By: Rasheedah Billups
The natural hair movement has been growing and evolving and it’s a beautiful thing to watch! We have been waking up and embracing our kinks, coils, and curls. More and more women are walking in their truth and being their authentic self. We’re all moving towards more self-love.
But aside from more self-love and accurate representation, there’s another reason to go natural. For your health sis! We are talking beyond the health of your actual hair. The ingredients used in relaxers (also known as perms) aren’t good for your health. A 2012 Boston University report titled “Black Women’s Health Study” found that Black women who use hair relaxers are at higher risk of developing uterine fibroids. The same study goes on to state that not enough data exists to confirm how dangerous relaxers and their ingredients are to women’s health. Despite the known risks associated with the chemicals found in hair relaxers, there aren’t a lot of major studies on the dangers. That’s alarming! Nevertheless, we are conscious consumers and we are on it!
Why are relaxers unhealthy?
When you relax your hair, you are using chemicals to break the bonds of your natural curl pattern, forcing it to stay straight. During the process, you come into contact with the chemicals through your scalp and inhalation. If you’ve ever had a relaxer before, you can probably recall the strong smell or the burning that almost always resulted in scabs on your scalp after your hair was done.
Relaxers are made from chemicals. There are three common types of chemical compounds that are found in relaxers.
- Sodium hydroxide (lye) relaxers: The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry identifies sodium hydroxide as “strongly irritating and corrosive.” “It can cause severe burns and permanent damage to any tissue that it comes in contact with.” Sodium hydroxide is also used in drain and oven cleaners.
- Guanidine hydroxide relaxers: This type of relaxer is advertised as no-lye formulas and are considered to be safer than lye-containing formulas, but still causes irritation. Although there is limited data on the compound guanidine hydroxide, there is data that shows its parent compounds are both irritants. Calcium hydroxide causes irritation to the respiratory tract and guanidine carbonate is an irritant to the lungs, skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Calcium hydroxide is also used in sewage treatment, construction, and for other industrial purposes.
- Ammonium thioglycolate (thio) relaxers: According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, ammonium thioglycolate causes eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation.
More reasons to go natural
There isn’t a lot of research on the effects of relaxers to the body, but it is clear that the main ingredients in the three types of relaxers are irritants when inhaled, ingested, or when coming into contact with skin. I wouldn’t want anything on my scalp that’s used in drain and oven cleaners. Using any personal care products with toxic chemicals increases your body burden. Body burden refers to the total number of toxic chemicals stored in the body at any given time. These chemicals stored in the body have varying effects and can cause damage directly to DNA. As we transition away from toxic thoughts, toxic habits and toxic relationships, we want to leave toxic products behind as well.
By its nature, a relaxer’s purpose is to destroy. Relaxers break the bonds of your natural hair pattern leaving you with straighter and weaker hair. Relaxers have damaging effects not only on hair but also on the overall health of the individual. The effects each person experiences vary, ranging from minimal tingling and burning to scarring alopecia, and that’s just on the surface. Let’s protect ourselves and our community before it becomes a health crisis.
What made you decide to go natural, was it from a health perspective or was it all about loving your kinks and curls? Share in the comments below.