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What Is “Pretty”? The Mom Who Straightened her 6-Year-Old’s Hair

13 responses to “What Is “Pretty”? The Mom Who Straightened her 6-Year-Old’s Hair”

  1. Audrey

    When I was a kid I wanted those thick curly frizzy manes I saw other girls sporting. I have stick straight fine hair, which makes for very hard perming – although my mother tried numerous times throughout my childhood (because she thought curly hair was better too, not that she ever asked me what I thought). I hated my perms more than my ‘do-nothing-with-it’ straight hair. I hated the chemicals, I hated the stinging eyes, I hated the burning scalp, I hated the stinky hair for days afterward and I super hated that she had it layered so I always looked like someone planted a bush on my head…at least until it fell out and then I looked like someone shocked me with my layered straight but now oddly frizzy too hair. Whatever my daughter ends up with I will teach her to love. I think the real challenge is for parents to know how to handle the hair, then the children will feel confident about it too.

  2. Rita Colorito

    Sadly, I think the only thing making this little girl feel ugly or bad about herself was her own mother! Shame on her. And, no, I would not put potential scalp searing chemicals on my young child. There’s a reason she had to sign a waiver.

  3. Sara

    My 5 year old daughter has curly hair. Not thick hair, it’s actually very fine but she has a ton of it. For a while she desperately wanted the long straight hair that her friends have, and insisted on growing it out. It never grew down, just straight out in all directions and became frizzy and damaged. After about a year and a half, I finally got her to understand that keeping it short kept it healthy, was easier to care for and showed off her curls. And it’s the one thing everyone who meets her comments on, “what beautiful hair!” It took time, but she now knows her hair is unique, and beautiful it its own way. I’m hoping to keep building on that feeling, and help her learn to work with her hair instead of fighting it. I feel like that lesson will bleed over into so many other things in life, it’s a worthwhile lesson to learn.

  4. Emma

    I used to work at a day care centre and a Mum there used to blow dry her daughter’s hair every day. She was not quite two. I thought it was a hideous message to send to this beautiful little girl, and it just looked odd, sat at a completely unnatural angle from her head. Makes me so happy to be the mother of two boys.

    Of course I also think that if I had girls I could have countered some of these ridiculous behaviours by raising girls who had confidence in themselves regardless of appearance. I will just have to make sure I raise boys who help girls to get past these absurd beliefs, looks like they are going to meet plenty as they grow up!

  5. edj

    Wow. Just wow.
    My daughter was 6 the year we lived in France, and one of her classmates dyed her hair. I was really sad, as she was a gorgeous child with gorgeous hair, and I thought it looked better au naturel. But the parents weren’t trying to send a message. THeir daughter wanted to try it and they let her. Much healthier than saying, “I can’t control your hair.” For me, I keep the chemicals away from the children, personally.

  6. Ashley

    That is completely wrong. When topic like this come up, I think of two things that address the idea of girls’ confidence being tied in with their looks:
    1) This powerful poetry slam:
    2) This amazing book that every woman should read:
    I’m sure lots of girls can relate to both of them.

    I love your blog by the way!

  7. Christina

    Yeah, pretty crazy to do that to such a young child. I have Very Curly Hair and hated it as a kid. Growing up watching Marcia and Jan swing their straight shiny manes on the Brady Bunch was torture for me, as was trying to pull off a Farrah Fawcett ‘do or the much-craved wings and feathers. I used to get my hair blown out once in a while as a teen and then could not pull myself away from the mirror. Anyway, this comment is going nowhere…sorry. Suffice it to say that I agree that it’s outrageous for a mom to have her 6 year old’s hair straightened even as I relate to the very mixed blessing of having very curly hair. By some genetic miracle, my daughter has almost-straight hair.

  8. JB

    Wow, that seems so crazy to me on the one hand but then on the other even as an adult woman sometimes I feel like I’m not up to par because I don’t get my hair highlighted, my nails done and wear heels every day. Maybe I’m naive, but it seems like spending all this time and money on appearance is the standard for everyone no matter what age and there is something wrong with you if you don’t do all this. Why else were shows like What Not To Wear and Extreme Makeover so big a few years ago. I remember when I was a kid my mom got “hussied up” for special occasions. Now it feels like you have to do this just to leave the house.

  9. class factotum

    my mom got “hussied up” for special occasions

    Not “gussied” up? :)

  10. ice

    I am utterly horrified by this. I cannot believe you know a child that has received this treatment. If you see this woman again, I really hope you consider saying something to her as she might not be aware of what she’s done to her daughter. Not primarily because of the issues you discussed (which by themselves would make this an upsetting situation), but because “Brazilian” hair straightening is rightfully under fire for being a major health hazard for adults (because it is a MAJOR health hazard and should be illegal).

    The chemical they use is formaldehyde. This is a carcinogen and nobody has any business using it unless it is absolutely essential to their work, and tightly controlled safety precautions are followed (scientists, morticians, manufacturing). I am a laboratory neuroscientist and make and use solutions of this chemical every week. I had to go through special safety training to do this, as it is considered an especially hazardous material. We have a fume hood (a ventilation device used to isolate fumes from the worker) dedicated only to formaldehyde use, as it is too toxic to risk it contaminating our main fume hood. I have special glassware and instruments for it, as anything that comes in contact with it cannot be used for anything else. I have a dedicated waste container that must be emptied by our hazardous materials crew. I must wear a lab coat, gloves, and safety goggles and cannot even bend down near the fume hood, lest I allow the vapors to come near my eyes as it can damage the retinas even at the 4% concentration that I use. Some of these hair treatments have been found to contain as much as 12% formaldehyde and are a horrible risk to the clients and to the stylists who administer them, even if they wear gas masks. A freaking flat iron? It’s flammable!

    Please see this wikipedia article:
    and the material safety data sheet (MSDS):

    I use it to preserve brain tissue, and it’s what makes an embalmed body hard. It straightens hair by the same chemical mechanism that preserves (“fixes”) other biological tissues; that’s why it works so well. If you saw what it does when you put it through the veins of an animal you would understand my outrage. This makes me sick.

  11. ice

    By the way, I enjoy your blog, and I didn’t make it clear that I intend no criticism of you in my previous comment.