Julia Coney, 36, can still remember her first chemical burn. She was a teenager, and she'd been getting her hair straightened since she was 8. In the early days, her mother used to take her to a hairdresser, who would gently spread a relaxer on her thick hair to tame its tight coils. The sodium-hydroxide-based paste was a creamy white color and had a harsh smell, but it left Coney with fine, silky, straight hair that was easy to manage.
The burns came later, when Coney went to sloppy hair stylists or disobeyed the cardinal rules of relaxing, which include not scratching the scalp or washing the hair too soon before the application. During those teenage years, when vanity often trumped safety, Coney once got a burn so bad that it left the area behind her right ear raw. "I was like, 'Why am I doing this?' " she recalled.
With a pH of about 12, similar to that of household ammonia or soap, chemical relaxers are among the most caustic cosmetics products on the market, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization. Along with hair dyes, hair straighteners are the source of more complaints to the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Cosmetics and Colors than almost any other product.
Though millions of African American women have used relaxers, often for many years, there is a growing push among consumer advocates and some consumers for gentler products that are no less effective. Read more...
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Dispatches from Nappyville: Adding herbs and berries to your sodium hydroxide doesn't make it good for you
(Hat tip to Racialicious)
The problem ain't the chemicals, it's the pathology that says we need them no matter the price to our health. From the Washington Post: