Why Perms Are Afraid of Water

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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.*

That’s because Sodium Hydroxide (the government name for the perm), is a dangerous chemical that eats away at any part of the body that it contacts, including hair. It is a very strong chemical that is also known as lye and caustic soda and is found in many industrial solvents and cleaners, including flooring stripping products, brick cleaners, cements, and many others. It can also be found in certain household products including:
• Drain cleaners
• Metal polishes
• Oven cleaners

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The interesting thing about the drain cleaner, is that the Sodium Hydroxide in it helps to clear away the hair often found corked at the bottom of bathtubs and sinks (eww right). That said, let’s get to the point here shall we? What does this have to do with the hair on our head? While it’ll take quite some time to explain all of the information concerning the side effects to the perm, let us just focus on the topic at hand, why are perms so afraid of water?

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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!

 

 

Your 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 just trim the ends, but the truth is that perms and relaxers are actually 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.

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As shown in the picture (below), relaxers in African American hair for example, works by allowing the chemicals to break the protein bonds in the hair in order to change its shape (we’ll speak more on the different shapes of the hair strands in tomorrow’s segment), and makes course hair straight. But by breaking the bonds that give hair its strength, the hair is left weak and vulnerable (poor hair). So when water hits the already weakened hair bonds, they become like useless limp strings (not a good look). It also weakens the hair follicle, making relaxed hair more susceptible to breakage.

307988-61011-30The 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 of them. Because of this, it is recommended that someone with a fresh perm wait a few days before shampooing or wetting the hair as to allow the hair time to “normalize” and fully adjust to the new wave patterns.

Perms basically change the shape and texture of the hair by use of strong chemicals. Your Perm is afraid of water because it just had surgery and needs time to heal and adjust to the new pattern.

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*Fun Fact: Today’s modern relaxer was actually invented by an African American man named Garrett Morgan (same inventor of the gas mask and traffic signal), while 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 a cloth into a different texture.

Black History Fun Facts: Hair Story

Today’s Post is part of a weekly series on The PBS Blog that will take place from now on through February: Black History Fun Facts. During this series, I will post some fun facts about a portion of African American History, ranging from Archaeological, Cultural, Biblical, and Historical facts every Friday.

PublicationbhffI will also extend this open invitation to anyone who would like to take part in Black History Fun Facts. All you have to do is use the #BHFF badge in your post, tag Black History Fun Facts, and pingback. And of course, make sure your post is about something, well….Black.

My pick for today’s BHFF is Hair Story: Untangling the roots of Black Hair in America:

hair-storyHair style and texture has been just as life changing and connected to the Black experience as racism and discrimination. Every movement in the history of the so-called African American people has had its own hairstyle. From the Afros of the 60’s & 70’s to the Jehri Curl of the 80’s, you can guarantee to spark conversation whenever black hair is involved.

revhair-story-coverIn Hair Story, authors Ayana D. Byrd, and Lori L. Thraps takes us through a chronological timeline of how Black hair has changed over the years. From Africa to present-day America, Hair Story is not just an exciting read but a great source of research. I enjoyed the blast from the past the ladies took us on and the pictures and hair recipes that complimented the document well. Every stage and every situation presented a physical manifestation of that era in the form of hair for Black people. While I do not agree with every account mentioned, Hair Story is definitely a book to have in your home library (you do have a library…right??).

Good Hair

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In 2009 Chris Rock reanimated the Hair debate in his comedy release Good Hair. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2009, Good Hair was released to select theaters in the United States by Roadside Attractions. According to Rock, he was inspired to make the movie after his then 3-year-old daughter Lola asked him, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” She has curly, wiry hair typical of many people of African descent. He realized she had already absorbed the perception among some blacks that curly hair was not “good”. As a result, Rock delves into the $9 billion hair industry, and visits such places as beauty salons, barbershops, and hair styling conventions to explore popular approaches to styling. He visits scientific laboratories to learn the science behind chemical relaxers that straighten hair. It is from this documentary that I went forward to do my own research on Hair. Interestingly enough, it is the same year I went natural.

The only thing this film lost cool points for in my book is that there were so many valid points that seemed to have to be hidden under the concept of comedy in order to have it mentioned on air. It appeared to me, that if given the chance, Rock could have explored more deeply the state of Black Hair. It is for this reason that I went in depth on my very own research in order to discover the missing pieces. However, I’m not throwing any stones because what Chris Rock and HBO produced was sufficient enough to jump start anyone’s thirst for understanding of Black Hair and it is a movie worth having in your collection.

And who can’t forget Tyra Banks show on Good Hair?

hqdefaultAlso inspired by Chris Rock, Tyra launched a show in May of 2009 that spoke about African American women’s hair. It featured a variety of women (some with permed hair some with natural hair) who engaged in hot debate over what is considered good hair and bad hair. Children of the women also got involved, turning it into an emotional roller coaster of history and identity.

For my natural hair, I use Amaziyah Loc Products:

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And so do most of your favorite artist and sports players:

For me locs are much more than just a fad. They represent our culture.  We have worn our hair in these styles for thousands of years. Amaziyah Locs- pronounced (Ah-ma-zi-yah) is a Hebrew name that means “Made Strong by Yah.” I knew that the meaning was perfect for a natural hair care company specializing in Locs. It immediately reminded me of the story of Samson and Delilah. Samson was granted super natural strength by Yah in order to wage war against his enemies, such as destroying an entire army with only the jawbone of a donkey! However, Samson had a weakness: his hair, and without it he was powerless. When they were cut by Delilah, he lost all of his strength. Makes you wonder why there is a barber shop on every corner in predominantly “African-American” communities.

My favorite is the Loc N Butter but Amaziyah’s got plenty of variety to go around. Get the Loc N Twist, Loc N Oil or Loc in Butter:

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Why not close out with a little music? Here’s India Arie, I am Not My Hair: