The women who choose to relax their hair

(this article was first published in 2014)

Editor-in-chief Irene Shelley explores some of the reasons why some black women continue to relax their hair

While the natural hair movement is here to stay, there are still a lot of black women who prefer to maintain their hair with a relaxer.

But in the last two years, chemical hair relaxer sales – marketed mostly to black women – have dropped by 12 per cent, according to Mintel, a consumer spending and market research firm. Black women’s hairstyling choices are complicated by a deep well of personal, social and commercial interests. Despite the decline in relaxer sales and a boom in beauty products, websites, blogs and YouTube channels aimed at black women with natural hair, the conversation around black hair is anything but closed. The question of when and why so many black women chemically relax their hair or go natural, remains fraught and very much open.

Natural hair it seems is the new black, but the truth is it is still in the minority. Relaxers are still worn by many, whether it’s to touch up new growth, straighten the hairline in order to blend in a weave, or a full relaxer application to achieve longer lasting, smoother results.

According the Hair Attitude Survey by Sister Sister and SofN’Free, over half the women surveyed stated they wore relaxers because it helps to keep their hair more manageable. About a quarter felt they simply preferred the look and the versatility relaxed hair offers. One per cent admitted that their man’s preference was a factor. Yet, more than half the relaxed women polled claim that someone has tried to talk them into going natural. Yet since an overwhelming 44 per cent of the relax group claimed they are borderline obsessed with keeping their hair straight and smooth, it’s likely not everyone will be convinced to make the switch.

We talk to bloggers and women in the hair and beauty industry to learn their reasons for staying on the straight…

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