Chemically Treating Your Child's Hiar

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?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

2 Responses

  1. Sonya

    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

    • Heather Hopson

      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.


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