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My story starts at the tender age of twelve, when my mother took me into a salon for my first relaxer. Before, she had always done my hair herself. She would generally wash it in the kitchen sink, while I would fidget, squirm and cover my face with a towel. Somehow I believed that the towel would keep me from drowning! Whenever my mother wanted to straighten my hair, she would use an old fashioned hot comb. For those who aren’t familiar with them, they are metal combs that you heat up on a stove burner. On very special occasions, my mother would use another apparatus (also heated on the stove) to give me ‘Shirley Temple’ curls. These were the precursors to the electric hot combs and electric curling irons of today. Believe it or not, I’m not as ancient as this article is making me sound!
Now, getting back to the relaxer. I remember being advised by my cousin (who at the ripe old age of thirteen had already had several) not to scratch my scalp. Meaning, don't scratch, comb or brush your hair before getting your relaxer! Since I had no idea why not, and didn't ask, I paid no attention to this advice. So, within a few minutes after the relaxer was applied, my scalp felt like it was on fire! But, I just grinned and bore it. In my minds’ eye, I pictured myself looking like a 'Breck' girl when it was all over. And if you don't know what that means, then you're definitely not a child of the 70's or 80's!
Because of the texture of my hair, I never was one of those people who would immediately run to get a 'touch-up' whenever my 'edges' started growing out. I was always able to go for pretty long periods between relaxers. But unfortunately, I was one of those who would use the do-it-yourself home boxed relaxers. Those can be so damaging to your hair, especially if you aren't a professional. I definitely was not! In fact, at one point, I suffered severe hair breakage because of a relaxer.
Fast-forward to about fifteen years ago, when I began developing a sensitivity to the chemicals used in relaxers. After relaxing my hair, I would itch, and even break out. That's when I finally called it quits on using relaxers for good, and I've never looked back. There have been studies conducted showing that there is no increased risk of breast cancer in women who use relaxers. However, that does not guarantee that there are no other health risks associated with them. Research has shown that relaxers can enter the body through cuts or lesions, and are not fully monitored by the FDA. Manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients included in their relaxers. So there is a possibility that some of theses ingredients are harmful. Not to mention the possibility of suffering chemical burns on the scalp.
In conclusion, my choice is in no way because I want to stir up controversy. Nor do I look down on or disagree with those who use relaxers. I do however, like to encourage others to be more open to the idea of wearing their natural hair, mainly because it has been such a great choice for myself. Natural can include heat-styling, braiding, twisting, etc. Basically, any style that is chemical free, and that is not altering the natural state of your own hair. As far as I'm concerned, each person has the right to choose how they will, or will not wear their hair. I am personally thrilled with my decision, and have absolutely no plans to ever change it.