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Perms, Relaxers & Commercial Color
& Why They Are So Dangerous
Let me tell you a little story. This is when I was in beauty school. This lady came to the school to get her hair colored. She did not get her hair done by me but by another student. As a student, we have to have a consultation of the client and of us. The teacher told the lady your hair is very damaged you need to have protien treatments or conditioning treatments to help with the damage. It was because she colors her hair all of the time. I was sitting 2 rows away and could hear the teacher tell the lady all of this. The teacher told her you signed a release form so if you want us to still do your hair we will. The lady then told her she still wanted to get her hair done. The student applied the color correctly. When I got up out of my seat to go to another room, I passed by the station that the lady was sitting at and I could hear her crying! Her hair looked like wool or cotton that had been caught in barb wire! It was coming out of her head! The ends of her hair were just hanging and about to fall!
I told you all of that to tell you this. Even if the chemical is applied CORRECTLY you still can have hair loss. You may say, oh well she had damaged hair. That is why it went wrong. I have seen people who had healthy hair and it still went wrong. People always say, the chemical did not go right because the stylist did not do it CORRECTLY. Wrong!!! It is not just how it is put on, but it is also the chemicals in the box!!!
This will be really short. The other day I had a client that had a protective style in for some time. Of course when we removed the style there was a lot of shedding, because she hadn't been combing her hair over the past few months. Anyhoo, my drain got clogged. Guess what I put in the drain last night to clear it. You guessed it. Relaxer. I got up this morning and ran some water in the sink and it was clear. It's like I have a brand new sink. Thank you creamy crack. For once it saved me some money. Oh and by the way if any of you use curling irons. If you heat them up on the low setting and apply relaxer it will clean them like new.
I did not write this. I found it on blogspot.com from another natural stylist.
Why Relaxers Are Dangerous
If you have naturally coarse hair in this day in age, you may have had a relaxer or two, or three, or 4x124 to straighten it. Petroleum jelly is applied to the scalp and sometimes around the ears, serving as a barrier that protect those surfaces from the corrosive relaxer. (However we purposely corrode our hair. How strange is that?)
The relaxer is then applied to the roots of the hair. You let it sit between ten and fifteen minutes (or if you scratched your scalp to death, you'd be lucky to get past two minutes) praying to the heavens above that your scalp doesn't transform into the lake of fire. There are two type of relaxers that straighten the hair. There's the lye relaxer, and the no-lye relaxer.
Lye relaxers contain the chemical sodium hydroxide. Although a very small concentration of lye is used on certain foods, a higher concentration of lye, like those used in relaxers, is also used in metal polishers, laundry detergent, oven cleaners, pipe cleaners, and various other household cleaning products. It can easily dissolve through surfaces like fabric, plastic, and even skin. When it seeps through the hair, it breaks the S-S bonds that are meant to protect the hair, causing the hair to lose it's natural structure.
No lye relaxers either contain guanidine hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide. Although they're a milder version, they are known to do the same type of damage.
Another collection of chemicals in the no-lye family are ammonium bisulfate, ammonium sulfate, and ammonium thioglycolate. Rather than breaking the bonds like the other relaxers, these chemicals find a home in the core of the hair cuticle, weakening it over time, and stripping it away of all of its moisture and oils.
All the chemicals listed above are corrosive.
A corrosive substance is one that will destroy or irreversibly damage another substance with which it comes in contact.
Relaxers damage the hair follicles inside and out. Once straightened, they cannot be reversed. Why? Because they're permanently damaged. Yep, it sounds like corrosion to me. I can't believe how we would do this to our own hair for any reason.
To prevent further damage, it is required to shampoo to wash out the relaxer, and restore the hair's natural PH balance. It is then followed by a condition that restores the moisture that the relaxers stripped out, and washed again.
According to drugs.com, this is what both lye and no-lye based relaxers can cause:
Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and throat
- Loss of vision
- Severe pain in the throat
- Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
- Blood in the stool
- Burns of the food pipe (esophagus)
- Severe abdominal pain
- Vomiting blood
Heart and blood
- Low blood pressure that develops rapidly
- Severe change in blood acid levels -- leads to organ damage
- Breathing difficulty
- Throat swelling (may cause breathing difficulty)
- Holes (necrosis) in the skin or tissues underneath
My daughter's grandmother, a cosmetologist for nearly two decades, can no longer wear or apply relaxers. The combination of the fumes, along with the relaxer seeping through her pores, caused her to break out, and even made her breathing more difficult. It was so severe that she would often have to be treated with steroids.
Prolonged use of relaxers can also cause scarring alopecia, where the hair follicles are damaged beyond repair, or completely wiped out. It is believed that although experiencing hair loss that could be the early stages of alopecia, black women are covering up the hair loss with weaves, or wigs, rather than seeking proper treatment.
Many of us have even experienced the damage first hand. How many of us haven't wiggled around like we caught the Holy Ghost in a southern church on a warm sunny day, after applying this junk to our heads? How many of us haven't had to deal with scabs on our scalp, sometimes oozing with blood, or clear pus? There is a reason why these things happen, and it isn't because the relaxer "isn't being applied right." It's because it shouldn't be there.
Since the 90's, there has been a trend of "natural relaxers" marketed towards black women. Take the now extinct relaxers Rio Hair and Copa for example. Although they were supposedly so natural that one could eat it [and die], they contained high levels of sodium hydroxide.
Another "natural relaxer" called the BODIpHIER Natural Hair Relaxer, contains a weak chemical called sodium carbonate, a chemical that is often used as a substitute for lye in various products. It isn't strong enough to be corrosive, so it doesn't break the s-bonds. HOWEVER, it also isn't strong enough to make the hair super-straight. Black women who want to achieve bone-straight hair tend to not be satisfied with these products, claiming that it doesn't make their hair "straight enough." As a result, many of them go back to the stronger, harmful chemicals, and the cycle continues.
Is It Really Necessary?
We are so beautiful naturally, so why do we do this to ourselves? Is it really necessary? I feel that we are so brainwashed that not even factual articles such as these will make us stop relaxing. Why do we rather apply harmful chemicals our scalp, permanently damaging our hair's structure, rather than learning how to manage it natural?
Do you think this dangerous method is worth it simply because you like the "straight look," or because you feel it will make you more attractive? Let me know your thoughts.
I did not write this article. It came from a new online natural hair mag. Afroglitzmag.
Reasons for Black Women to Wear Natural Hair.
Wearing Your Hair in It's Natural State Black women typically chemically alter their hair for a myriad of reasons. Some do it for the look, some do it for social reasons, and others do it for professional reasons. Here are the reasons black women should wear their hair in its natural state… Kinky. It grows in that way. If your creator meant for you to have straight hair it would be straight. You can do fun and versatile things with black hair. Unlike straight hair, black hair (naturally kinky) can stand straight up, can be braided into complex designs, can be temporarily straightened without chemicals, and worn in its natural state again the next day. It is in style. Natural black hair is more and more acceptable every day. It is just another fashion choice; therefore, there is really no reason to go through great pains to change it. Straightening chemicals are dangerous. If not applied correctly, it can cause burns, hair damage, and temporary to permanent hair loss. Hair chemicals are really, dangerous. The food and drug administration says, “Hair relaxers and hair dyes are among its top consumer complaint areas. Complaints range from hair breakage to symptoms warranting an emergency room visit”. Also” In February 1994, FDA and the American Cancer Society released an epidemiological study involving 573,000 women. Researchers found that women who had never used permanent hair dyes showed decreased risk of all fatal cancers combined and of urinary system cancers. You never know when it might go wrong. Just like food, allergies show up over time, so do hair chemical allergies. What worked fine two years ago, might cause a bald spot in two years. If it went wrong before, it will very likely happen again. If you had a bad reaction to a perm, do not do it again. Nine times out of 10, the chemicals are just as much to blame as the stylist. Pride: Your hair is an identifying symbol of your race. If you are proud of your race, you should also be proud of your hair.
I did not write this article. I fount it on about.com
They are lying to you.
The hair care companies, the officials approving their products, the mainstream media...
They are all perpetuating very dangerous beauty myths, and for all the wrong reasons. On some occasions it’s to reduce costs. Other times it’s to sell more products to you. And then there are times where they simply don’t know any better. Here’s something to think about: Just because your hair dresser or the hair care companies don’t know they’re wrong doesn’t mean what they’re doing can’t harm or kill you.
In fact, in the next 27 minutes, 100 people just like you could be suffering from neurotoxicity aka harm to the brain and nervous system that could cause developmental delays or even damage to the nerves! People’s health is suffering simply because they are using toxic products on a daily basis that are doing more harm than good and they have no idea.
It’s true... Let me give you an example.
Did you know that many hair coloring products include ingredients that cause harmful side effects just like the ones I listed above? Studies on rats have been evident that these ingredients are harmful. However, I’ll share with you safer permanent hair color products with ingredients that are less toxic to your overall health. Perhaps you never realized what ingredients are in your shampoo that could harm you. There are shampoos with enhanced skin absorption that can lead to skin, eye or lung problems.
Many of the Ingredients We Use On Our Hair are also found in the Garage!
Oh, and don’t get me started on hair relaxers. Heck why not. Well you know that there are lye relaxers and no-lye relaxers... Well, lye relaxers contain sodium hydroxide. Can you believe that this actual chemical that we use on our hair all in the name of beauty is actually the chemical that is also used to strip paint! It’s actually often used in the making of soap as well. And most no-lye relaxers contain calcium hydroxide, which is also used in the treatment of sewage and used in water treatment plants. Who would have thought we would not be worthy enough to have safe, natural ingredients available to us for our hair and skin.
Another chemical often found in hair relaxers is guanidine carbonate, which is also used for hair removal! I know, it sounds crazy but it’s true. It also makes sense because if you leave a relaxer on your hair too long the hair will actually dissolve from your scalp. Not to mention the painful burning sensation you’ll feel if it’s left on too long. I’m sure if you’ve used any perm, relaxer or hair coloring product that you’ve experienced this unfortunate pain. WOW! What we do in the name of beauty!
There Are Solutions!
But the mainstream media fails to tell us that we have other options – options that I’ll disclose to you shortly.
Did you know that the federal law doesn't require that companies test the safety of the products they market and sell to you? Can you believe there are no strict safety measures in place to protect you from the toxic ingredients that can be harmful to your skin and overall health? That’s right! They don’t test the safety of the ingredients found in your hair care products! Now just think, all of those bottles of hair products sitting in your bathroom cabinet have never been tested for its safety! Companies are allowed to put any ingredient in their products even though their product could harm you!
You may have even already been told one or more of these 'killer' lies that the products sold to you in your local drug store are all safe! Ya, right! But even if you have been lied to, there's no reason you have to succumb to the misleading information the mainstream media bombards you with. Even though your favourite celebrity is plastered across your television screen waving her silky smooth hair as a result of the newest hair product craze that has worked wonders for her, doesn’t mean it’s a safe product for you. You are the informed consumer who knows better simply because you are aware of the information I’m sharing with you today.
If you keep reading, you'll discover these '7 tragic lies' the mainstream beauty industry is feeding to you. You’ll discover all of this information hidden from you that is now revealed - straight from my files containing heavy duty research that I’ve compiled and am about to disclose to you right here – today! This information can save you from the fate so many of your misled friends and family members have succumbed to because of these lies...
Lie #1 “Using products given to you by your hair salon are better for your hair.”
Baloney! Most of the products that many salons give to you are nothing more than expensively marketed products from manufacturers with budgets to burn. They overcharge you for a bunch of hype and the product is filled with toxic ingredients that you’re better off not even using. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.
The problem is that your hair stylist has no idea about these harmful ingredients. She/he is mainly focused on the results the product produces for you in terms of styling and the softness and sheen you get as a result of using their product recommendation. She’s hopelessly stuck with the outdated styling techniques and product recommendations she learned in beauty school or possibly from the most recent weekend seminar plagued with hype and misinformation.
Many of the products she is suggesting you use are now proven to be harmful to you. However, only a small percentage of the mainstream media are aware of the enormously huge selection of less-toxic hair care products available to them.
Lie #2 “Products listed as being "organic" and "natural” are very good for you because they are all-natural and don’t use chemicals.”
False! When you see companies coming out with a more natural version of their existing product beware! Many companies actually reformulate their products and list them as being natural. However, since there are no legal standards as to the use of the words “natural” or “organic” in their marketing of hair products, you – the consumer need to do your own due diligence and research thoroughly to find the real answers.
There is a young teenage girl who had reactions to almost every hair product placed on her head. Rashes and skin irritation as well as dry skin was always the result when she used popular hair care brands. After trying almost everything imaginable – even the so-called “natural products” she decided to create her own. It was the successful use on her own hair that made her realise that she had a winning product.
Lie #3 “Alcohol is a safe ingredient when accompanied with other ingredients.”
This is simply not true. Your hair can dry out and become brittle using products that contain ingredients like alcohol, sodium lauryl and sulfates. That is why many people complain that they need to find a moisturizing product, that’s because the other products they are using are damaging their hair.
Avoid using harmful products on your hair so you do not have to keep searching and probing the globe for the newest product that will tame your hair. What you’re using on your hair could be a problem. If you know what products to avoid like the plague, you’ll have more manageable hair simply because you’ve done your research.
Some Companies Are Making a Difference!
Lie #4 “There is no such thing as a savvy consumer. These are just people trying to feel important in the world!”
Ya, that’s what they’d like you to think, but you are a savvy consumer that’s why you are reading this page. You are an informed, well-educated consumer that will not be lied to again because you know what products are better for you.
Companies are realizing that people just like you are taking their lives into their own hands because the hair care companies and those who approve the products that come on the market, simply don’t care. They just want to make a quick buck over our misfortune. There are companies like Whole Foods who are speaking to the need of informed consumers just like you. They know that you are smart and understand that what’s going on is wrong and you won’t take it anymore. Now companies such as Whole Foods and their “Premium Body Care” line are promoting healthy natural products and they should be commended for that.
Did you know that a group of body care experts and chemists have actually found 300 ingredients deemed could have negative health effects on you and/or cause harm to the environment? They have worked to ensure that their products don’t contain these ingredients. You’ll gain access to the exact ingredients that they deem as unsafe for you – the consumer. Don’t you think you’re worth it to be privy to this information? The list of unacceptable ingredients are commonly used in our hair products, such as sodium lauryl, laureth sulphates, parabens, polypropylene and polyethylene glycols.
Lie #5 “Skin rashes are caused by a reaction to the weather or environment.”
This may be somewhat true but many skin reactions are caused from the ingredients in the beauty care products that we use daily on our skin. Actually the ingredients DEA, MEA, and TEA – often found in beauty products actually cause allergies! Not only that but according to researchers, these chemicals also play a huge role in causing, dry skin, eye irritation and an increased risk of cancer!
Check out these other harmful product ingredients:
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is used in shampoos and toothpastes and pretty much every consumer cleansing product available on the market. It’s actually a very harsh detergent often used as an engine degreaser and garage floor cleaner! And we are putting this in our mouth and on our hair! Not to mention formaldehyde which is used in our lotions, bath products, cosmetics, shampoos and hair straighteners. Isn’t this also used in the preservation of dead bodies? Yikes!
Lie #6 “All fragrances and perfumes are safe otherwise they wouldn’t be on the market”
Since we’re talking about hair care products and know that we love hair care products that smell good, you still need to beware! Most hair products contain fragrances in order to make the product smell good to us - the consumer. We love the scent of a newly opened bottle of shampoo don’t we? Well, be advised that the fragrance you’re smelling may be harmful to your health. Don’t believe it? Well, checkout this little bit of information I gathered:
“Women Have Been Warned to Avoid Using Fragrance Products and Perfumes During Pregnancy”
Actually, pregnant women have been advised to avoid the use of perfumes and other scented body care products after researchers had released information that the products can cause unborn boys to suffer infertility or even suffer from cancer later in life.
Professor Richard Sharpe performed some research on rats and found that the reproductive system of male foetuses can actually be compromised as early as at eight weeks' gestation due to the chemicals often found in commonly used cosmetics.
Lie #7 “All organically listed products are safe”
Wrong! A lot of manufacturers have jumped onto the bandwagon of “green living” because they have realized that you – the informed consumer, is not buying their lies! They know that you care about your health and are aware that there are healthier product choices.
I did not write this. I found this an thought that I should share this with you. I am not the only one that knows, Organic is better. All natural.
Court case against Carson/L’Oreal The Optimum relaxer caused Isabella Broekhuizen to go bald and forced her to break off her US modeling career. Now she is back home in Maastricht, the Netherlands fighting for justice.
Isabella Broekhuizen was diagnosed with chemical burning caused by sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in lye relaxers. She sues because her aspiring modeling career is over, her bald and burnt scalp still hurts and she has to wear hair-prostheses for the rest of her life. Here is her story.
Isabella this is quite a story. How old were you when you first started to use relaxers and what were your reasons to straighten your hair?
I was 12 years when I started to use relaxers. I straightened my hair because I thought it improved my looks.
So you were quite familiar with the process when you used the Optimum relaxer. So what went wrong that day? Was this the first time that you relaxed your hair yourself?
No it wasn’t the first time I relaxed my hair myself. So I think it was the brand. Optimum was probably too strong.
What exactly did you? Can you explain what happened?
I used the relaxer same as usual.
What do you mean the same as usual. Can you be a little more specific?
I used the relaxer the same way everybody does. I added it to my roots, close to my scalp to make it as straight as possible, from roots to ends. Then I wanted to let it sit for a couple of minutes like the directions said. According to the box I could have left it on for 13 to 18 minutes but it started to burn immediately. I thought the relaxer wouldn’t straighten my hair if I rinsed it out instantly so I left it on for 4 minutes. After that I could not take it anymore and rinsed it out.
Did you neutralize?
No. There was no neutralizer in the box. I suppose any other brand includes a neutralizer in a home use kit. The Optimum instructions said rinse with warm water and condition afterwards.
When did this all happen? How long is this ago?
When did you realize you were loosing your hair and how did long did it take to loose all of your strands? I realized I was losing hair after a couple of months and within a year I was completely bald. I suppose you go crazy when you see that you are losing lots of hair.
What did you think was causing you losing your hair and what did you try to do against it?
I realized it was caused by the relaxer and I did go to hospital. They gave me a heavy dose of vitamin A.
You went to 3 different doctors. What did they say? What was causing the itching and what caused you to go bald?
About 60 doctors examined me in total. Each on of them diagnosed me with chemical burning caused by sodium hydroxide. This ingredient also caused itching. It was a main ingredient in the Optimum relaxer and as I understand now in lye relaxers in general.
How is the lawsuit going?
Preparing a lawsuit and going for justice is not easy. It is also a fight for justice.
When is the trial? It’s true that L’Oreal wanted to settle for 50.00 Euros?
There is no date for the trial yet. I hope it will be as soon as possible. It is true that L’Oreal tried to settle for 50.00 euros.
When and why did you give up modeling? Did you try modeling with wigs?
I gave up modeling in 1998. I was in too much pain. No, I didn’t try modeling with wigs.
Do you work now?
No, I don’t work now, according to authorities I am not physically fit to work.
Does your head still itch? Isn’t there a chance that your hair will grow back? Do you really have to wear wigs for the rest of your life?
My head still itches and I still have wounds. There is no chance that my hair will ever grow back. So, yes, I have to wear wigs (actually hair prostheses) for the rest of my life.
What do you think if you look back?
If I knew then what I know now, I would have never used Optimum.
Can you explain what you mean?
Sodium Hydroxide is a main ingredient in lye relaxers, the main ingredient in no-lye relaxers is Calcium Hydroxide. These are quite strong and harmful ingredients but necessary to straighten hair.
Are you saying that if you knew then what you know now you would use another brand, a no-lye relaxer or no relaxer at all?
I think I would do something else with my hair. Like Braiding or weaving. If I could change anything I would take the whole relaxing experience away, so I would have no more pain, no more prostheses to wear, no more doctors to visit, no more worries, no more thoughts that bother me day by day by day.
Are you against the use of relaxers? No, I’m not against the use of relaxers but I think its very important to inform people about the hazards of using them. I really wasn’t aware that relaxers were so hazardous that one could get injured for live. No one ever told me that they were hurt by the use of a relaxer. All I heard was ”it burns a little but it will be over before you know it.” So I truly never saw any harm in relaxing my hair. And even now when I try to warn people, they don’t listen. They act like nobody has ever has a problem with relaxers and that something like this won’t happen to them. That’s why I think the product needs a more explicit warning, especially for home using. A warning like those on the cigarette boxes. It explicitly says that cigarettes can cause long cancer etc. Relaxers need a warning like that. It should be clear what the implications can be. Because believe me, If only I had known, I would have been very alert and way more careful.
By M. Liong — Author of Going Natural — How to Fall In Love with Natural Hair.