Clinical and anthropological perspectives on chemical relaxing of afro-textured hair

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Sep;29(9):1689-95. doi: 10.1111/jdv.13028. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


The culturally engrained practice of 'relaxing' afro-textured hair has been linked with hair and scalp disorders. Herein, we discuss the evolution of human hair types, focusing in particular on afro-textured hair. We explore the biological features of this hair type, and discuss the different methods employed to straighten afro-textured hair, focusing in particular on chemical straightening. We also examine clinical, anthropological, and psychological issues associated with this latter practice. Examples of common scalp pathologies associated with chronic hair relaxing, such as alopecia, hair breakage, caustic burns and irritant contact dermatitis, are also highlighted. The data presented herein should enable clinicians to engage in culturally appropriate discussions with their patients about issues of appearance and conformity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beauty Culture / methods*
  • Black People*
  • Esthetics
  • Hair / drug effects*
  • Hair Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Humans


  • Hair Preparations