Mom Posts Photo of 4-Month-Old Daughter with Straightened Hair on Facebook, Sparks Outrage

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A picture of a 4-month-old baby girl with straightened hair (seemingly by flat ironing) has circulated Facebook, sparking outrage and broaching the question: How young is too young to introduce children to hair straightening and relaxers. While women, both natural and relaxed, have denounced the mother because the child is so young, my question is, how is this any different than straightening/relaxing a child’s hair at age 4 or 8 or 12 or 15? The message being transmitted from mother to child is the same: Your hair is not okay as it is and would look better if it were straight. Sending that message to a preteen girl is just as harmful as sending it to a baby (I mean, at least the baby doesn’t fully understand what’s going on!) It’s unfortunate how hair insecurities are so often passed on from black mother to child, almost like a rite of passage. Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast.

  • EdensCornerHair

    Many people have asked what is wrong with relaxing or heat processing a child’s hair. The same thing that is wrong with doing that to an adults hair but magnify it by 100. Relaxers do not just sit on the scalp they penetrate and form a thick black/green layer onto the skull. They cause different health problems the longer you use them. Some people have reported severe migraines, seizures, etc. A mortician told me that when a body comes onto her table that is unidentifiable she can usually determine if she is a black female by the amount of burns on the scalp and skull. When my Aunt had her brain tumor removed they charged her $300 for a scalp scrape to remove the relaxer residue before they drilled into the brain. It is more serious than just self esteem it is a health issue and this should be considered child abuse. The same way we would consider taking our young children to a tanning booth or giving them a tatoo. Just because the parents do not understand the seriousness does not change damage they are inflicting on the child. When it comes to self esteem if more parents focused on personality traits instead of beauty than that would be a big help. Telling your child constantly how beautiful she is the way she is will do wonders. I NEVER recommend relaxing but if someone wants to heat process and doesn’t mind the shedding or the awkward “in-between” stage then more power to them as long as you don’t overdue it and cause breakage or burning. This young child however, does have soft spots and it is quite dangerous to put a hot comb or flat iron on her hair. Even if she says she didn’t go close to the scalp the heat travels up the hair and to the scalp anyway. This is really sad on so many levels. Not only what she did as a mother but the amount of people who have no idea what they are doing to their bodies by using different chemicals.

  • rheely

    Um..maybe it’s a bad idea because of the dangerous chemicals and or damaging heat that the ‘mother’ is exposing ths baby too. Forget natural or relaxed, who cares. But, where in heck is the common sense and maternal instinct?

  • Sosobim

    Nothing is wrong with straightening hair in and of itself, but this is a health issue. The baby’s mole is still open, so she is more exposed to risk than a ten yr old.

  • http://naturalhairbecauseyoucare.wordpress Nia

    What if she moved and it burned her. Im not going to straighten my kids hair until she is 7. Until then she is gonna rock her natural state before she wants a change. I would do wash and gos, braid outs, twist outs. etc you name it except heat or chemicals

    • autumnfaerie


    • Terrell

      7? That makes no sense either. Try 17; at that point she can decide for herself what she wants to do with her hair.

  • CiCi


  • Caresscurls

    This to me shows why most black girls complain about their hair not growing.

  • Yulonda Smith

    While I agree that this is not smart! Using harsh chemicals on a child is terrible! However, I wish we would stop arguing about what adults do to THEIR own hair. I am natural because my hair is manageable and I like it this way but I do not condemn people who straighten their hair. Not everyone finds managing natural hair easy. It should be their choice. Other people with natural hair often frown at me because they ASSUME my hair is relaxed because my natural curl pattern is very loose especially when I use detangling conditioners. I don’t broadcast that it is natural because it is my business! I am just sick of people finding reasons to segregate themselves! Enough already! Let’s applaud any woman if they are happy and healthy!

  • Billy

    Some black women are plain stupid

    • Terrell

      So are some white women. As well as Asian and Latino women. What’s your point?

  • Sarah

    I find it interesting that so many people are upset about this but in the same breath speak negatively of Beyonce and JayZ letting their daughter run around rocking her natural hair. The picture of Jay Z holding Blue on her birthday that has circled around many social sites all have comments of how she needs her hair done even straightened. A child’s hair is so sensitive and not much should be done to it outside of washing and conditioning it. It is the parent’s job to teach their child how to take care of themselves but more importantly how to love themselves as God made them. Heavy management of a child’s hair can lead to hair damage and the hair not properly growing in right. This is why so many girls at young ages have distressed and thinned edges and hair growth issues. The mother should let the child’s hair be and everyone putting down Blue Ivy’s natural styles should stop she’s also too young for excessive styling.

    • Treasure

      I absolutely agree. I honestly believe black people put too much importance based on hair and I think it’s time we this in perspective

  • shay

    i agree with the writer straightening a baby’s hair is no different than straightening a 5 or 6 year old’s. But as long as you’re not doing it all the time/making it permanent I don’t think either is problematic… but that’s just it. “I think”. That’s just my opinion and I am not going to impose my opinion onto someone else.

    I think we invest way too much time and energy into whether hair is in its natural state or not. we segregate – girls with perms are judged by the natural sisters. naturalistas are judged by other cultures and girls with perms. the goal should be healthy habits – in the way we treat our hair and the way we view ourselves. It’s also about what works best for your lifestyle. Natural hair takes a lot of time, energy and love. Some people don’t think it’s worth it so they make alternate choices. For some people, using flat irons/curling irons is time consuming. for others – perms are too expensive and permanent.

    I have friends who have bone straight hair and like to curl it every day with a curling iron. that’s no different than a woman with naturally curly hair that wants to flat iron it to get it straight. both actions can cause damage to your hair if it’s done too often/permanent but we view the latter as much more problematic. now – my personal opinion is there’s nothing wrong with changing it up every once in a while. i permed my hair for 21 years then made the decision it wasn’t for me anymore… around the same time that i said processed foods and a non-active lifestyle wasn’t for me either. been there done that…. i’ve made (what i now see) are bad decisions for my hair and body. at the end of the day – it’s none of my business what other people decide to do with their body. do what makes you happy.

  • Debria

    I think we pass on other messages that our hair is not okay other than perms and straightening. Everywhere you look there’s women doing constant length checks, obsessing over another’s regimen, or curl pattern.I see plenty of comments like “I wish I had your hair” or “Can i give these hair growth pills to my 2 year old” Straightening your hair (if you think it is self-hate) is not the only bad message.

  • Donna

    My daughter is 21 years old now. I started straightening her hair with heat at age 2. I did this because like myself she has thick, coarse hair that was extremely hard to manage. On top of that she she is very tender headed.I did this until I burned her forehead. It wasn’t long before I texturized her hair. This gave us both some relief. 4 months is way too young. My daughter was born with twice the hair in length and density as that baby. So my point is I did it out of necessity not because I felt like straight hair is better than our natural hair.

  • K

    I think the outrage in part also comes from the worry of burning the baby in the process of straightening her hair. The message is a concern, but to me it comes second to the risk factor.

  • Stephanie

    I think and feel that 4 months is too young as well as 4 years old. Myself personally I didn’t get my hair relaxed till I was 7 because I hated to get my hair straightened. But now that I have a little girl of my own I’m going to leave it up to her if she wants to relax her hair or not.

  • Yasmine

    I don’t agree with straightening the baby’s hair , but I don’t understand why it isn’t okay to straighten a child’s hair at 5 . I mean then cutting a child’s hair into a “mushroom cut” or a ” pixie cut” should be frowned upon . Some kids have very thick and literally unmanageable hair . How many black women remember getting their hair hot combed ? Hot combing made the hair easier to maintain . I don’t think there is nothing wrong with having permed hair . I am completely natural and I used to get relaxers every 3 months . I think relaxed hair is easier to maintain .

  • Tracy

    I think this entire conversation reflects poorly on blacks as a culture. All black girls DO is talk about hair. I’ve never experienced such obsession about hair with other cultures as I’ve experienced with blacks. So much judgement; about whether hair is processed or not. “good hair” vs healthy hair. Blacks girls with NO hair are always judging black girls with long, fine hair; so they encourage that they “cut it off”. Too much discussion on healthy hair when you need to focus on healthy BODIES and MENTAL health.

  • Shonta Y

    My natural is beautiful

  • sum21

    Nevermind the insecurities and hair issue. Let’s talk about the baby’s safety. That’s the diffrence between using any heat on a child this young and a 15 yr old. Come on now, that’s child abuse!

  • Coley

    Honestly I see no issue here. A mother can style her child’s hair as she pleases. There’s no chemical danger. I curled my Lil ones ponytails because her hair was so super straight.
    Why not? It’s not defining, merely presenting an option. We all know that as tweens we experiment with our appearance, so why not demonstrate alternatives, as parents, that we like and are familiar with? Then, they’ll know more about it and there’s less risk of injury or hair loss.
    Just my angle.

  • nikki

    Saying that mothers are promoting a self image issue is judjudgemental. My daughter is 6 and her hair is thick thick thick curls that are hard to manage. I spend 3 hours braiding them every couple weeks. I constantly tell her how beautiful her hair is. She hates her “afro” because no one else in her class has hair like hers. I’m just innocently googling to see if flat ironing is an option at her age because of how much maintenence her curls are and how excited she would be to see her hair down and not up. To read an article saying that were telling them their hair isn’t good enough is quite disturbing. People are too judjudgemental. We’re taking her to a salon tomorrow to see the best and healthiest things we can do to make this experience easier on her. (Think of the child sitting for hours having her hair braided. ..or just brushed for that matter.)