Photo: Shamontiel L. Vaughn
So your child's hair is all over the place, and you're tired of trying to deal with a tender head. So what do you do? You make the child's hair a little easier to style by using a children's perm or sensitive hair perm. But have you hurt instead of helped your child's hair grow in the process?
Jennifer H., 45, from Chicago disagrees.
"I've seen some children with some very, very long hair," Jennifer H., a mother of one daughter, said. "As long as it's taken care of properly, permed properly, washed, conditioned and oiled properly, then it will continue to grow."
Jennifer H. let her mother perm her daughter's hair for the first time when she was in kindergarten. She explained that, "as a working mom trying to comb her hair in the morning, uh uh. By the time I would see her in the afternoon, that hair looked rough."
In beauty supply stores, there are children's perms sold near adult and sensitive hair perms. Although the perm may be slightly less powerful than a regular perm (also called relaxer), there's still a possibility that it won't work on each child's hair. Perming a child's hair is a personal choice. Some beauticians may not feel comfortable doing it. Some parents may not feel comfortable letting their child do it. Then again, some parents like Jennifer H. are okay with her child having a relaxer.
"It was a cosmetic thing," Jennifer H. explained. "I wanted her hair to be braided and look cute. It was cute, but it was very difficult braiding hair everyday. It was sweaty, nappy and knotted up. She was crying and saying she didn't want me to comb her hair because it hurt. I had to find a way to be able to comb her hair so when she went to school, she looked like a decent little girl."
"I did more than permed my hair," Jennifer H. explained. "I dyed my hair. I boosted my hair. I braided my hair. I did a lot of different things to my hair. I contributed to the breakage of my hair. I would hope [my daughter] would learn from what I did to my own hair."
Jennifer H. used color booster to change her hair color and went from blonde to red to different shades of brown by mixing powder with peroxide. But now she wears her hair in her natural black hair color in twists. Her daughter has never colored her hair or worn artificial braids, taking a note from her mother's hair trials. But her adult daughter still does indeed have a perm now.
"My hair is over my shoulders now," said Jina, Jennifer H.'s daughter. "I've cut my hair off so many times it doesn't even make sense. But I haven't had any bad perms or any perm hair loss. I don't mess with weave at all and never colored my hair because of my mother's issues with it, but no, perm didn't make my hair grow less. Then again, I'm in my late 20s now so I really can't tell you what the future holds. I do think children should get perms by professionals though. I got my first perm by my grandmother and it was just uncomfortable."
According to KidsHealth.org, relaxers are "chemicals that break down chemical bonds (attachments that give your hair its shape) in curly hair and put them back together again to make straight hair." A licensed professional is strongly recommended for applying relaxer to someone's head, especially a child whose hair may change again during puberty. Parents with children who will be getting a relaxer should make sure the child does not scratch her scalp during the week of perming or perm hair excessively.
So how do you feel about perm? Is there an age that you feel is too early? Too late? Should children's hair be permed at all?