Dear Diary, Growing up, there was a right of passage for little brown girls. Nope, I’m not talking about getting their periods. I’m talking about getting perms. A perm, also known as a relaxer, chemically straightens curly and kinky hair. Back when I was a child, it was the natural transition from having your hair straightened with a hot comb sizzling on the stove. Mothers across the country slipped on plastic gloves, mixed a creamy concoction and slathered and smoothed the mixture on their daughters’ heads. Some headed to the salon for a professional perm. This tradition, as some call it, still goes on in households from Florida to Maine and everywhere in between. With the natural hair movement combing the country, many moms are against relaxing their daughters hair. They’re mixing up their own creams and conditions, and purchasing hair care products which weren’t always lining the shelves at Sally’s. But some still select relaxers. And that’s their choice. Just because you perm your hair, doesn’t mean you’re setting a bad example for your daughter or suffer from low self-esteem. What’s wonderful about women is that we can change our hair color, texture and style whenever we want! But before you do relax your little one’s hair, be sure to do the research! As a doctor, I recommend waiting until your child is at least 13, since relaxers contain harsh chemicals that can cause permanent damage and hair loss. Here’s what you should know about chemically treating your child’s hair. Your Child’s Hair Changes Color, thickness and texture changes occur from birth through puberty, so you should avoid using chemicals that could permanently damage your child’s hair. Often, a child’s hair is much more fragile or than than an adult’s. And sometimes the relaxer won’t make your child’s easier to manage. Instead, breakage or frizziness occurs. Relaxers Contain Harsh Chemicals Lye relaxers contain sodium hydroxide, which is found in many household cleaners. The chemical can cause scalp burns and alopecia (hair loss), depending on the degree of the burn. Some people even have allergic reactions, such as severe itching. And kids are fidgety. If they touch the cream and touch their eyes, nose or mouth, a serious injury is possible. And remember, just because the product is being marketed as a “kiddie perm” that doesn’t mean it’s chemical free. Lye and no lye relaxers can cause damage! Upkeep is Expensive If your child gets a professional perm, it can cost up to, if not more, than $100. In addition to this appointment, your child should maintain a straightened look that’s healthy and shiny. Otherwise, hair loss may occur. You must buy additional products to moisture, condition and style your child’s hair. If you do choose to relax your child’s hair, be sure to base the scalp well with a protective product. Often this comes in the store bought kits. You can also use petroleum jelly (Vasoline). Follow the instructions carefully, and test a small section of the hair before applying the perm to the entire head. Hey DFTM Fam–Do you plan to relax your child’s hair? What age do you think is appropriate? 2 Responses Sonya February 6, 2016 My daughter is four and I am not even thinking about relaxing her hair. It’s not because I am a staunch pro natural hair person (although that is how I wear my hair—under my wig), it’s because I think natural hairstyles on little girls of color looks so darn cute. -Sonya @prettyswitches1 Reply Heather Hopson February 7, 2016 I agree! I love Afro puffs and twists. There are so many natural style for kids. I’ll let my daughter weigh in when she’s old enough to make decisions about her hair. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.