To relax or not to relax your daughter’s hair is a question that crosses the minds of many parents. This question becomes even more pressing if she has thick, kinky hair. And if she’s tender headed, the thought of washing or combing her hair brings chills down your spine.
Brenda Kamurasi, the proprietor of Uzuri Salon, a mother of three, shares an experience that most mothers will resonate with:
“I relaxed my older daughter’s hair when she was young because I was too busy with work and needed something quick and easy. I also thought it (relaxed hair) was less painful for her since I had a preconceived notion that natural hair was painful. Besides, as a salon owner, I thought I knew what I was doing, not to mention that at the time when I did it, in 2008, everybody was doing it for their daughters,” she narrates.
When is it approriate?
However, one question always lingers, when is it appropriate to relax your daughter’s hair? It is a subject as fragile as these little ones.
Dr Musinguzi Patrick, a dermatologist at Mulago Hospital, says, “It is not written anywhere that at a particular age, one can have their hair relaxed. Nonetheless, the chemicals you are using are not good for the skin. We need to protect our children from those hazardous chemicals because they are still growing up. What if you interfere with the normal process of the skin?” he points out.
The skin of these children is not tough enough to withstand the chemicals contained in these relaxers. While he mentions no particular age as appropriate for relaxing hair, Dr Musinguzi asserts that it is not good to relax their hair and adds that it is certainly not a medical recommendation.
Maxima Nsimenta, founder of Livara, says: “I am against relaxing hair mainly because I am pro natural. Our African hair is beautiful in its natural state and the faster we embrace it at a younger age, the easier it shall be for our children to appreciate and accept themselves the way they are instead of admiring non-Africans and wanting to be like them at all costs.”
Nsimenta adds that chemical relaxers work by breaking down the hair strands and altering the hair texture. “During the relaxing process, these chemicals generate a lot of heat which many a times burn the scalp of the individuals. That is coupled with heat from the dryer,” she explains.
Dr Aisha Nakato, a pediatrician with Medical Chambers, Wandegeya, says: “The consequences of relaxing children’s hair is not a frequent conversation in the pediatric corridors. Maybe because most mothers never talk about negative effects of this hair to their daughters.”
Nonetheless, she says, “Relaxing hair is not ideal among children because their scalps are too tender. The skin is still fragile to undergo those pressures and forces. While the chemicals mainly used are also not child-friendly, some parents are desperate because their girls’ hair is not growing hence relaxing it.”
Although most parents, put up a front that they relax their daughters’ hair to ease taking care of it, chatting with them has brought to light that they do not have or know the products that can help them manage the hair with ease. However, there are several natural hair products and natural hair salons that can cater to the needs of your daughters’ hair without damaging their scalps.
Use detanglers. Even with coarse hair, Daphne Makumbi of Kids Avenue Salon, says if it is well detangled, it can be managed without relaxing. She, however, asks parents to be patient after applying the detangler because most of them are from UK and USA hence results are not as fast with African hair as with Caucasian hair. For example, one may have to wait for close to 45 minutes before the hair detangles.
Natural conditioners. Bridget Nambirige Kigongo of Vintage Natural Solutions, proposes alternatives to relaxing such as Shea butter, natural oils, and food stuff conditioners such as banana, avocado, and eggs that will help soften the hair. They will make combing easier.
Know your daughter’s hair. Anisha Eve Kansiime of Naturals For You, says that the best thing is to know your child’s hair type and get the right natural products to keep it manageable.
Avoid tight plaiting. Parents also need not over manipulate children’s hair by pulling it on the edges while plaiting as this affects the quality of the child’s hair too.
Moisturizing hair. Kansiime advises that you could spritz your girl’s hair with a mixture of oil and water every morning. While it may seem a lot of work, when you get used to it, you will find it easy and simple. Always shake the bottle well before using the mixture.
Why you should not relax Her hair
To cut down on countless headaches
While relaxers are not directly proven to be the reason behind the migraines most children with relaxed hair get, chemicals such as Sodium Hydroxide are as harsh as they come, and are found in relaxers. Besides that, the heat used during the process is so intense and could be the reason behind the migraines.
To avoid scalp burns
“In my opinion, relaxing just seems like child abuse because the heat that these chemicals generate burns scalps of adults,” Nsimenta says. How much more will they do to your daughter’s scalp that is still tender?
Lack of hair growth
Scalp burns will lead to scars as they heal and scars do not allow for hair growth. Would you want your child to have no hair by the time they are in their teens?
To fight dry scalps
These chemical play well with little or no moisture; therefore, it is easy to do without oiling your child’s hair. That will mean a dry scalp and the hair will break easily.
To build my child’s confidence
Many times girl’s beauty has been complimented about because of the long hair thanks to relaxers. But your girl’s confidence does not have to hide behind that artificial confidence booster. She needs to know that with or without long hair, with or without relaxed hair, she is beautiful. That will give her more solid confidence that will not be determined by what she has or does not have.
Allow children to be children, besides, you are their nurturer, please protect them from these chemicals.