Day 1: THE BASICS- What Hair Is and How Relaxers Work

Hello my beautiful people!

You are very welcome to ‘Going Back To Natural’, a blog special dedicated to you and to everyone curious about natural hair, considering reclaiming their kinks, looking forward to a healthy hair journey with their kinks. In this post, a few scientific terms are used, but they ARE explained, so please don’t let it throw you off. 🙂

I want everyone to have healthy hair– and I LOVE to share everything that brings light to my life with others. If I could make you see what I see, what I feel when I interact with my hair, I would! It’s amazing really and apart from deciding to get a Law degree at uni, going natural is the next best thing I’ve done for myself so far! It is my mission to get all my ladies on their way to healthy hair- and though I write from what I know or what I’m beginning to know- my experience with my kinky hair, I must say this at this point:

Being natural is best for hair but I want you to know that you can still have healthy relaxed hair.

I know, relaxer is bad for the hair strands but that orobo bottle of coke or 1L of Berry blast you chug every day is SO unnecessary but you drink it anyway. Your entire reproductive system may be better off if you abstain but you’re sexually active anyway, so yarrr.

Naija Hair Can Grow, Lush Strands, and Wura’s Secret Hair are three lovely 100% Nigerian hair blogs that give me joy. The ladies behind them have luscious, long, healthy relaxed hair BECAUSE some time ago, they decided to reject the traditional ideas about Nigerian/African hair, and start their healthy hair journeys.

First of all, I think it’s important for you as a person of African origin to know how relaxers work. I say “person” because this blog isn’t entirely for women. It’s important that guys know these things- perhaps it can help them be a little more understanding. As a woman, when you understand the science behind relaxer, I think you’ll be inspired to give your hair a lot more TLC than you’re giving it right now- especially if you choose to remain #teamrelaxer.

As you very well know, there are different types of hair. Even with the ones we buy- Brazilian, Mongolian, Peruvian- there’s straight, there’s wavy, there’s bohemian curls etc etc. You know by now that your hair is not Brazilian neither is it Mongolian. It is African. And we Africans are blessed with curly to coily hair. It’s our exclusive preserve. Try as we might, we cannot change this. Relax your hair today and in a few weeks, your undergrowth will remind you of whom you are in case you forgot.

heheheh

heheheh!!

WHAT HAIR IS

All hair (African, Caucasian, Peruvian, Mongolian, whatever) is composed of a protein called keratin (70-90%) for strength and structure, water for elasticity, and trace elements.

Your hair starts growing in the follicles. The follicles are embedded in your scalp and your dermis/epidermis. That’s where growth happens. I like to say it that hair is being cooked in the follicles. When the hair is ready for the world, it pushes up out of the scalp (Still attached though) to join the rest of the strand and so it continues. Think of the hair that you see as a chain of dead proteins. I think this is a fair introduction, stay with me now.

HAIR IS LAYERED

Science has shown us that our hair really has three layers- the cuticle, the cortex and the medulla. The cortex is the powerhouse. It takes instructions from your genes as to whether your hair is going to be straight or wavy or curly or kinky. It also determines what your hair colour is.

Almost anything you do or try to do has to get to the cortex to be of any effect. If you want to dye your hair and the dye doesn’t get through, the colouring won’t happen.

When you relax your hair, you are converting the curly to straight and the relaxer can only do this by tearing through your cuticle to alter the cortex.

WHY IS OUR HAIR THE WAY IT IS?

Remember I said ALL hair is 70-90% keratin?

Keratin proteins contain certain amino acids called cysteines.

These cysteines are connected to each other by things called disulfide bonds. These are present in all types of hair.

HOWEVER, the more disulfide bonds exist in a chain of proteins, the curlier the hair is.

Our African hair is naturally abundant in disulfide bonds, hence its unique kinky curliness. ^_^

SO WHAT DO RELAXERS DO TO NATURALLY KINKY-CURLY HAIR?

Relaxers break these disulfide bonds in such a way that they cannot reform. The part of your hair that is affected by a relaxer treatment can never go back to the way it was. A little weird how it’s called a “relaxer”. This cycle is nothing relaxing to your hair. Instead, it is very stressful for your strands to be torn through like that. Not to be dramatic but bonds are broken! 

Me, happy with my broken disulfide bonds in 2011.

Me with my broken disulfide bonds in 2011. :p

I’d like you to watch this video of Dr. Oz explaining how relaxers- and also weaves & high heat impact our hair. Curly Nikki was on the show to help out 🙂 They talk relaxer at about 12:00.

A kink is a bend in the hair strand. Our African hair has LOTS of kinks. Granted, every kink is a potential breaking point for our hair, but when hair is relaxed, the form is changed permanently and the hair is left in an EVEN more fragile, even more vulnerable state. You probably relax your hair because you want it easier, and more manageable, but you can’t just stop there. Your relaxed hair deserves just as much effort and care as natural hair, if not more!

Fun fact: your “undergrowth” isn’t your relaxer wearing off, it is your hair growing! After numerous touch-ups, do you agree with me now that your African hair should be way longer than it is today?

Are we good? Do you have an idea now of what your hair is made of? And how generally, chemical processes and more specifically, relaxers affect them? I hope so! Any questions, just drop em off in the comments section. I don’t want you over-thinking yet though, we have more days ahead of us!

This is probably the first time I’ve gone into relaxers on the blog. As I always say, good hair is healthy hair. But that’s as much as you’re going to hear from me about relaxers in a looong time, if not never. From tomorrow and till the week ends, we will be talking about how to get you started on your healthy NATURAL hair journey ^_^

Okay, same time tomorrow

Love

AB

X

P.S.

For more about the Structure of Hair, you could read this old post I wrote here.

For more about how relaxers, straighteners and texturisers work, here’s this article, and another one- here.

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4 thoughts on “Day 1: THE BASICS- What Hair Is and How Relaxers Work

  1. Pingback: Day 2- Going Back To Natural: FREE YOUR MIND! | The Kink And I

  2. Lol! The bit about your undergrowth reminding you of who you are cracked me up!
    Hear hear everyone! Love this!

    Nappilynigeriangirl.blogspot.com

    Like

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