In a quest to achieve straighter hair at the turn of the century, many African Americans began using the hot comb, which uses thermal heat to temporarily straighten the hair. This method was later chemically replicated by a product that altered the hair’s internal structure…a relaxer.
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Today, controversy surrounds the use of excessive heat and chemicals to African American hair causing excessive hair breakage and irreversible hair loss and follicular damage.
It is interesting to note that the hair relaxer dates back to 1910 and is attributed to Garrett Augustus Morgan, who also invented the traffic light. He called his hair product “hair refining cream” which he patented.
Advertised in the newspapers in the 1900’s that it was to positively guaranteed to straighten hair in 15 minutes, he guaranteed it. Many people mistakenly believe Madame CJ Walker invented the hair relaxer technique, but, to her credit, she invented several creams, balms and an improved hot comb.
A hair relaxer is a lotion or cream that makes hair easy to straighten and manage. It has become very popular in the African American community because it reduces the curl by altering the chemical structure of the hair, making the hair resistant to returning to its original curly/textured state. The results will vary depending on the coarseness of theyour hair, but a relaxer will usually offer a straightened result for 6- 8 weeks. Relaxers permanently alter the structure of hair whereas hot combs temporarily alter the structure. New hair growth is not affected by either process. Relaxation of the hair changes the chemical bonds of the hair shaft permanently.