Perms, relaxers, whatever you want to call it is deadly. Well it’s deadly for your scalp. In the African American community the term “relaxer” is generally a cream or lotion that chemically straightens rough, curly, and kinky hair textures permanently or temporarily.
I honestly don’t remember when I first had a relaxer place onto my scalp, but I do remember the excruciating torture session that I had to go through. I remember my mom placing petroleum jelly all over my forehead, behind my ears, behind my neck and onto the roots of my hair. I know now that the petroleum jelly was used in order to help protect my skin from severe damages, but back then I didn’t know what was going on. At first the cream felt nice and cool and it had a strong chemical smell; 45 minutes into the process my scalp began to burn. It felt as though someone had poured gasoline onto my head and lit a match which set my head on fire. It was the most intense pain I have ever felt in my premature years. Soon enough my mom washed the chemicals out of my hair and blow dried it. My rough and coiled hair transformed into a smooth, thin, and slickly texture. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was as thought a wizard came and placed a magic spell onto me. The end result were more important than the torture session and from then on I was hooked.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year at SUNY Cortland that I decided to challenge myself to see how long I can go without chemically straightening my hair. What went from three months eventually turned into six months and eventually a full year. This pass summer I finally cut the ends of my hair (The roots were natural but the ends were still chemically affected). After cutting my hair I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I quickly learned to not only take care of my natural hair, but I also found acceptance within myself and my own skin. African American hair and culture is just as beautiful as any other ethic background. I made a promise to myself to love what is on my head and not to define my beauty based on European standards.