What's the Purpose of a Chemical Relaxer?
Many African Americans use permanent chemical relaxing products to relax their hair as well as their children's hair. The chemicals in the relaxer straighten tightly curled hair. Relaxing the hair follicles makes the hair more manageable, and it has been a practice among black women for many years. In the 1900s, before the hair relaxer, black women straightened their hair and their young daughters' hair by using a hot comb. Many parents still choose to straighten their hair and their daughters' hair with a hot comb or electric straightening comb--or even a flat iron--today because they feel that the chemicals in permanent chemical relaxers are far too harsh for their and their children's hair. However, there are numerous brands of children's hair relaxers on the market today. These "kiddie" relaxers come with a promise that they are much more milder to use on a young girl's hair, and because of this declaration, many parents are using kiddie relaxers on even younger girls' hair who are below the age of 6.
What Does a Relaxer Do to a Child's Hair?
Nonetheless, in spite of manufacturers' promises and claims, many experts still maintain that chemical relaxers not only damage children's hair and scalps, but all hair regardless of the person's age. Many hair specialists also believe that using hair relaxers on a young girl's hair can result in serious damage to her hair.
Hair relaxers require maintenance and reapplication every 6 to 8 weeks, and if applied inappropriately, the hair and scalp can burn and become damaged. Chemical relaxers break down the interior structure of the hair strands and deplete the strands of moisture, resulting in weakened strands and breakage.
Some experts agree that women should never use chemical relaxers on their or their daughters' hair, and some believe that a certain age should determine when relaxers should be safe to use. According to Dr. Jeffrey Miller, a dermatologist at Pennsylvania State University's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, "The majority of relaxers are done without any major problems." Miller recommends that consumers avoid home relaxer kits, and instead seek the professional help of a certified beautician to perform the service on a regular basis, in addition to keeping the hair moisturized and conditioned regularly. Michael Bernstein is a Beverly Hills trichologist and he opposes the use of relaxers, especially on children's hair. Bernstein stresses the risk of permanent hair loss and allergic reactions and even impairment of vision if the relaxer chemical gets into the eyes. According to the Illinois-based Alverto-Culver Company, who produces the Just For Me, a top-selling relaxer kit, their chemical relaxer product for children as young as 6 years old.