If you don’t know about the health deficiencies of the relaxer by now, then you just don’t know. Perms and relaxers have been a long time favorite of many women, but this beauty regimen comes at a high price – hair breakage, scalp irritation, stunted hair growth, and even permanent hair loss.*
The government name for the perm is Sodium Hydroxide, a dangerous chemical that eats away at any part of the body that it contacts, including hair. It is a powerful chemical known as lye and caustic soda and is found in many industrial solvents and cleaners, including flooring stripping products, brick cleaners, types of cement, and many others. It can also be found in certain household products, including:
• Drain cleaners
• Metal polishes
• Oven cleaners
The interesting thing about the drain cleaner is that the Sodium Hydroxide helps clear away the hair often found corked at the bottom of bathtubs and sinks. What does this have to do with the hair on our heads? While it’ll take quite some time to explain all of the information concerning the harmful effects of the perm, let us focus on the topic at hand, why are perms so afraid of water?
We’ve all been there. You just got your hair lyed, dyed, and laid to the side! What the beautician just did to your hair is nothing short of amazing. But you can’t get it wet. You can’t go swimming, and heaven help you when it rains!
Our hair is made up of layers. The outer layer protects the hair shaft. When the 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 to trim the ends, but the truth is that perms and relaxers are quite jealous of the hair’s natural state so it promotes split ends. They dry the ends of your hair and wear down the protective layer.
Relaxers in African American hair work by allowing the chemicals to break the protein bonds in the hair to change its shape and make course hair straight. But by breaking the bonds that give hair its strength, it is left weak and vulnerable (poor hair). So when water hits the already weakened hair bonds, they become like useless limp strings. It also weakens the hair follicle, making relaxed hair more susceptible to breakage.The hair has a particular wave pattern that is held by two sets of physical side bonds and a set of chemical side bonds. The physical side bonds are not as strong but are more numerous, while the chemical side bonds are much stronger, but there are fewer. Because of this, someone with permed hair is recommended to wait a few days before shampooing or wetting the hair to allow the hair time to “normalize” and fully adjust to the new wave patterns.
Perms change the shape and texture of the hair through the use of strong chemicals. Your perm is afraid of water because it is as if it just had surgery and needs time to heal and adjust to the new pattern.