Is Relaxing Your Hair Bad?

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In Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair,” Sandra Denton, “Pepa” from the hip-hop duo, Salt-n-Pepa, explained how she ended up with a bald spot on the side of her head from using a relaxer. That may be how the asymmetrical look became popular, but losing your hair because of a bad reaction to a relaxer is not to be taken lightly; you can lose your hair permanently. Later in the film, viewers saw how the active ingredient in relaxers, sodium hydroxide, could eat through an aluminum can.


About Relaxers

People use relaxers to make their curly hair straight. Relaxers work because of the chemicals they contain that break down the bonds that make hair curly. The downside is that they can burn your scalp or make it red and itchy.

Becoming Addicted

Dangerous as the practice of relaxing hair can be, some women become addicted to doing it. The Urban Dictionary has another word for relaxers — “creamy crack.” To keep the effect, you have to keep applying relaxers every six to eight weeks; therefore, some people come to rely on them.

Children

When you have straight hair and want it curly, one method is to get a perm. If you have curly hair and want it straight, you get a straightening perm using a relaxer. Some moms are getting “kiddie perms” for their children, some as young as 3 years old, according to “Good Hair.” Subjecting a growing child to the harsh chemical, sodium hydroxide, is not a good idea. Michael Bernstein, a Beverly Hills trichologist, told the Columbia University News Service that he opposes the use of relaxers for children. He said the risks are permanent hair loss, allergic reactions and visual impairment if the relaxer trickles into the eyes.

Precautions

The chemicals in relaxers can burn your hair and your scalp if you leave them in too long or use them the wrong way. You might even experience permanent hair loss in a burned area. Avoid many problems by taking precautions and using the product properly. Don’t leave the relaxer on longer than directed. Wash your hair with a neutralizing shampoo, and then condition it. It’s better to have someone apply the relaxer and rinse it out for you to ensure you get it out completely. The FDA recommends you put petroleum jelly on your scalp before using a relaxer. Don’t irritate your head by scratching it or combing your hair right before applying relaxer.

Easier to Groom

Relaxing hair can weaken it and cause hair breakage, so you should not relax your hair often. However, curlier hair tends to break more easily than straight hair. Therefore, relaxing hair has a benefit: It makes the hair easier to groom and less likely to break from grooming.

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