9 Reasons to Avoid Perms and Relaxers

Perms and relaxers have been a long-time favorite of African American women promising silky straight hair for difficult to manage locks, but this beauty regimen comes at a high price – hair breakage, scalp irritation, stunted hair growth, and even permanent hair loss. Discover the top 10 reasons to avoid perms and relaxers and why you should stay away from them at all costs.

We all know there is an obvious difference between ‘black’ hair and other cultures. Some say kinky hair is a gift – you can wear it in so many different ways, but others call it a curse and have made the decision to permanently change the texture of their hair with the use of chemicals. I said permanently because once you add chemical relaxers or perms to your hair it is changed forever. There is no way to get back the natural wave pattern, even if you let the perm grow out. This is why the ‘older generations’ of African American women frown upon relaxing children’s hair. They say it will stunt their hair growth and ruin their hair forever. Well, the same it true for adult hair.

Before we review the top 10 list, let’s talk about the difference between perms and relaxers. A perm makes hair curly. This is also called a “Jerry Curl,” or “texturizer,” and used by African American men and women to create ‘waves’ on a short hairstyle. A relaxer, straightens the hair transforming the original curl pattern by loosening or relaxing the kinky texture. This is where the evolution of your hair takes place changing it from its original natural state to a lifelong process of having to reapply chemicals to maintain the same look each time causing more damage to your hair.

As odd as it sounds, the relaxer was actually invented by an African American man trying to create a product for a sewing machine shop back in 1910. He wiped his hand on a wool cloth and found that the chemical gave the cloth a smooth appearance. This must have been some kind of strong chemical to turn cloth into a different texture. Did you know that this is the same chemical used to make drain cleaners to unclog sinks? It is even used to remove fur from animals in the leather making industry. And this is the same chemical that you want to apply to your precious hair? Are you really willing to risk the damage resulting from the use of chemical hair straighteners?

9. Hair Breakage

Image result for hair breakage from perms

If you think using no lye relaxers are less damaging than those containing lye, think again. There are two basic types of chemical hair relaxers – Sodium Hydroxide (relaxers containing lye) and Guanidine Hydroxide (relaxers containing no lye). The manufacturers of these products want you to believe that no-lye relaxers will not damage your hair. This is simply not true.
The truth is those stunning pictures you see on the relaxer kits of black women with silky smooth hair are usually individuals who already have a good grade of hair. Don’t be fooled into thinking a mere $10 for a home relaxer kit will give you the same look; it is not that simple. There is only one full proof method to avoid hair breakage from chemical relaxers and that is to avoid them. Relaxers permanently alter the natural pH balance and chemical breakdown of your hair. This process weakens each strand of hair. Hair breakage and scalp irritation are common side effects from relaxing or perming your hair and is not a solution for hair that is damaged despite what you may have heard.

Let’s discuss a natural remedy for hair breakage using egg yolk and olive oil treatment. Applying one egg yolk and two tablespoons of olive oil to your hair while showering and rinsing with a mild shampoo is a home remedy that will help with hair breakage. You can use this remedy once a week and see a decrease in hair breakage. No chemicals, no burns; just positive results.

8. Hair Thinning

Hair thinning is inventible with applying chemicals. What we believe to be improving our hair is actually causing irreversible damage. Many women think leaving the relaxer in a little longer, or ‘getting the edges’ a little straighter by smoothing it down with a fine toothed comb will give them the look they want. Well, the truth is, this overprocessing is causes more damage resulting in thinning hair, especially around the natural hairline. You see women all the time with thinning ‘edges,’ and while there may other logical causes for this, it is a clear sign of the damage chemical hair straightening can cause.

An easy fix is don’t use a chemical agent to try to thicken your thin hair; try oat flour. Two little tablespoons added to your regular conditioner will thicken thinning hair. Oat flour can be found at your local grocery store or health food store and costs far less expensive than over the counter beauty products.

7. Permanent Hair Loss

Image result for Permanent Hair Loss

Permanent hair loss is not uncommon with the use of chemical hair strengtheners. What starts out as a burn and turns into a scab can ultimately end up being a permanent bald spot where your hair does not grow back. This is frustrating, not to mention embarrassing as you try to cover up the unsightly area. Permanent hair loss can also start out with an area of thinning and as time goes on the hair continues to fall out. The likelihood of permanent hair loss is increased with the use of hot combs, curling irons, and hair that is pulled tight by hair rollers.

Instead of applying harsh chemicals, try a natural method to straighten your hair. As crazy at it sounds fresh coconut can gradually straighten those kinky locks without the fear of damaging your hair. You simply blend fresh coconut with lime and refrigerate. This will create a creamy mixture. Rub this on your scalp and cover with a hot towel for about an hour and rinse with a mild shampoo. If you do this three times a week you will notice the kinks start to straighten out.

6. Frizzy hair

Frizzy hair is a result of dry hair. This can be caused by a number of things – lack of moisturizer, infrequent or too frequent washing, lack of conditioning, or use of a perm or relaxer. Black hair does not take well to overconditioning. It can leave the hair flat and unable to hold a curl. Perms and relaxers do not help with frizzy hair; they only add to the problem creating dry brittle ends that lead to hair breakage. Flat irons and hair curlers only add to the problem.

Let’s go with a natural method to prevent the frizzies. Create a rinse of apple cider or vinegar and lemon (1 ounce to 1 quart of water). Since acidity helps restore the ph balance and tames the hair shaft by closing the cuticle, applying after shampooing is a natural way to get rid of frizziness without damaging your hair. The best thing about this remedy is that you probably already have it in your kitchen.

5. Scalp Irritation/Burns

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Leaving perms and relaxers on too long can case scalp irritation or burns. The problem is only worsened by using additional products containing alcohol such as hair gels or sprays. Alcohol-containing hair products can aggravate the affected area causing slow healing, further irritation, or permanent scalp damage.

Treating scalp irritation should include removing dirt and oil from the affected area with a gentle shampoo and conditioning the hair. Applying antiseptic ointment to the area will help the healing process. Remember not to scratch or further irritate the area.

4. Split Ends

Your hair is made up of layers. The outer layer protects the hair shaft. When layer of protection is damaged with the use of chemical relaxers this causes the ends of your hair to split. This damage can travel up the hair shaft and cause hair breakage resulting in damaged uneven hair. Some say just trim the ends, but the truth is, perms and relaxers actually promote split ends. They dry the ends of your hair and wear down the protective layer. While trimming your hair is recommended with or without a perm, think of how much hair you are destroying each time you get a perm or even a touch-up. If you are trying to grow your hair long, you are fighting a losing battle with the use of chemicals.

3. Dry Brittle Hair

We all know that chemicals dry out your hair. This is not a secret. The makers of these hair products try to sell a dream and too many African American women buy into it to the tune of billions of dollars each year being spent. As their pockets get bigger, more and more consumers end up with damaged hair. This only means more money in their pockets as they (the companies) advertise different remedies to help restore the damage that their products have caused in the first place.

Not everyone has bought into this pipe dream though; many African Americans are going back to their natural roots with dreadlocks and natural kinky twist hair styles. Even the ‘afro’ has made a come back and it looks stunning. You need to know that chemicals do not repair dry brittle hair; they create it. If going straight is a must for you there are natural ways to get this look without applying chemical hair straighteners.

2. Scalp infection

Image result for Scalp infection
Scalp infection as a result of perms and relaxers not so uncommon. There are several cases where consumers have filed lawsuits against the manufactures after using their products. In fact, some women are left with permanent bald spots due to scalp infection after the use of chemical hair straighteners requiring medical treatment. This is not the look that you want to achieve with the use of chemical straighteners; however, it may very well be the end result.

1. Respiratory (Breathing)/Gastrointestinal (Stomach) Problems

As strange as it sounds respiratory problems can occur from using perms and relaxers. Potassium hydroxide, also called ‘potassium lye’ is a very strong chemical and inhaling the chemical may cause coughing, sneezing, and breathing problems. If exposed to for long periods it is strong enough to cause damage to your lungs.

Ingesting potassium hydroxide can be equally damaging resulting in burns to the mouth and/or throat, vomiting, severe stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and even death.

The effects of using perms and relaxers sound dangerous and it is; not just to your hair but to your overall health. Imagine something you apply to your hair having so many side effects – is having straight hair really worth the risk?

While the pictures of silky shiny straight hair are enticing, the health risks are overwhelming and not advertised nearly as much as they should be. Hair breakage, going bald, stunted hair growth, scalp infection, thinning hair, respiratory and GI problems – seems like a big price to pay for having straight hair. Consider natural alternatives to hair straightening or even going natural with braids, twists, or locks. Look good and feel good inside and out without the risk of permanent hair damage from the use of perms and relaxers.


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22 thoughts on “9 Reasons to Avoid Perms and Relaxers

  1. I enjoyed what I read and your article is so true. I have come to this reality a few years ago now that I have suffered the same faith with hair loss problems due to these relaxers. And all the pics you have shared I have seen these hair & scalp problems in the hair dressers. Big up to the info you have shared.


  2. This would be a better article if you provided scientific evidence and verified persons to help others better understand your thesis.


    • Try some research of your own to get a better understanding about the proven dangers of applying chemical relaxers and perms to your hair.


    • Exactly 🙅🏾‍♀️‼️Your experience is not everyones, when educating make sure to say this applies to some people because there are also people who had a bad natural hair journey and amazing relaxers journey. That’s not because they didn’t take care of their hair btw it was just DNA💇🏽‍♀️💇🏽‍♀️💇🏽‍♀️💇🏽‍♀️%. As for the scientifically evidence it’s proven to use these chemical wisely and on good purpose. Someone wanting to revert their hair to straighten format is good purpose.


  3. Thank you for sharing. The knowledge of hair damage and remedies. .really open my eyes to the true facts. I had to do the big cut and now hoping and praying my hair grow long,strong and healthy.
    Thank you and God bless.


  4. I went Chemical free over 22 years ago and it has been great, but I want to do other things with my hair and I am considering a relaxer because I am tired of the same look I am 50 years young and my hair has really grown but I have always had hair all my life I did the big chop over 22 years ago and I want some options on how I wear my hair.


  5. Thanks for the information, not sure what I’m going to do since I’ve had a relaxer since the age of 13. My hair goes through its phases of good and bad with some of the thoughts shared about hair breakage and now recent bald spot from my recent home relaxer. Yikes! Kind of bummed. Will try remedies recommended as well. I’m afraid if I go natural what sort of shock my hair will go through??? Kind of scarred!


  6. I’ve been relaxing my hair since the ripe young age of 7. My mom is white and my dad is black so naturally, she didn’t know how to deal with my hair and we didn’t live near my dad’s side of the family. She found a black lady to do my hair. I NEVER had any problems until about a year or 2 ago. My hair started breaking off near the hairline around my head. It sucks. I think a lot of it is hormones because things change as we get older but I don’t know how to wear my hair “natural.” My hair also use to be curly…and now it’s totally straight. Again, hormones I believe. I started taking vitamins but no changes so far. Super frustrating.


  7. I have been relaxing my hair since I was 18 I am now 65 have not had a problem I have had long hair I cut it because I wanted to not because of breakage. I like the short hair length makes me look younger . If you take care of your hair properly there will not be a problem. As for, thining, I was born with thin hair, a part of DNA. My suggestion do what make you feel good about yourself. Have your hair done by someone who has been trained.


    • I agree with you. I’ve had a relaxer in my hair all my life, and I am 61 years old and never had any problems with a relaxer. I used to wait 6-8 weeks before a touch up, and that caused my hair to break because I have tight, kinky curls and my new growth comes through in 4 weeks instead of 6 weeks. So now I have my hair relaxed my hair every 4-5 weeks instead of every 6-8 weeks and I don’t have any problems with breakages. It’s all about learning how to take care of your hair with a relaxer. You must touch up when the new growth comes through, wash and condition weekly, and moisturize and add oil to your hair daily. I love my relaxer and now I’m salt and pepper, and would never go natural. My hair is too tight and kinky for to go natural. The lady with the severely burned scalp looks like she was in a fire. I don’t even understand how she let her scalp burn that long. That’s crazy!!! Relaxer should not burn if you follow the directions, and the minute you feel burning, wash it out! Simple as that! I am not a hair stylist, just going on common sense and learning how to take care of black hair.


  8. This article is informative but opinion based. Yes relaxers are dangerous chemicals, however chemically treated or relaxed hair can be healthy and thrive if taken care of properly. It has been proven. If relaxers are used too frequently they can cause all of the problems stated in this article. I have long relaxed hair (bra strap length) and it’s healthy. I haven’t experienced any thin areas or balding, split ends, stunted growth, or scalp burns. In fact my hair is very thick despite the fact that I have a relaxer and It grows like weeds. However, I only relaxe my hair every 6 months.


    • There is no way putting a chemical like lye in your hair can be healthy. A chemical used in drain cleaner ! ‘Trust me if your hair is not affected by its use , it’s only by the grace of God. This person that wrote this article is right. It does not talk a rocket scientist to know he is telling the truth. Why is it people don’t want to hear the truth? I am 62 years old and I have seen the damage done to black women and children’s hair by the use of this chemical. Wake up! Lye is Extremely damaging to black people hair.


  9. In fact, I want to put this out there. When you have chemicals in your hair like relaxers you have to stay on top of deep conditioning treatments, protein treatments, limit heat usage, stretching your relaxers, and protective styling. My hair is as long as it is because I have a strict healthy hair regimen. I deep condition my hair twice per week, I moisturize and seal my hair daily, I protective style my hair on a daily basis by wearing my hair in buns and low manipulation type styles, I rarely use heat on my hair, the last time I flat ironed my hair and wore it down was 8 months ago; the last time I put heat on my hair was 8 months ago, I do protein treatments every 2 weeks, and I relaxe my hair every 6 months. I only get my ends trimmed on relaxer day which is also every 6 months. This regimen has allowed my relaxed hair to be long, full, thick, and healthy. I don’t have any problems at all with my relaxed hair. Knock on wood, and Im not going to have any problems with my hair because I take REALLY GOOD CARE OF IT. OH AND LAST THING I FORGOT TO MENTION, I DO NOT WEAR TIGHT STYLES THAT PULL ON MY EDGES OR NAPE AREAS AND I PUT SEMI-permanent dyes in my hair. No permanent dyes. This regimen has allowed me to healthy relaxed hair. Have a blessed day ladies.


  10. I went to Beauty School a million years ago when it was called that and you could only work on women. What they taught was the flatter the hair strand, the thicker and curlier, and less strands of hair. Someone who has very fine blond hair is someone with a round hair shaft and has more hair follicles than anyone else on the planet because their hair is very thin. When a person gets a perm, if I remember correctly, it opens the H & S bonds of the hair, and when the neutralizer is put on it closes those bonds to the size of the rod the hair is wrapped around. I’m not a woman of color but I once had a perm that looked so ridiculous on me that I did a reverse perm (without any rods – I just kept combing my hair through each timed step) to get the curl out.

    This site has taught me that perms are used to loosen the curl and I’m just wondering if, understanding how perms work chemically, and how the rod size plays a huge part, maybe the answer might be using a perm with jumbo roller rods (like the size of soup cans or bigger – note: don’t try improvising and using curlers and metal clips – everything must be plastic/rubber), maybe that’s what needs to be created to find a kinder way to straighten hair, (or just try straight combing it like I did) and avoid hair straightener’s, which seem far harsher than perms… unless they both have the same chemical makeup — it appears not but I don’t know. If someone knows that answer I would love to learn more because I’ve always been very curious to find a better way.


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