guess indian and black, or puerto rican and black. They are wrong on both counts. Why do we always have to be the "and" part? They always have to hook the "black" on to something else in order to explain it. Why is it so amazing that a black person can have healthy, long hair? It says a lot about how people view us. I also have a sister, who has a daughter with similar hair, and she wants to relax it! The girl is only six, and her mama wants to make it "more manageable". I'm trying to talk her out of it, but it may be a losing battle. We have to educate our children AND ourselves. Just the other day, I was in the hair salon, and a woman said that "if my hair was good like yours, I wouldn't relax it". How silly does that mess sound? I told her, if you want to relax your hair because you just prefer the maintenance it, then fine. But if you want to relax your hair, because you feel it's not good enough in comparison to (lets face it) european standards of beauty, then you need to do some soul searching. Needless to say, they were glad to see the back of me leave the salon.

  • Anonymous says:

    to the anonymous comment about "letting them eat processed foods"

    it is also considered abuse and neglect if you don't properly feed your child. PCS can take your child away if you let them eat too much McD's. this isn't a joke… i've seen it happen.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think that most people who put relaxers into their child's hair don't think of it as exposing their child to harsh chemicals. I think that most of these people think that they are fixing a problem, since natural hair is perceived by society as a problem. And since the products and services are so widely available, they just don't question how serious it all really is. We're not talking about an a$$ whipping here (which is usually considered abuse LOL), we're talking about people buying into this need to fix something that is widely perceived as a problem. If you think of it that way, then saying that "relaxing a child's hair is abusive" is like saying that giving a sick child prescribed medication with dangerous side effects is abusive. The doctor prescribed the medicine, just like society prescribed black people's hair-fixing solution. The doctor claims that the benefits outweigh the risks…and when it comes to hair, people seem to take a very similar attitude. Many of us don't question what doctors prescribe as much as we should…and we (black folks in particular) definitely don't question what society prescribes. It's just so easy not to.

  • Anonymous says:

    I received my first relaxer at 8. The 2nd one I received at 9 for the start of the school year. I remember a few days after that relaxer I was sitting in my 5th grade classroom and touching the back of my head. My hair was sticking to my scalp. When I got home that afternoon I showed my mom. She realized that the beautician had not properly rinsed out my hair in the back. Shortly after that my hair all fell out in the back! I only had a flap of hair on the top. That flap was used to cover the huge breakage. I can tell you at nine years old I felt ugly that year. I would rush home to play with my dolls all of which had long silky hair. I guess that was a young escape for me.

  • Neems says:

    I think there is a general lack of knowledge and responsibility, but when mothers can walk into a 24-hour drugstore and buy a "kiddie" relaxer such as Just for Me, we should concerned.

    The emotional and physical scars should be enough to let people see how destructive this practice is. Let the girls make that decision when they are old enough to understand that they are “permanently” changing the texture of their hair.

  • QuietButterfly says:

    I think alot of mothers/parents don't know better. They're not aware of the damage that relaxers can cause. Also, mothers are getting younger and younger, so in some instances, you have girls that weren't properly educated and uplifted about their own hair inflicting their negative attitude on to their daughters.

    I definitely think there should be some type of age limit on perms….I mean you're not even giving the childs hair a chance to develop and you're slapping a perm on it already. I just watched "Good Hair" the other day and the little 3 year old girl Chris Rock asked about getting perms said she doesn't like getting perms but you're "supposed" to get them. Getting perms is something that is definitely ingrained in our psyches……we've got to find a way to get it out!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I do not belive its child abuse..I beleive my mother did what she thought would be best for my hair at the time, which as a single parent with 3 girls, saved her time. I think sometimes we are too critical, my mother def did not child abuse me, so to speak, by putting a kiddie perm in my hair..I am natural now and so is my mother Me for 1 1/2 yrs and her for 2 yrs..we know better now.

  • Candese says:

    I don't believe it is but it's not something I would ever do without the consent of an aware mature teen. My hair was relaxed against my will and I would not do that to anyone else. My mother did not "like" my hair so she changed it. Now that I am an adult it tells me a lot.

  • Anonymous says:

    In my natural state, I don't agree with relaxers at any age, but certainly not in children. I agree with posts that the message is emotional abuse – you're ugly, have "bad" hair, etc. Those internalized messages left me in relaxers for more than 30 years. I don't know if it's abuse, in the legal sense, but I believe chemical burns are neglect. KNOWING there will be burns and having your child's hair relaxed, is abuse. Clearly, some people need to check out their hairstylists as I NEVER had chemical burns with a relaxer. There's apparently some really faulty techniques amongst hair dressers.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is crazy. This isn't child abuse. if thats the case we all are "unintentionally abusing" our children letting them step outside because chemicals are in the air we breathe. letting them eat processed foods….that can be controlled yet we still allow them to eat it. you are giving them that food just like you are giving them a relaxer. so if you ever allowed your child to eat McD's please don't throw your stone. Calling a good mother using a particular grooming method a child abuser is reaching.

    Is the hot comb child abuse because i was kicking and screaming as a child?!?!?!?! call child protection services plz!!!!!

  • Raquiiba Bolton-Dawes says:

    Tonya… The irony of your statement is that, to this day, black still isn't usually viewed as beautiful on BLACKS! If a white girl has large lips it's desirable. There are still a lot of ways that race issues affect us today.

    If we speak about the obvious people say we are still playing the race card… SMH!

    There are still so many subtle ways that our society tries to make us believe we are inferior… But we have to learn to overcome it or things will never change…

  • Tiffany says:

    I agree with many parts of this piece but I'm not neccesarily sure I would use the term "abuse" when it comes to relaxing children's hair. Until the film Good Hair was released, many people were unaware of just how potent the chemicals used in perms actually are. Additionally, I got my first perm when I was in the 7th grade. My mother said that I had mentioned wanting one for as long as she could remember. I had to BEG my mother to let me get one. My sister on the other hand, got a relaxer at a much younger age, primarily because my dad could not STAND the blood curdling scream that she would let out while when my mom would press her hair. If I have a daughter, she can decide whether she wants a perm or not, but I won't be the one doing it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Since when does abuse have to be intentional? There IS a such thing as UNINTENTIONAL ABUSE and relaxers are just that.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was relaxed in 3rd grade, so age 8 or 9. At the time I honestly didn't even know I was getting relaxed or what a relaxer was. My neighbor put it in (I lived with my dad and he wasn't to keen on the idea of me going to a salon for some reason..he still isn't and I'm 18 lol). I do/don't think it's child abuse. The intent isn't there. My dad let my neighbor give me one because he didn't know better. He was a widowed father of a small black girl and that's what he was told to do. But I do think it's child abuse at the same time if you do it too young. Age 2 COME ON! you know how much a relaxer can hurt if done wrong, so why subject you child to that much pain. I know my first relaxer hurt so bad, but I took the pain because that's what I was told to do. I think the circumstances it is applied and reapplied can make it child abuse in a way. So my opinion leans both ways. I'm just glad that I made the decision to stop and my children won't be getting relaxers either.

  • gigihaitiancurly says:

    I believe relaxing toddlers and young kids hair IS child abuse. In most cases the child cries, weeps and fights throughout the process but that doesn't keep the mothers from doing what they are doing to them.

    I've never really understood how African Americans deal with natural black hair and at such young age. Having lived my entire life in Haiti, I have never seen or very rarely (and the mothers would be badly blamed for it) 7-8 year old's let alone 2-3 year old babies with permed hair. Over there, it is very badly perceived when a mother relaxes her daughter's hair before puberty, and I don't know if it is because of environment and/or food but girls in Haiti don't usually have their first period before 11-12 sometimes 13-14. I know the puberty age is much lower in the united states.
    Growing up it was normal to still have bows and barrettes in your NATURAL hair at 12!

    I didn't get a relaxer before 8th grade and it's because I begged for it. My mother had stopped combing both me and my sister's hair when I was 10 for medical reasons and I took on the task to do it for myself and my sister. By 13 I got tired of combing my hair because my hair is so thick but I still kept on combing my sister's hair until she turned 15, and I was 17 and I had other things to do.

    The issue of hair is a huge issue in black communities and black countries around the world. Yes I agree it is a deep rooted problems that involves historical facts. But do I still think relaxing children's hair is child abuse?

    Yes it is.

  • Kanisha says:

    I'm not in any way trying to diminish the harmful effects of a child getting a relaxer.


    I don't see it as child abuse.

    It's not like their mothers are INTENTIONALLY implementing harm to their children. They really think that it's right and that it will make their child's hair more manageable. I don't believe the effects of a relaxer should be likened to the very serious effects of somene who is TRULY inflicting harm on their child, beating them physically or emotionally.

    And lots of times (MOST of the time), these mothers are not even aware of the damage that will ensue. Do you really think that most mothers, if they knew the REAL effects of a relaxer, would do that to their child?

    Like I said, I'm NOT diminishing the effects of a relaxer. I just don't think it's the same thing as child abuse. That's all.

  • Anonymous says:

    What is wrong with us black women?

    Get this –

    because we are mis-educated on how to take care of our hair in it's natural state, we turn to perms


    because we are mis-educated on how to take care of hair in its permed state, we turn to quick fixes


    because we are mis-educated on how to take care of hair with weave, we continue to mutilate our beauty.


    the end result is thin and undesirable hair


    we pass this same self-mutilation mentality to our children.

    PLEASE don't go back to Africa to place the blame.
    Please don't go back to your childhood to place the blame.

    I recently turned 30 and I woke up to the realization that during my 20's I would moan and groan about why I can't achieve this or do that because of the way I was raised … because of my childhood. But once I hit 30 a whole lot of my inabilities are now stemming from my "adulthood". Don't blame your hair problems on what your mother did to you 15 years ago. At least in the past 5 years you were the one going to the salon for yourself and getting that perm or that bad weave job that took out your front hair. It's you. IT WAS ME… until I woke up and stopped excusing myself for being MIS-EDUCATED. I stopped perming my hair 2 years ago, but not just that. I started reading and writing and watching and researching about my own natural hair. I RE-EDUCATED myself. Africa and slavery is an easy target to go to when we feel down, but Africa didn't put that perm in your head.

    We as black women are gorgeous and powerful and we know how to take responsibility for our own actions, we know how to make a paradigm shift in our thinking, and we know how to pick up a book and find out for ourselves how to take care of ourselves. NO EXCUSES.

  • CJ says:

    Abuse – to treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way

    Sorry, but this IS abuse whether the mother intends for it to be or not. It doesn't matter if a mother thinks their child will "get ahead" or if they didn't "intend" to harm their child because the end result is indeed harmful, both emotionally and (sometimes) physically.

  • b. says:

    Mothers know that when they get their OWN heads relaxed, they get burned. So…surely it registers that the same happens to their daughters. After all, the same mother is presumably combing the little girl's head into a set of pony tails and braids, right? She MUST come across the scabs on the scalp. However, the montage "beauty is pain" is what some mothers believe for themselves and thus believe for their daughters. So, to say the moms don't know the damage done is incorrect IMO.

    I had my first relaxer in the first grade, I think, at age six or seven. Hated it then, and got rid of it six months after leaving home. If you want one, do you, but I can do w/o the burns TYVM.

    Abuse? No. Harmful? Yes! Parents do almost anything to ensure their children look and are the "best". That includes appearance. Changing the beauty standard and a creating a new legacy of healthy hair care among women of color will go a long way to negate this practice. It'll take more than a year or two to eradicate centuries of wrong thinking, as Tonya pointed out.

  • Anonymous says:

    intent has nothing to do with actual abuse. the fact that many are saying "it isn't the intent to harm the child" and "mothers don't really know how harmful the relaxer is" does not negate the fact that it IS harmful. if people know that relaxers can burn scalps, then why didn't the mothers read or ask questions?? instead, they did it for the greater good of straight hair. sounds like abuse to me…

  • Susan says:

    This is a pathology.I'm African and even though people relaxed their hair when I was growing up and they still do it, it was never done to toddlers. Most girls got relaxers as teenagers. It was seen as being grown up and fashionable. Most of us knew what our real hair looked like. However, I have noticed that most young girls in the U.S. don't show their real hair, it's either relaxed or under a weave. I thought it was strange when I saw some people on this site say they don't know what their real hair looks like. I now understand why.
    When someone believes their hair is bad and unmanageable, they are going to hate it. Like Tonya above said, it has its roots in slavery. Slavery is over but this lives on. Today this ignorance is perpetuated by the media and fashion and has taken root in Africa and the Carribean as well. The real battle is in the mind. Educate those around you and learn how to take better care of your own hair.
    You might call this behaviour abuse but it's borne out of ignorance, not malice. The mother thinks she is helping her child. There should definitely be an age limit. I think these chemicals should have warning labels too e.g. "Chemically processing hair may lead to scalp irritation and/or alopecia in some individuals". That might make some people stop and think.

  • Goombagirl says:

    It's as if when your child has natural hair, that is abuse. VII Magazine this speaks volumes. Two? I must be getting old. That's WAAAAY too young. The poor baby's umbilical stump hasn't dried yet. WHAT???

  • ZoeAaralyn says:

    I agree that the widespread issue of perm and relaxer utilization connects to the fact that many mothers do not have knowledge of what chemicals are in these treatments. My mother could not have guessed that the relaxer that I begged her so much to get was actually harmful to me. Although my hair was straight, long and beauutiful, I lost out on my naturally beatuiful hair.

    I am thankful that my mother made me wait as long as I did to get one, but I wish she would of pushed a little harder to refuse it.

    If women were taught how to successfully manage their children's hair then I feel there would be less of a need to use relaxers. It's the miseducation and miscommunication that is hurting the black community. Thank God for Chris Rock's Good Hair documentary because I would have never knew why my hair was so damaged while it was relaxed.

  • Anonymous says:

    I also don’t agree that this should be considered child abuse. But this certainly doesn’t encourage our children to love themselves.

    I got my first relaxer when I was 9. I asked for it – I was tired of the marathon hair sessions every week and wanted my hair to be like hers. My mother didn’t pressure me, but we both knew that I would eventually relax my hair. That’s just what we did in our family.

    Parents make lots of decisions for their children. My daughter’s ears were pierced at 6 months. I got my own ears pierced at age 10. I fussed with them so much that they ended up getting infected and/or partially closing multiple times. I had to get them re-pierced at 16. Would my daughter have wanted her ears pierced so young? Maybe not, but I’m pretty confident that she’d want them pierced. I was trying to help her avoid having an experience like mine. I certainly wouldn’t want that to be seen as abusive.

    I wish more of us would embrace our natural selves (hair and otherwise) and teach our children the same. I would never relax my daughter’s hair, period. Especially that young. It goes against what I believe. But I think that those who chemically treat their children's hair (especially at extremely young ages) just see the "benefits" of having straight hair as outweighing the risks. I don't see them as abusers of their children. They are making different choices because their belief system is different, regardless of how misguided I may feel those choices are.

  • LadyV69 says:

    In many cases, I wouldn't go so far as to call it child abuse, since many parents don't intend to cause harm, but it is a concern. Relaxing our hair is so ingrained in our community that it's done without question. Perming your hair is just something that black females do. I didn't get my first relaxer until I was 14, although I'd notice girls with them from about age 10 or so. I was shocked when I first got on the natural hair boards to see people saying they got their first perms at age 3. IMO, nobody that young should get a relaxer. If they can damage the hair of grown women, you can imagine what they can do to a growing child. But it's not uncommon to see girls that young getting one, mainly due to laziness and ignorance.

  • Anonymous says:

    Not a relaxer story, but I do remember getting my first Jeri Curl at the age of 4. I remember the headaches I got for days after because the rods were curled so darn tight! I remember my mom pouring gobs of goop into my hair every morning and night, waking up in the morning with that goop all over my face and pillow. I had that nonsense in my hair all though high school and THAT was hard! I got made fun of and picked on a DAILY basis because my hair was so greasy. I was one of only a handful of black kids in my school and what made it all the harder was that almost of the bulling was coming from the black kids. I begged my mom to let me try something else or go without the chemicals, but her reply was that she simply didn't have the time to deal with nappy hair. So, I struggled with that mess until my senior year of college. Then, I got a relaxer. Both I and my hair freaked out from chemical burns. Luckily there was no more bullying but I got asked so many embarrassing questions from other students and professors. I got questions like, “What happened to your scalp? Are those chemical burns? What on earth did you do to yourself to cause chemical burns on your scalp?" And when I answered the questions the reply that I would most often get was “What’s the point of doing all that if you end up burning yourself?” I didn’t have an answer for that one.
    So is this entire chemical processing a thing form of abuse? I suppose I would say yes. I don't think the parents do it with the intent to abuse but there can be some emotional as well as physical side effects to this. I certainly do think parents shouldn't be relaxing or chemically treating a child's hair as young as 2,3, or 4, (or at all for that matter) just for the sake of ease or physical attractiveness. From my experience I was ALWAYS miserable about myself and my hair when I used chemicals. Since being natural, I can say I am MUCH happier. It did take some time to undo the emotional and physical damage, but It was undone. I think we can all use our experiences (good and bad) to help educate others to spare other children from going through something so unnecessary. Hopefully there is a mom right now reading this blog that's thinking about chemically treating their child's hair and is now thinking twice about it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Many mothers are ill educated on how to care for hair in its natural state, so they process the child's hair in an effort to make their child "presentable". In doing so, many do not follow the instructions found on the relaxer and the child does suffer. I think that since we are now having more dialog on this topic, many parents will begin to more carefully consider whether or not to chemically alter their children's hair. Knowledge does make the difference.

  • Tonya says:

    WAIT A MINUTE!!!!!

    This (relaxing children's hair) needs to go a little deeper.

    Let's go back to slavery. We (African-Americans) were brought over here to America as slaves…not free thinking individuals, but beaten down slaves. We were told we were not even human…okay. Everything about us was demeaned…EVERYTHING…our hips, our lips, our nose, our hair. Years and years of this!!!

    Years and years of being told everything about yourself is wrong!

    Now, go back in time with me for a minute and imagine a slave woman with this HUMONGOUS fro looking into the eyes of a straight haired white woman. Don't you think that white woman would be intimidated? YES, she would be.

    So what did white folks do about that? Call us nappy headed, big lips, big hips etc.

    NOW, fast forward some years and who is now botoxing their lips, hips and trying to puff up their hair? Because what is beautiful has broadened in the minds of people. And, I am sure it started with one person.

    So, before people start talking about black women are abusing their girls by giving them perms, take a look at this country's history.

    Excuse my grammar for a minute, but:
    Ain't no black woman tryin to abuse her child by giving her a perm! She doing what she think is best to make it in this country.

    So, take your judgments to your history books!

    And, by the way, I have only been natural for a year because of all my miseducation of being black in America!

  • VII MAGAZINE says:

    I got my first relaxer at 10 and I don't think I ever forgave my mother for it. Dramatic but that's how I feel. When I asked my mother about it, she said to give me more versitility. I think she did it because that's what black mothers are supposed to do. It's as if when you child has natural hair, that is abuse. My hair was very long and thick before my relaxer and was very short and thin after my relaxer. I am currently transitioning and I am constantly being told to get a perm or only people with good hair should have natural hair. The point is I hate my relaxed hair. It's flat, short and broken. Why not have natural hair that I can straighten and wear natural?

  • Anonymous says:

    I didn't get my first relaxer until about 10 and it was because I begged my mom to let me do so and it was done by a professional. However, thinking back, alot of that had to do with the fact that almost all of my female classmates had straight hair. That had a huge impression on me. Therefore, I think that until widespread awareness of the dangers and intense self-love and self care (awareness of how to work with our own hair) are taught to our young ladies (and men), relaxers will continue to be used on young children.
    I don't think it is abuse as the intent to cause harm is not there, but it is definitely a problem.

  • puff says:

    i had my hair relaxed at a very young age (3/4) because that's what almost everyone at home in nigeria did/does. my mother did it because she thought it would make my hair easier to manage, and it would stop my tender-headed self from crying the whole way through a styling session. honestly though, i can't say that i feel that this was abuse any more than my mother spanking me for bad behaviour was – it was something she did because she thought it was for my own good. as i didn't complain then about the relaxer, i don't feel like having my hair relaxed at that age was ABUSE per se, but it definitely wasn't a good thing either… but to be fair to all parties concerned, none of us knew better.

  • LaNeshe says:

    I think there needs to be a serious discussion about putting an age limit on these products.

  • Anonymous says:

    when in 6th grade i recall a girl who came to school with chemical burn. It was along her hair line and came out about an inch onto her face. That was the most horrible thing i'd ever witnessed related to a relaxer. The scab was so thick, I felt so bad for her. I can honestly say that I've never had a bad experience with relaxers and i was using the home kits…my mom would grease my scalp and along my hair line before applying.

    i wouldn't call it child abuse because people aren't intentionally trying to harm their child. They are just not aware of the harms behind relaxing young children hair.

  • Raquiiba Bolton-Dawes says:

    Wow! Such a heavy post! 🙁 It's really sad because though there are many who believe blacks still 'play the race card' the truth is, though some things have changed, the level of hartred for our ethnicity hasn't.

    For so long we were told (in verbal and behavioral forms) that we are NOT okay the way we are so we do have a deep disdain for whom we are.

    We don't mind being black… We just mind being 'too' black.

    I think a lot of mother's are hoping that by relaxing or 'pressing' a child's hair they will help their child to fit into society more. They are hoping people will view them and thier children as 'more civilized' and worthy. 🙁

    You know? I wonder if things will EVER change. Truly! The self hate is so deep that we act it out in ways we don't even conciously recognize!

    In 2010 a huge afro still says black panther to many! When my hair is large the first comments I hear – especially from other blacks – is Angela Davis; black panther; 70's; Afrocentric ect.

    Why can't I just be trying to learn to embrace all of ME?

    I don't know if I'd call it abuse but we have a long way to go…

    A lot of times Whites' feel we are playing the race card, which unfortunatly some do, but the truth is we wouldn't have to if things (deep down- under the surface) has really changed.

    Self hate and racism has just gotten more creative… Not disappeared.

  • Anonymous says:

    yes it is abuse.

  • Anonymous says:

    I can relate this,as a kid i would wake up with my hair matted to my scalp because the scabs were so bad, I have had moments when there were more scabs on my head than hair. When my daughter was 2 , my mother relaxed her hair, without my permission, she thought she was helping me since my daughters hair was thick, she looked at it as being unmanageable. It took two years to grow that relaxer out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Who needs to be educated about the potential harm with relaxers white women or black women? People who relax children's hair without the proper training (professionally) are being at least neglectful. The problem falls in line with a host of other concerns including but not limited to – lack of supervision for children and inappropriate diet for children (obesity).

  • Liz says:

    It's both emotional and physical abuse.
    Black children with kinky hair are often told that their hair is "bad" and needs to be "fixed." This becomes ingrained in them, and they grow up being insecure about themselves. They also pass on this stupidity to others as they grow older, causing the cycle to continue. Being told over and over that you're ugly, "Ooh child! You need to perm that nappy mess!" etc. is very damaging emotionally.
    The physical abuse comes into play when children are made to sit through the pain and burning of a relaxer, not to mention the HORRIBLE chemicals that get into the body through the scalp. I've experienced this many times. During the worst incident, the damage left scars on my scalp and altered the hair in that area to grow as 3b hair (I'm 4a/4b). It's in the back and undetectable, but that's not the point.
    People, especially parents, who are doing this to these children are abusing them and scarring them for life.

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