Last weekend, my niece grabbed a blanket, stuffed the tip in a ponytail holder and ran around our living room with her “hair” flowing. She motioned toward the blanket and asked “Doesn’t my hair look pretty?” I couldn’t help but go into teaching mode. “I like your hair like it is,” I said, fondly smoothing over her mound of curly ringlets and removing the blanket. “Do you like it?” She smiled, nodded her head and ran back off to play.

Too often I overhear mothers in the hair aisle at the supermarket searching for relaxer boxes while criticizing kinky-haired daughters who stand dejectedly by. I can’t help but shutter as seeds are planted that label their hair bad, difficult and wrong, seeds that could stay with them for years to come.

I remember as a child wondering why my hair “poofed” up instead of hanging down like the white girls I went to school with and the beautiful black women I saw on TV and in magazines. I determined I wasn’t born with “good hair” and needed to change it immediately.

Then, I could’ve benefitted from someone helping me to see the beauty in my own texture—especially since I was hard-pressed to see a ton of gorgeous natural-haired women in the media in the ’90s.

When I decided last year to grow out of my relaxer, I had to shed those limiting notions of beauty that I had adhered too for the majority of my life. Looking back at what a liberating and challenging process that was, I resolved to encourage my niece to love her texture early. And if she decides to get a relaxer later on in life, that’s completely her choice but I will not force that decision on her like so many of our women tend to do.

For now, I want her to embrace what grows out of her head naturally and to believe, with confidence, that there is nothing wrong with her hair.

Do/Would you teach young girls under your care to embrace their hair? How young is too young to give a girl a relaxer?

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  • E.M.S.

    Preparing for all the down votes my comment will get…

    It’s absolutely wonderful to teach these lessons, but I have a serious question. If your daughter chooses to do anything to her hair when she is older to change its look, will you condemn her choice?

    Trust me, I fully and completely understand and respect what’s being said here, I really do. But it still seems to me that to natural hair aficionados, wearing your hair any other way is the absolute devil because of this immediate accusation someone is denying their ethnic identity and I think that’s just as wrong as taking issue with natural hair for any reason.

    My hair’s pressed, every time I real all this pro-natural stuff I’m sitting here feeling like, “well damn.” I guess pressing/perming is just never okay even if someone actually makes that personal choice without outside influence. Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Ms. Vee

      “If your daughter chooses to do anything to her hair when she is older to change its look, will you condemn her choice?”

      I believe it depends on the motive. If I had a daughter that loved her natural hair, but altered it just for the sake of temporary experimentation instead of self hatred then i would be less inclined to condemn her.

      “But it still seems to me that to natural hair aficionados, wearing your hair any other way is the absolute devil because of this immediate accusation someone is denying their ethnic identity and I think that’s just as wrong as taking issue with natural hair for any reason.”

      You make a valid point. Not every black woman that wears an occasional weave (or perm) here and there is self hating. Unfortunately the majority that do alter their hair are ashamed of the kinks (if it wasn’t true the term “good/bad hair” wouldn’t be so prevalent in the black community).

      “My hair’s pressed….”

      Other than worrying about potential heat damage, pressing doesn’t involve the constant use of toxic chemicals to the brain. You’re being versatile, but still natural.

    • E.M.S.

      Ms. Vee, thank you for understanding where I’m coming from. Usually I get attacked for saying things like that, you’re probably the first to really get what I was saying.

      I feel as long as you make the choice for you and you know your natural hair is fine the way it is, it shouldn’t be an issue how your hair is worn.

  • Lauren

    I was just having this conversation with a friend at dinner. I am NEVER putting a relaxer in my daughter’s hair. I have no problem if my daughter decides to get a perm…when she’s 16 or older AND can afford to pay to maintain it. Like a lot of black girls, I was raised to think that my hair had to be straight in order for it to be acceptable and presentable. My mother used to straighten my hair at 3 or 4(and yes she didn’t give a damn if she burned me.) Then she started relaxing my hair at 7. My mom asked me if I wanted to get a relaxer like her and of course I said yes cause I didn’t want her burning me with the hot comb anymore. It wasn’t until I got to college and my roommate went natural in 2008 that I learned my hair didn’t have to be straight. My hair was just fine the way it grows out of my head and I could have so much more versatility with natural hair.

    I went natural July 2012 and will never go back. The only ignorant comments I have gotten are from my mother. According to her, my hair is knotty and needs to be “soften up” with a texturizer. She also thinks the only way I can wear my hair is an afro. I brush her comments off because she grew up during her time and my grandmother was also raised during a time where Blacks felt like they had to straighten their hair to be accepted by society. Hopefully her thinking change as my hair grows. She plans to relax her hair until the day she dies.(She even told me her hair better be relaxed at her funeral. I can’t make this up.) I really don’t care what she does with her hair, but if she puts a perm in her granddaughter’s hair, WE GONE FIGHT! (I don’t care. I don’t care). I”m breaking the cycle and my daughter(s) will grow up with love for her natural texture and will not view it as something that needs to be fixed.

    My princess(es) and I will be just like mom and daughter in the picture. This picture is to die for!

    • au napptural

      I thought my mom was the only person talking that “my perm better be tight in my casket” mess. And she made my sister swear she wouldn’t let me get ahold of her hair if she went senile..and having a perm is about convenience and manageability right? Smh at the darkness that generation is living in.

  • beanbean

    A lot of women blame the media for promoting “white beauty,” but 4 year old girls are more influenced by their mothers than they ever will by the media. It’s easy to blame “white media” so many people tend to do it. It’s the mother, father, family’s responsibility to let their daughters know that they are beautiful and don’t need to change their looks. Maybe I grew up in a bubble, but when I saw blonde flowing hair on tv I thought, “oh her hair is cute,” and went on playing. We also had a crap load of Ebony magazine laying around and I always looked at those :) Insecure mothers raise even more insecure daughters.

    • Penny


      I was influenced by my mother more than anyone. I don’t remember ever wanting blonde hair or wanting to look white. I just wanted long, straight hair like my mom. I also wanted her approval; my mom would always refer to my hair as something that needed to be “fixed.” She loved me, but she did not love my hair. LOL.

      Now, she looks at me with lots of confusion and intrigue because my long, natural hair looks really nice. I notice that people tend to respond more positively to what they see than what they hear. i can talk all day about the benefits of having natural hair and it will go in one of my mom’s ears and out the other. But when I show up with my natural hair looking really great, SHE is the one who does the most talking…and touching! ;)