Thinking About Going Back To A Relaxer? Ask Yourself This First.


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:

This Is Why Your Natural Hair Ain't Growin'

One But Not Equal: Natural Hair Is Not The Same

4 Black Women On Their Relationship With Their Hair

I Left My Husband & My Hair In 2017

Featured image by Unsplash.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Starz.

Listen. We all love a good rerun of Sex and the City, but the ghosts of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda can go ahead and rest. There's finally a new, formidable foursome further uptown—Harlem that is—and they've taken the fashion, sex, and sister-girlfriend drama to entertainingly engaging new levels. Trust me, Starz's new series Run the World is the ode to Black femininity, friendship, and NYC flavor we all need right now. And if you haven't been tuned in on Sunday nights at 8:30 p.m., you're truly missing out.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

In xoNecole's Our First Year series, we take an in-depth look at love and relationships between couples with an emphasis on what their first year of marriage was like.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? It is this indescribable feeling that takes over your body without warning. The lucky ones get to experience this feeling more than once in their lifetime. Regardless, if this feeling lasted for forever or just for a moment, we will always remember the person who made us feel this way. When you experience love, yes we are physically attracted to that person, but it's deeper than that. Love is about accepting someone for who they are on the inside and wanting to share your life with them.

Keep reading... Show less

Ladies and ladies: if you aren't familiar, let me introduce you to a being named Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. He's an Emmy award-winning actor, 35, and towering at 6 feet 3 inches tall. His name, which roughly translates from Arabic and means "Graced by God," may be unfamiliar for Black men in Hollywood, but he's carving out his lane just the same.

Keep reading... Show less

Summer is finally here and we're seeing the latest in this season's biggest trends exploding everywhere. Excitedly exiting the cold and gloomy winter months, fashion girls everywhere are taking advantage of the coolest new and re-emerging styles for the warm weather season. With there being much anticipation to finally be outside after a year and a half, I've seen so many new and refreshing styles to add to my closet in anticipation of a stylish summer like never before.

Keep reading... Show less

To say that Lori Harvey's love life has been in the driver's seat of her career is a massive understatement. She's been linked to many, claiming few, and taking a page out of Beyonce's book in the process, by simply not addressing any of the chatter at all. In fact, up until now, the usually private mogul's only job was to be the beautifully radiant famous daughter of Steve Harvey, and keep us all guessing without an ounce of clarity on who is who, and what's next for any of them. But now, sis is stepping out and speaking up on all of the above.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Michelle Williams On Depression, Healing & Why It’s Important To Check In With Yourself

"Now, the only label I've got that matters is God's: God's creation. God's work. God's child."

Latest Posts