Transitioning one's hair while expecting is a dilemma that so many black women face. For many of us, it's not even a question of whether or not we will continue to relax our hair when pregnant. Going natural while pregnant is one of the best things you can do for your scalp, you hair, and for your unborn baby's health.
Pregnancy is a time when many women are open to embracing a healthy diet and lifestyle, to protect and nurture their unborn baby while minimizing exposure to toxins. One of the most common fears women that pregnant women face is the fear of exposing their baby to harmful chemicals and toxic substances. Unfortunately our beauty and hair care products contain a fair amount of these toxic ingredients, particularly our hair-straightening products.
Hair relaxers contain a cocktail of harsh chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin of your vulnerable scalp, so for your sake and baby's, it's best to err on the side of caution and whip your hair back and forth au natural throughout your pregnancy. Yes, different kinds of relaxers exist, but they all contain strong toxic substances, don't get it twisted, "no-lye" doesn't mean no chemicals. The hair absorbs chemicals but the scalp passes them into the blood stream. What passes into the bloodstream can potentially pass through the blood-placental barrier to your baby. There has not been any conclusive research on the effects of repeat chemical exposure of this nature to mother and fetus, but just assume you're better off without the perm.
During pregnancy, the blood volume increases to protect and nourish the baby. As a result of increased blood flow, pregnant women can become ultra sensitive to chemicals. Some women start feeling nauseous and experience headaches directly after using these hair treatments. Some doctors as well as hair stylists discourage use of relaxers because they may not be effective on the hair during pregnancy. When a woman becomes pregnant often times the texture of the hair changes causing it to react differently to the chemicals, so it may not turn out straight after all.
Sodium Hydroxide is a dangerous chemical used in many chemical relaxers and it yields long lasting effects. This is the found in drain cleaners- so it's clearly a potent and highly reactive substance. It's referred to as "lye" relaxer. The strength varies from a ph factor of 10 to 14, (our hair is around ph 4.5 when wet) With higher ph, the faster the straightening solution will take hold, but the more potential the damage- it forms an exothermic solution with water which means it heats up and can burn through anything in its path...and we willingly sign up for this. As if that's not enough some of these products contain formaldehyde, petroleum and coal tar! It's no wonder that these ingredients cause hormonal disruption and other problems.
One of the amazing benefits of pregnancy is that many women experience an abundance of hair growth. The hormones secreted during pregnancy boost your hair growth and make it stronger, healthier, and shiny. Why not ride the wave and let your hair be chemical free.
Here are my top 5 products for natural hair care that are safe for both mom and baby and will keep your tresses looking easy, breezy, and bountiful:
- Carol's Daughter- Transitioning 1-2-3 The first relaxer to natural hair care system. This is a three part system that will heal your scalp, protect and fortify damaged hair. Try the purifying adn gentle cleanser, scalp renewal spray and anti-breakage treatment, $40.00 www.carolsdaughter.com
- Nine Naturals- Essential oil-infused Organic Shampoo. Many shampoos on the market claim to enrich your hair and be "natural" but when you look at the ingredients, you're lucky if you can pronounce one of them. Grace Lee of Nine Naturals started her line of shampoo, conditioners and body wash to help women make an easy switch towards green products. It's beauty without compromise, formulated specifically for pregnant women, and it comes in exotic scents like Mandarin & Ginger made with all-organic ingredients. You want a shampoo that is free of sulphates, phthalates, parabens and DEA. To perk up your hair, try the Nine Naturals Citrus & Mint Shampoo,18.00 www.ninenaturals.com
- Herb N Life-Royal Rinse- I don't trust any other shampoo when it comes to my hair. This herbal shampoo leaves your hair silky smooth and contains neem oil, peppermint and rosemary essential oils, along with aloe, and is so fragrant. It's refreshing especially in the summertime. I've been using it for years, ever since the creator would make it in her kitchen in Brooklyn. It's great for all hair textures. Royal Rinse,14.00 www.HerbnLife.com
- Kinky Curly- KNOT Today- an incredible detangler and styling product. Can be used as a regular rinse out conditioner for wavy hair or as a leave-in for thicker curlier hair types. An excellent product to use after removing braids and extensions. Really conditions and maintains the integrity of your kinks and curls. It's aloe based so it's very healthy for your hair.12.00, www.kinky-curly.com
- B'cause It's Mimi- Strengthening Hair Oil- A light, strengthening, growth promoting, natural hair serum. An organic blend of fresh herbs including Rosemary and Chamomile which promote hair growth and resilience, reducing breakage when used over time. Use daily for sheen. Strengthening Hair Oil,12.00, www.bcauseitsmimi.com
Try these products to maintain your hair naturally during pregnancy and beyond.
Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow & author of forthcoming book, Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy