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Don’t be Afraid to Relax Your Hair

Greg Gilmore

It has been said that relaxers are not good for your hair. It has also been said that going natural is the best solution for textured hair. I actually beg to differ. Going natural is fine, but what about the very coily textures that can become extremely hard to manage without smoothing? Sometimes a client will come to me and ask for a really short straight or pixie, but doesn't want a relaxer. This is because somewhere down the line this client had a bad experience with relaxers, such as relaxer being left on too long and causing irreversible damage to the hair, or someone told them that it causes cancer, or they have come to an “awakening” believing that they are conditioned to wear a relaxer to emulate a European definition of beauty. This is always a big topic of debate.

First off, I would like to say that the first relaxer system was invented by a Black man named Garrett Augustus Morgan in 1910. Garrett actually stumbled upon this discovery by first dropping some of what would be one of the main ingredients (Lye) on his cocker spaniel and seeing that the area of hair on the dog that was touched by the chemical went straight and remained straight until it grew out. He then had an “ah ha” moment where he realized that this would be perfect for textured hair and it would help black women and men manage their hair.

I have worked with textured hair for 16 years and I know that when going short on very coily hair, a relaxer will be required to manage the hair.  I still receive mixed reviews about the relaxer system. Some clients still love wearing relaxers and will swear by them for the manageability as well as the convenience of a style that doesn’t require a lot of styling in the morning before. A lot of clients are mothers have full-time jobs, or going to school. This means that their lifestyle doesn't leave a lot room for styling in the morning.

There should be more awareness brought to clients about the benefits of relaxed hair. As hairstylists, we need to remind them of how long we've been using relaxers. Clients should know that damage from a relaxer is most commonly due to improper application of the relaxer and therefore  should be preformed by a professional. A professional cosmetologist knows how  to apply a relaxer service and other techniques to make sure the hair is left in a healthy position  after neutralizing and also adding things needed such as protein to help build up the hair after the cortex layer has been compromised . 

The moral of the story is that in my belief there is nothing wrong with wearing a relaxer in your hair as long as it is properly applied and taken care of afterwards. Relaxers don’t cause cancer, this is just a myth. You will only run into issues if you are not properly protecting the scalp when giving a relaxer service. Applying a base to the scalp prior to relaxing is key in reducing any chemical burns to the scalp from the relaxer being on the head long. If you don’t believe me, ask Trichologist Connie Judge, CEO & Founder of the National Trichology Training Institute in Atlanta GA. She has over 40 years of experience in the hair industry.

All relaxers should be rinsed and neutralized 20 minutes after application and hair longer than 2 inches with the intent to grow out should only be relaxed 65% - 75%.

All we need is a little more education on managing relaxed hair.  We would then see much better functionality of the service. The natural movement can’t deter me from relaxing hair. I love my relaxed clients aka Boos.

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