Are hair relaxers really making a comeback?

For decades, the beauty industry depicted one idea of beauty when it came to hair texture - straight!. Looking different was not considered as the norm and for many of us, we grew up believing the false ideology that beauty only comes in one standard size fits all. 

Black woman wiih straight hair

Growing up as young Black girls, we were constantly bombarded with images of women with long, straight hair. The misconception was that in order to have desirable hair, it had to look this way and everything else was just simply not up to par. The indoctrination of believing straight hair was far better was all around us and present in TV programs, adverts, and even in the school playground. We rarely saw images of natural hair represented in the media and this was reinforced through young adulthood with "appropriate" hairstyles for work and school keeping us in check.

Then suddenly, years later we saw a huge surge of women of color transitioning back to natural hair. Relaxer sales were slowly declining and women became tired of the ‘creamy crack’. The false ideology of Eurocentric features that was once seen as attractive for so long was becoming a distant memory.  More women were shifting from relaxed tresses to their natural hair, which was once considered as ‘unruly or nappy’. Natural hair had even become the topic of discussion on the big screen such as films like ‘Nappily Ever After’ where actress Sanaa Lathan tackles the culturally complicated conversation around black hair. So why are we all of a sudden seeing a rise in hair relaxers in 2022?

There have been many conversations regarding why women are now reverting to relaxed hair, some even arguing that women are feeling the pressure of having natural hair and deeming it as time consuming. Some women have also come forward and said that caring for their natural hair has become less enjoyable as it once was due to the pressure of having the perfect texture and curl pattern or certain hair types not being presented as much. In this months article, we speak with Beauty Journalist Abi and content creator Veronica to hear their take on the issue. 

Abiola Olanipekun, Journalist for Black Beauty + Hair Magazine

Do you believe there are any health dangers when it comes to relaxing your hair? 

Well, I believe that there have been studies that link relaxers to significant health risks and issues such as fibroids, potential carcinogens and *chemical identified endocrine disrupters, which could interfere with hormone function. Also, anecdotally, probably hair loss, scalp issues and burns from my own experiences when I used to relax my hair years ago and other people’s stories as well.

 

   In recent times, there have been many health concerns regarding relaxers, it has been linked to cancers and fibroids. What are your thoughts on this, and do you think Black women should be afraid? 

I don’t believe that Black women should be afraid, per se, but I think that we need to be informed and have all the facts in hand to aid whatever choices we make with our hair. Just to be clear and believe me, I am always one for choice and that people can do whatever they choose to do with their hair as they wish, whether that is wearing their hair relaxed, natural, in weaves or braids, or any other style as they want, as that is everyone’s right, including mine. However, I also believe that people should pay direct and serious mind to the multiple studies that are coming out with similar research outcomes, particularly if they are chemically treating their hair.

Veronica, Attorney + Content Creator 

     Why do you think having relaxed hair is deemed as ‘more manageable’? 

I think relaxed hair is deemed as more manageable because washing and styling it can sometimes take less time than caring for natural hair. I think there is still a lot of  misunderstanding in regard to caring for natural hair. I feel many people make it more complicated than necessary. 

Growing up, what was your perception of natural hair? Did you consider it as ‘unmanageable’?  

Growing up, I thought natural hair was seen as difficult, hard to manage, and unkept looking. I thought of natural hair in this way simply because I didn’t have the knowledge to really understand how to properly care for my hair and what tools I needed. As I tried new things and learned more about my natural hair, I learned caring for it became much easier

Do you believe the ‘creamy crack’ is making a comeback?

I think relaxers are making a comeback. Women have the right to choose how to care for their hair, whether relaxed or natural. More recently, I’ve seen naturals deciding to relax their hair again. Many of them saying it’s easier. I do think natural hair takes more time and attention than relaxed hair. So I understand some women wanting the simplicity of Relaxed hair. However, I still feel if you know how to care for your natural hair, difficulty dealing with it will be lessened. 

 

So whether you relax your hair or not, we think that the issue may be a lot bigger and deeper than the creamy crack we once loved. It really comes down to society's obsession with dictating and essentially policing Black women's hair. Much like our natural textures, our hair defies all gravitational pull therefor, our hair cannot be confined into one box so why is it that we are defined by how we wear it?

Comments

  • Posted by Jan Gillespie on

    Great article. Knowledge is everything. I grew up believing the idea that straight hair was the only acceptable way for black women to wear their hair. I’ve been natural for nine years and will never put those harsh chemicals on my hair again.

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