Hair is a big deal to people of African decent or black women all over the world. We spend a great amount of time making sure our hair is on point at all times. We spend hours on it, going to the salons to get it straightened, braiding it up, putting extentions and so on. We can not sleeep freely and comfortably at night, moreso when we have a new hairdo. We literally run from the rain in fear of frizz. Many of us acquaired new showering positions while avoiding any single drop of water getting on our hair. Need I mention how much money we use on our hair ?

Hair is a political and religious subject.The Bible even states that hair is a womans glory and beauty. Some women with Afro kinky hair have been denied jobs at certain offices just because of the appearance of their hair. Straight long hair is considered more appealing and beautiful. So why won’t we go for the Brazillian, Indian, Peruvian, Malysian and such kind of weaves? No woman minds adding a little more beauty, right? Romantically men add up to the hair equation. Many do not appreciate the natural kinky bushy hair their ladies have and this pushes them to look for other options.

One day I went to an African hair salon where I normally do my hair and I witnessed something out of my world. I said hi to the salon owner, chit chatted a little and then one customer drew my attention. Since I love knowing too much and like poking my nose in other peoples business, I went to her and started talking to her. She did not respond to me, however much she wanted to. But I could see she wasn’t ignoring me. So I just went ahead and talked to the woman doing her hair.

This customer was a 3 year old. She was getting her hair straightened. With a hair relaxer. In layman’s language we say ‘Chemical’. The relaxers are Chemical products. Those of you who don’t understand what that really is, ‘google’ is your friend. You will be shocked.

I asked the lady why she was relaxing the poor girls hair and she said that the dad had brought the lil girl to the Salon to make her hair straight since she is a “half caste” (mixed race) and her hair is so curly and so hard to comb. I was like,” how can you do this to a kid who doesn’t even understand what is going on?”

The kid had the relaxer on for so long and I asked her whether it was itching and she nodded yes. I told the hair dresser to wash it already but she just took her sweet time combing the hair over and over again and telling me it was ok coz the relaxer was ‘kids relaxer’ and it takes time to be effective and that it wouldn’t harm the girl in anyway. The girl started crying at last.

The dad came and when the girl saw him she broke down screaming hysterically  and all this time the relaxer was still on her head. The hairdressers now wanted to wash the relaxer off, but the child refused to go to the sink.She was confused, scared and crying uncontrollably. Men, It was a real struggle. At last they managed to get her to the sink by force holding her down like a suspect and washed her hair.

The dad was very angry with the daughter and was repeatedly saying “it’s because am here that she is crying.” I asked him should it not be vice versa? Like the kid sees you and feels protected and gets happy. He said, “…she is just crazy…”. I couldn’t honestly fathom that. He told me it was her first time to do hair straightening. So this conversation followed between us ; Me: Do you know what chemical does to your hair and scalp leave alone that of a kid?

Him:  No! I don’t. But it straightens hair. (how ignorant of the dad) Me: Have you ever had your hair relaxed?

Him: Mmmh yes..long time ago. Me: Were you three years old then? Him: Mmmh no. Me: Okay. Does the mum know what exactly is happening to her daughter right now?

Him: Aaah not really, but she knows it’s just straightening the hair and she is ok with it since the kid won’t let anyone really comb her hair. I just left the salon with so much worry and so many thoughts.

I could honestly swear that, that lil kid went home with several burns on her scalp.I swore I  would never let my kid straighten their hair at such a young age. I have straightened mine but the first time I did it I was 19 years old. I was very excited to have my hair straight and style it anyhow I wanted to, but sometimes I wish I could change that. I have had several burns from the so called relaxers and it’s not funny at all.

There are of course short and long term side effects, advantages and disadvantages of chemically treating hair. Some people  eventually become bald due to continuous and unprofessional usage of them ‘relaxers’. Hairlines get damaged. Some people get unending severe headaches. Some go blind when the chemical is wrongly handled and gets to the eyes etc.

Why are we not proud of our Hair? Why don’t we like Kinky hair?  Am proud of women who have risen above deep insecurities that still trouble many women and have taken a step to keep it natural and take real good care of their hair. Keep the kinks and don’t forget to keep the scalp clean though.

I am not campaigning for people to go natural coz I understand how hard that can be, but let us ask ourselves, do we think straight hair is more manageable beacause thats all we have been taught and its all we know? or, Do we think it looks better on us because thats how we have always seen ourselves?

Mothers and fathers, enlighten yourselves before doing things you think are easier for you. Think about your kids first. For all it’s worth, do not relax your kids hair. Don’t take that right from them. There are other ways that could help you comb your kids hair easily. If only you were a little more patient. Research well and rest on whichever way is healthy to your kids hair and scalp.


  • Eri_mala

    Hey Grace,
    Thank you for posting such interesting story. The debate over natural versus relaxed hair has been a hot topic especially within black community. Many years ago “Hot stones” were used to relax hair. I wonder if such a method had some disadvantages in any way.

    As we are living today in an advanced world, scientists are trying to make everything easy. Yes, they are too intelligent that they can mix chemicals to form hair relaxers that burns our sculps or break our hair. In one African country where i come from, there was a time when we could buy very cheap hair relaxer. Then, i guess i was 13 years old. I was so happy to relax my hair everytime i felt like, the reason being that i could afford to buy it. Surprisingly, one could not find such relaxer in a shop but only by street vendors in a second hand markets. When it comes to relaxing the hair, i never had a real grasp of what was happening. I believed that i couldn’t just wash it, but stay for about half an hour for it to be more effective, but the end results were always 2: the burned sculp and the relaxed hair. After a lot of people were complaining of having severe burns after using such relaxer, it was discovered that the people selling it, were making it themselves. They were mixing “Sulfuric acid” (a liquid used in automotive batteries) and a certain “white bathing soap” (Geisha) to form that kind of relaxer. If i may ask what happens when sulfuric acid drops on a cloth? Does the cloth survive? Anyway, i guess you know the answer. Just imagine if this substance tears up a cloth what more human’s sculp? Thank God such relaxer was banned in the markets.

    It’s never wrong to go natural but it’s just a matter of commitment.

    • mungaiciru

      Wow Mala, am glad you read my post and I appreciate the feedback. Its traumatizing to see the extent people could go to just make business and on the other hand be destroying other people’s lives. Its good that such products were banned because some people, mostly the younger generations are so naive and would just run to buy whichever products they hear just to change something in them. People don’t research well before using some products. Just because my friend used this and that then am gonna try it out too. Not knowing what works for me may not work out for you. I agree with you totally that going natural is a matter of commitment.

  • ezzyie

    What an interesting topis Shiro, thanks for sharing it, here is my 2 cent.

    To me this is a parental fail, laziness, ignorance and borderlines child abuse! It’s very sad what some parents knowingly or unknowingly subject to their kids.
    Some people might urgue that, it’s just hair,It’s just a perm, no big deal, but then later in life we start wondering, why is it that most black women feel the urge to alter their hair or hide it or just generally have the mentality that it is just not beautiful? Well, we can stop wondering, when some of us get our hair relaxed as kids, it’s just normal to think there is something wrong with the way our natural hair looks and develope some issues with self-image and self-esteem. I beleive it’s the parents job to build a kids confidence and give her the opportunity to develope a positive self-image through loving and appreciating her natural self. Little black girls really need positive reinforcement about their natural beauty.

    How are we gona do that if we start feeding them all this stereotypical negative ideas of beauty? Relaxing their hair is ofcourse letting them know that their hair is, 1:unmanagable , 2: Socially unacceptable, and 3:Unattractive.While this kid may grow up and decide to relax her hair, atleast it’s her decision and she has been given the opportunity to develope her own positive self image.

    Some men really do find our natural kinks sexy and attractive, I know mine loves me best when I have my mane, and he can run his fingers through it, Now thats romantic, I will never understand men who want to run their fingers through weave tracks but anyway everybody to their own.

    In this day and age when natural hair is very trendy and mainstream and there are so many natural styling products, I cannot understand a parent relaxing their kids hair!

    Excuse my long comment, this topic is just so dear to me!

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