My relationship with relaxers has been a bit of a cryptic one. While I did get my hair permed quite a bit during my adolescence, once I cut my hair short—really short—in college, I transitioned over to a mild texturizer; something that, by the way, is also a relaxer (it's just not as strong). Up until a few years ago, I would go in and out between a texturized TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and a completely natural (including no hair dye) Afro.
But a couple of years back, I decided that I wanted a Mohawk and that the top of it be bone straight. So, after years of not having chemically straightened hair, I got a jar of medium-strength white-lye-hair-crack and applied it to my hair. I must admit that the 'hawk was super-duper cute. But it was summertime, so when my head would sweat, the sides would stick out like little porcupine needles. Plus, my scalp started getting lots of flakes and, because I went back to retouching my new growth, my hair was weakening. The long short of it is, while the perm looked good for that particular hairstyle, the maintenance was more of a headache than I remembered. I'm back natural now. Well, under these box braids that I currently have, I am.
I shared that little hair tale because lately, I've been hearing more and more sistahs talk about transitioning out of their natural hair and going back to their relaxed tresses. Although India.Arie did have a very valid point when she sang "I Am Not My Hair", as someone who has done relaxed before and had a few regrets, I just want to make sure that you've really thought bringing it back into your life all the way through.
Have You Researched What’s Actually in Relaxers?
Have you ever read the label on a jar of relaxer before? Don't feel bad if you can only pronounce five of the names. And, well, that's kind of my point. The main chemical in lye relaxers that breaks down the coils of natural hair is sodium hydroxide. No-lye relaxers? They're honestly not much better; they've got lithium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide and/or guanidine hydroxide in them. CNN published an article a few years ago indicating that these types of chemicals have been directly linked to "cancer, hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive damage, and allergies". Something else that might surprise you is there is scientific evidence connected to the fact that relaxers increase the chances of having uterine leiomyomata. And that? That is the technical term for uterine fibroids (crazy, right?).
Even though I've used relaxers before, I must admit that they always gave side-eye, being that children under 12 and pregnant women are advised not to use them. Definitely something to think long and hard about…isn't it? (Another read that's worth your time is "Study Reveals Black Women Exposed to Toxic Chemicals in Hair Products".)
Can Your Budget Handle It?
It's kind of funny—and by "funny", I mean ridiculous—that we make the beauty industry more money than anyone else (if you don't believe me, check out "Black Consumers Spend Nine Times More In Hair & Beauty: Report"), but we don't see nearly enough Black women in print and online ads, commercials and as spokespersons. Just the amount we spend in hair care alone equates to $473 million annually!
Per person? I can't speak for anyone but me, but back when I was going to a professional, it ran me around $65-75 an appointment. If I get a retouch every 6-8 weeks, that's roughly $400-500 a year (and that's just for the relaxer itself!). Not to say that professional protective styles are any cheaper, but at least those don't make you feel like you have to get them after an inch or so of new growth; if money is tight, you can style it yourself or wrap it up.
Relaxers have a way of making you feel like your hair needs to be super straight at all times, and yep, those appointments can really start to add up if you're not careful.
Do You Have the Time?
Speaking of professional appointments, I don't know what's worse—waiting at the doctor's office or in a hair salon. I never really get the point in setting a time if I'm still gonna have to wait an hour or more before even getting started (geeze!). I have spent countless hours that I wish I could get back, just waiting to get my hair done by a professional stylist. So, unless you've got at least three hours to kill every other week (either for a perm or hair maintenance), this is another huge reason to rethink going back to a relaxer.
Have You Checked Out the Other “Alternatives”?
If the more thought that you're giving this, the less you want to go the traditional relaxer route, there are alternatives to consider. You can apply a silicone cream. You can get your hair silk pressed. You can stretch your natural tresses with the banding or threading method. You can try some straight plates. You can do an old-fashioned blow out. There are wigs out here that continue to totally blow my mind (check out a few straight ones here, here and here , or even braided ones here, here and here)!
The awesome thing about all of these suggestions (except perhaps the silicone cream, if you overuse it) is, unlike a relaxer, they are not permanent. If you decide that you want to go back to your natural texture, the alternatives will allow you to do so. (A major plus in my book!)
Bonus point: Whether you want to perm your hair for extra inches or you'd prefer to stretch out your natural tresses, I found a Black chemist with a cool YouTube channel for how to gain length retention from a scientific perspective. Her hair is all the way down her back! Watch a couple of her videos here and here.
Is It a Matter of Personal Preference or Societal Pressure?
I know I'm not the only one who thinks that it's absolutely insane that there even have to be headlines like "California Becomes First State to Ban Discrimination Against Natural Hair" and "New York City to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair". America is something else, boy. It all takes me back to the first time I learned about the history of the tignon law. Anyway, the fact that we're cheering about no longer being "punished" in the workforce for wearing our natural hair in two states shows the very real reality of the pressure that many of us are under to get or keep our hair straight. So yeah, another thing to ask yourself is are you returning to chemically-straightened hair because you simply want to try something new or different, or is it because you're tired of feeling like an activist every day at the office.
Let me just say that if the answer leans more into "B", you should seriously rethink it. Even the Bible describes the Son of Man's hair as being like wool (Revelation 1:14). Warfare comes in many ways.
For all you know, the natural crown that you're rockin' is shaking the very atmosphere that you're in for such a time as this. Yes, it just might be that serious. Black beauty has lots of "truth to power" in it.
Is Being Natural Just a Hairstyle or a Way of Life?
Something that is so dope about a Black woman's hair is it's super versatile. With the right products, knowledge and finessing, there really is no limit to what we can do. But like most things in life, even hair has trends, and some of us are rockin' natural hairstyles because of the amount of popularity it's getting right now. Then there are those of us who find wearing our natural hair to be a spiritual, political and profoundly internal experience and statement. Because of this, we don't really consider changing it; not permanently, anyway.
Me? I know that whenever I've got my 'fro out, that is when people—Black, white or any other ethnicity—end up wanting to have some of the most interesting conversations about culture, history and everything in between. It reminds me that natural hair makes a really powerful statement. For me, I doubt I'll have a lot more relaxer days in my future.
As for you, even if you do decide to perm your hair, you're still amazin'. And if you want to go back to being natural, it's not like you can't cut it and start over. But once you've straightened it, it's straight. For a while. If you've already got some length on it (sidebar—check out sis I found on YouTube; I've never seen so much glorious natural hair on one head in my entire life!), you know what the square one process can be like (ugh).
All I'm saying is, just make sure that putting a relaxer back in is not an impulsive decision because once it's done, it's done. And even though there are some conveniences that come with permed hair, remember that it's still breaking down the bonds of your hair, which means that it is damaging it on some level.
If you're clear on all of this and still good, go for it. At the end of your hair appointment, you're a Black woman so, you're gonna be dope…either way.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Featured image by Unsplash.
- One But Not Equal: Natural Hair Is Not The Same - xoNecole ›
- What You Need to Know About Alopecia - xoNecole ›
- Why Do Women Still Use Relaxers - A Retailer's Perspective ›
- 9 Reasons to Avoid Perms and Relaxers | Black Liberation Love of ... ›
- What a Relaxer is Really Doing to Your Natural Hair (A Must Watch ... ›
- How To Finally Avoid Burning When Getting Relaxers Once & For All ... ›
- Skip the Leave-In Conditioner Before Relaxing Your Hair ›
- Why Relaxers Are Not Bad For Your Hair | LaToya Jones ›
- Pros and Cons of Perming Hair - Read Before You Perm ›
- 7 Things To Know Before Getting A Perm, Because It's A Serious ... ›
- Why Returning to a Relaxer is Not an Option for Me • EBONY ›
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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