1. Natural Afro-Textured Hair is Magical
In the children's book entitled Sunne's Gift, the main character's beautiful afro-textured hair enables the character to make the sun rise and set. All afros have magical abilities. What hair defies gravity, replicates the DNA spiral and contains the force of whirlwinds and tornadoes? Natural afro-textured hair! Guess what? Most little black girls have that kind of hair!
2. Natural Afro-textured Hair is Versatile and Convenient
You may decide to gently braid, twist, cornrow, threadwrap, lock, fluff or comb out your little girl's natural afro-textured hair. All natural styles are beautiful. Moreover, if you decide to gently braid it, twist it etc. you may not have to style the hair again for days or weeks. How convenient!
3. Natural Afro-Textured Hair May Allow Your Child To Stand Out from The Crowd - That is A Good Thing
Afro-textured hair can be found in all races of people. But, people of African descent appear to have afro-textured most often. If your child goes to a school with mostly children of Asian and European descent, her afro-textured hair may make her stand out from the crowd. That is a good thing. We should teach our girls that there is beauty and power in difference. Conformity reaps few rewards.
4. Relaxers Contain Toxic Chemicals That Can Cause Burns and Lesions.
By keeping your child's hair natural, you can avoid relaxers. Relaxers generally contain sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide, both caustic and corrosive agents. Sodium hydroxide is poured on animal carcasses in order to help make the carcasses dissolve for easy disposal and it is also a major ingredient in many drain cleaners. Both sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide are the active ingredients of hair removal creams such as Nair and Magic Shave. Severe burns or lesions can develop when these chemicals come into contact with the skin or scalp. This is not surprising given the burning sensation and scalp burns that people often experience when using relaxers. Although no- lye relaxers containing calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate are advertised to cause fewer scalp burns and lesions than their lye counterparts, little evidence bolsters this claim. Giving a child a relaxer "treatment" is kind of like pouring liquid Drano on a child's hair and scalp. Sheesh!
5. Relaxers May Cause Hair Loss and Breakage.
The chemicals that corrode animal carcasses, dissolve hair in clogs and burn off hair on legs can clearly cause hair loss and hair breakage. I personally experienced severe hair loss and breakage due to relaxers at ages 7 and 16 and I was emotionally devastated both times. The boxes that contain the relaxers warn of hair loss and breakage. Terrible!
6. When The Chemicals in Relaxers Come Into Contact With The Eyes or Are Ingested, Those Chemicals Can Lead to Serious Injury.
I have a four year-old and a one year-old and I can't imagine putting a relaxer in their hair because, like most kids their ages, they are busy-bodies. My mother relaxed my hair when I was four years old and my sister got her first relaxer when she was three. It really boggles my mind now. I would be deathly afraid that my toddlers would touch their hair during the process and then put their finger in their eyes or mouths. Such acts could lead to blindness or severe injury. The 2000 report entitled "Hair Relaxer Misuse: Don't Relax" in the Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics discusses dozens of cases in which toddlers have experienced burns on their lips, tongues or other parts due to contact with relaxers. Horrible!
7. Relaxers Use May Be Linked to Early Puberty in Girls.
A 2011 report entitled "Childhood Hair Product Use and Earlier Age at Menarche in a Racially Diverse Study Population: A Pilot Study" in the Annals of Epidemiology suggests that some hair products used by African-Americans contain estrogen, as well as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as phthalates and parabens. These chemicals are hormonally active and can be absorbed through the skin and inhaled. Hair oils and relaxers were most significantly associated with earlier recalled age of menarche (onset of menstruation). This report noted a previous study's finding that African-American girls between the ages of 6 and 11 years of age have double the mono-ethyl phthalate levels compared to children of other racial/ethnic groups. A report titled "Premature Sexual Development in Children Following the Use of Estrogen- or Placenta-containing Hair Products," explained that certain hair products appeared to accelerate pubertal development in children as young as fourteen months old! It seems possible that relaxers and other hair products may cause little black girls to "become women" before their time.
8. Relaxers May Be Linked to Uterine Fibroids and Other Reproductive Disorders.
Another 2011 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology entitled "Hair Relaxer Use and Risk of Uterine Leiomyomata in African-American Women" raised the hypothesis that hair relaxer use increases risk of uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are tumors in the uterus that can cause heavy bleeding, severe pain and complications during delivery and pregnancy, and they are the leading indication for hysterectomy in U.S. women. African-American women have 2-3 times the incidence of uterine fibroids of white women and the lifetime risk of uterine fibroids for African-Americans women is estimated to be as high as 80 percent. This ethnic disparity is not adequately explained by established risk factors such as alcohol, obesity and physical inactivity. It is possible that the lesions and burns of the scalp caused by hair relaxers facilitate entry of hormonally active compounds commonly found in relaxers into the body, thereby increasing black women's risk of uterine fibroids. Dr. Wise, lead author of the hair relaxers and fibroids article, is currently conducting a follow up study of environmental factors and fertility (PRESTO). If you'd like to contribute to research in this area click here.
We can't make sure that eat their vegetables or sleep early. Nor can we protect them from hormonally active compounds in food processing and in the air. But we can control what we put in their hair.
9. Relaxing Your Child's Hair May Give Your Child The Impression That Her Natural Hair is Not Good Enough.
What message are we sending our daughters about the state of their natural hair when we place our girls at risk of burns, reproductive disorders and early puberty by putting toxic and caustic chemicals in their hair in order to alter it? What is so bad about the kinks, coils, spirals and curls that God gave our girls that those kinks have to be eliminated by any torturous or toxic means necessary? Are we putting their spirits to death by sending them messages of self-hate? I'm not sure of the answers. It is possible that the issue is not that serious. But as caretakers of little black girl magbees (magical beings), we have to ask such difficult and inconvenient questions. The current climate of hair-bullying in schools and the military makes these questions even more timely. In my experience, black mothers are among the most generous, loving, self-sacrificing and devoted human beings on the planet, but many of us are unaware of all of the potential dangers of relaxers and therefore are not making informed choices. Moreover, black mothers face overwhelming pressures to make little girls comply with notions of beauty that are often rooted in white supremacy. The harsh criticism that Blue Ivy's afro received is evidence of those pressures regarding styling black girls' hair.
10. We Should Teach Our Children That They Are Perfect and Magical Just as They Are.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that relaxing a child's hair presents any physical or psychological danger, we can all agree that children of all races deserve affirmation and should be comfortable with their natural selves. In my children's book, Sunne's Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God's Gift , the Creator tells children "You are all my children, made in my image" and "I made no mistakes in creating you all with your beautiful and varied colors, hair types and features." I hope that all parents will read Sunne's Gift to their children because that is the message that ALL of our children need to hear. They need to hear that they are perfect as they are in order to have the confidence to face all of the challenges that life brings. You can take the Sunne's Gift pledge here .