What Chris Rock's 2009 movie Good Hair taught me about relaxers

black Skeleton woman with a bowl of cream

In Chris Rock's 2009 documentary Good Hair, the comedian takes a hilarious and eye-opening journey into the world of relaxers—the chemical concoctions used to straighten Black women's hair. As someone who has always had a fascination with hair and its impact on beauty standards, this film provided me with a unique understanding of the complex relationship with our hair.

Throughout the documentary, Rock interviews hair industry professionals, celebrities, and everyday people, uncovering the lengths that some individuals go to achieve "good hair." From costly salon visits to potentially harmful chemical treatments, the film sheds light on the sacrifices and pressures faced by those wanting to conform to society's standards of beauty.

At the time I enjoyed the movie's ability to tackle a serious subject with humor and grace. Rock's signature wit not only entertains but also encourages viewers to question the societal norms and expectations surrounding hair. By weaving personal anecdotes with interviews, the documentary provides a well-rounded and compelling narrative that resonates with both Black and non-Black audiences.

The health effects of using relaxers

While relaxers may provide temporary straightening and manageability, they can also have detrimental effects on our overall health. The active ingredient in most relaxers has been found to cause cancer in some women.

The movie did explicitly explain the health effects of relaxers. The scientists showed how strong the active ingredients are. Using soda cans the scientists demonstrated how long it takes for the can to deteriorate. This scene alone woke up my eyes to know that if a relaxer can eat a metal can what is it doing to my body?

Personal experiences with relaxers

I have had my fair share of experiences with relaxers. Growing up it was not uncommon for girls to have their hair chemically straightened. My mom did not allow me to relax my hair until I was an adult. Why, because in her view relaxers are for adults. The purpose of relaxers was different for my daughter's father side of the family. They pressured me to relax our daughter's hair. I was told that her natural hair was "unmanageable" and needed to be tamed with relaxers. They shamed me into believing that I was an unfit mother to allow her to look a certain way.

I was talked about and threatened to be taken to court. Sadly I don't have relationships with some of the people today. When we do come to the few family functions that we are invited to the first thing that they look at is our hair. I wonder what their feeling about relaxers are today.

It wasn't until I watched Good Hair that I truly began to question the impact of relaxers on my health. The film highlighted the risks and sacrifices involved in achieving "good hair," and it made me realize that there had to be a better way to care for our natural hair.

Alternative haircare methods

Braids, wigs, weaves and silk presses are methods that I used to get off the relaxer bandwagon. For my daughter braid and silk presses are used as an exploration of her one true self not knowing that we were at the beginning of a movement. As the natural hair movement gains momentum, many individuals are seeking alternative haircare methods that promote healthy and natural hair. From protective styles like braids and twists to embracing one's natural texture, there are numerous ways to care for and style Black hair without resorting to relaxers.

One popular alternative is the use of natural hair products. These products are specifically formulated to nourish and hydrate textured hair, promoting its natural growth and vitality. By using natural ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera, individuals can maintain the health of their hair without compromising its natural texture.

Another alternative is the adoption of protective styles. These styles not only protect the hair from damage and breakage but also allow for versatility and creativity in styling. From intricate braids to chic updos, protective styles offer a wide range of options for individuals looking to embrace their natural hair while still experimenting with different looks.

The natural hair movement and its impact

The natural hair movement has had a profound impact on the perception of Black hair and beauty. It has provided a platform for individuals to share their stories, experiences, and hair journeys, fostering a sense of community and empowerment. The movement has also encouraged dialogue and education surrounding the unique needs of textured hair, challenging long-held misconceptions and stereotypes.

One of the most significant outcomes of the natural hair movement is the increased visibility and representation of Black women in the beauty industry. From models on the runway to advertisements featuring natural hair, there is a growing recognition of the beauty and diversity of Black hair. This shift in representation not only celebrates and validates Black beauty but also paves the way for future generations to embrace their natural hair without fear or shame.

Lessons learned from the movie "Good Hair"

Good Hair taught me that beauty should not come at the expense of one's health or self-esteem. It highlighted the importance of questioning societal norms and expectations surrounding hair and encouraged me to embrace my natural hair, free from harmful practices. The film reminded me that true beauty lies in authenticity and self-acceptance and that it is essential to challenge the status quo to create a more inclusive and diverse definition of beauty.

The ongoing discussion around relaxers and natural hair

Chris Rock's 2009 documentary Good Hair provides a thought-provoking exploration of the world of relaxers and the complex relationship between Black women and their hair. The discussion surrounding relaxers and natural hair is far from over. While the natural hair movement has made significant strides in challenging traditional beauty standards, there is still work to be done. The pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty ideals continues to persist, and many individuals struggle with the decision to embrace their natural hair or continue using relaxers.

It is important to recognize that everyone's hair journey is unique and personal. What works for one person may not work for another. The key is to create a space where individuals feel empowered to make choices that align with their values and beliefs, free from judgment or societal pressure.