Should You Be Relaxer-Free?

A woman with long, natural hair in twists smiling and relaxing on her bed( — There are some in the Black community who believe that relaxing your hair is the equivalent of selling out or wishing to be white. Others see it as a measure to promote manageability.  Either way, the debate continues (and each year, home relaxer sales still total over $45 million).

All About The Relaxer

The relaxer was discovered by an African American named Garrett Augustus Morgan. Morgan was born the seventh of eleven children to former slaves. He is best known for his invention of the automatic traffic signal and the gas mask. But it was around 1910 that he stumbled upon what would become his major contribution to the hair care products industry, and what would pave the way for several other entrepreneurs and manufacturers over the next hundred years.

While working in a sewing machine repair shop and attempting to invent a new lubricating liquid for the machine needle, it is widely believed that Morgan wiped the liquid off of his hands and onto a wool cloth. Returning the next day, he found the woolly texture of the cloth had “smoothed out.” Morgan then set out to find how the liquid chemical had changed the cloth’s texture. He experimented on an Airedale dog, known for their curly textured hair, and the effect was successfully duplicated.

Morgan then tried his lubricating liquid invention on himself, called it a “hair refining cream”, and thus patented the first chemical hair straightener. Morgan  founded a personal grooming products company which included hair dying ointments, curved-tooth pressing combs, shampoo, hair pressing gloss, and the one that started it all: the “G.A. Morgan’s Hair Refiner Cream” (advertised to “Positively Straighten Hair in 15 Minutes”).