Why I Won’t Relax My Daughter’s Hair

December 8, 2010

Today The Dr. Oz Show was titled ‘The 7 Deadly Symptoms You Should Never Ignore’. A segment on this episode was called ‘Hair Straighteners: What’s Safe, What’s Not’. This piqued my interest because my daughter has very mixed, very curly hair (that can sometimes be hard to manage). As she’s gotten older, she has wanted to take charge of her hair. Which, quite frankly, I was more than happy to hand over. You won’t hear any arguments here! The last thing I need is for her to let her hair go until it is chock full of knots, then come to me when she needs help brushing it out, (because she is now on the verge of having dreadlocks), so then I spend hours combing through it, and she’s yelping in pain, which makes me sweat and stressed out, and d-e-l-i-v-e-r me! 

The only problem is she pretty quickly learned how hard it is to keep her hair in check, so has expressed a STRONG desire in having her hair straightened. I’m not too keen on this, because I think her hair is gorgeous (when it’s properly taken care of). People frequently stop her to tell her how beautiful her hair is. Shoot, people pay MONEY to try to get their hair like hers. But, the grass is always greener, right? She’d rather look like everybody else. Go figure.

So I thought I’d see what my favorite doctor has to say on the topic. He talked about the three most common ways people get their hair straight – flat irons, relaxers, and the Brazilian Blowout. The expert on today’s show was Cheryl Kramer, Beauty Director at Redbook magazine. This is what they had to say about the 3 methods:

  • Flat Irons/Blow Dryers – Kramer said they essentially fry the hair. She recommends if you are going to use a flat iron, buy one that has ceramic-coated plates. This will help distribute the heat more evenly and reduce hair singeing. Also buy one with a digital temperature thermometer. She also said you do not need to go as high as 450 degrees. 350 is fine for most hair, and do not go over 300 for fine hair. Also do not use these products more than 2-3 times a week. This is the only method my daughter has tried so far. While it is the mildest of the three, I don’t love it because whenever she uses it, there are singed-off tips of her hair all over her bathroom counter. That can NOT be good.
  • Do-it-Yourself Relaxers – These are targeted towards African American women and girls. They contain sodium hydroxide aka lye aka the active ingredient in drain cleaner. You pour this down the drain to melt the hair that’s clogging your drain, so imagine what it’s doing to the hair on your head! Now there are “no-lye” versions, which is really just a little tweak on the lye relaxer – they are just as bad. Another marketing ploy is “organic” relaxers. Dr. Oz points out there is no such thing. How do you make lye organic? It’s false advertising. He then did an experiment to show how caustic these relaxers can be. He put a piece of paper on a cookie sheet, and poured water all over it to hydrate it. He then poured the lye on the paper, and it ate through it! It was melting the paper, and giving off harsh gases at the same time. It even started to burn the cookie sheet! He covered it with a towel, in an attempt to put it out, only it started to burn through that too!!! Cra-zy. NOT something I want on my daughter’s hair. I was not planning on using this anyway, since I have too may friends that are either black or mixed, and say their hair was never the same after relaxing it this way.
  • Brazilian Blowout – Three states have announced accusations against the company that created Brazilian Blowout (California, Oregon, and Connecticut). In Oregon, health officials tested it after hearing about nose bleeds and breathing problems. They found that the product contains over 10% formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and allergen. Mark Garrison, NY salon owner, used to carry Brazilian Blowout. He had it tested, and the results came back that the formaldehyde levels were higher than what’s permissible by OSHA, which is interesting, considering Brazilian Blowout says their products contains no formaldehyde. Hmmm. Obviously not! Garrison offers other straightening products instead – many of which do still contain formaldehyde, only in trace amounts. So he takes precautions – he has installed special ventilators in his salon, and makes both stylists and clients wear gas masks. Dr. Oz asked Kramer why Brazilian Blowout is getting targeted, when other keratin treatments contain formaldehyde as well? Kramer says the difference is the level. Brazilian Blowout is catching heat because 1) their label specifically says it does not even contain formaldehyde, and 2) not only is that a lie, the levels are higher than acceptable government standards!

Dr. Oz wrapped up the segment by showing how hair is even straightened in the first place. These various products strip away protein bonds, which then allows hair to be “de-natured”. I don’t even like the sound of that. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t want any part of my daughter’s body being de-natured!

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