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History Repeating: Texture Manageability Systems On the Rise, Will Relaxers Make a Comeback?

Avatar • Oct 4, 2014

Natural_Hair_Walker_TMS

Okay, before you think I’ve absolutely lost it, hear me out. I think that my thought process starts with most of us (well, me at least) considering the moment we began to “reject” our natural hair as the instant we received our first perm. When in fact, we were exposed to hot combs and pressing grease way before the “creamy crack” ever touched our scalps. But because this wasn’t a permanent alteration, it was easy to forget and focus on the perm.

Enter these new “texture manageability systems.” If you’re not familiar, texture manageability systems are product bundles that include a smoothing shampoo, conditioner (usually with shea butter and/or coconut oil), and a “special” leave-in conditioner that usually has essential oils and amino acids or proteins that claim to get hair straight and silky without the use of harsh chemicals. The leave-in conditioner, which is marketed as the “key” to the process, is also said to help prevent reversion of the hair back to the curly state, even in humidity. Additional benefits to texture manageability systems are easier detangling and softening the hair.

So, this whole resurgence of the “silky straightening without the perm” process got me thinking about Madam CJ Walker and her shampoo-press and curl system that included a straightening comb, her claim to fame. Replace our now “activated” leave-in conditioners with her Glossine pressing grease and a flat iron with a straightening comb, and you have some pretty similar product lineups. There are even similarities between the marketing used for TMS and the products on the Madam CJ Walker site (although yes, the current Walker site is not from the 1900s).

Natural_Hair_Walker_Glossine

Helps control unmanageable hair.” Aligns with TMS? Check.

Madam CJ Walker also apparently said that she was in the “hair growing business” with her own system and methodology. Interestingly enough, one of the main “natural mantras” focuses on growing an ample head of healthy hair using your own regimen (or using a regimen based on a kit you bought), i.e., your own system of sorts. TMS are said to make and hair more manageable and help the user retain length.

I know you’re wondering, “Elle, why the heck does any of this matter?” Well, it matters because I wonder if how close we are getting to taking one more step back to relaxers. However, his time, they would be revamped with the hottest buzz ingredients and new treatment name, just like they were revamped before (no lye is gentler!) and multiple times before that looking back to the first relaxer invented in the early 1900s by Garrett A Morgan. When will enough be enough? How many different kinds of kits will we need to buy to make our natural hair “manageable”?

There may come a time when texture manageability isn’t enough and more permanent solutions are once again desired. As trends in black hair care shift, I am interested to see what styles remain popular, and what haircare systems remain on the market.

Are texture manageability systems one step towards relaxers or a more permanent straightening solution? Do you predict that natural hair will increase or decrease in popularity in the next few years?

References:

1. Thirsty Roots

2. Madam Walker

3. Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America

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Emilee
Emilee
5 years ago

I agree that it is possible for relaxers to make a comeback, especially if companies made the jump from TMS to permanent relaxers with new “gentle” ingredients. But, I don’t think that is neccesarily an issue. Black woman should be able to do what they want with their hair. The issue is whether or not I would still be accepted…for example, in corporate America.…if I decide to wear my hair in its natural state.

Tam
Tam
5 years ago
Reply to  Emilee

I would not want to work for a company that don’t accept people because of their differences anyway, and you shouldn’t either.

Iva
Iva
5 years ago
Reply to  Tam

I work in corporate America. My hair is in a 4C wash and go. The building has not exploded. Corporate America is just fine with Natural Hair.

Emilee
Emilee
5 years ago
Reply to  Iva

Glad to hear your positive experience! However, I also know some cases when companies were not OK with natural hair. A friend of mine was asked to change her 4c fro when a new company took over her job. Instances like hers should not happen, even if they are not representative of “Corporate” America as a whole.

Stace
Stace
5 years ago

I liked this article, it’s good for thought. I think there are enough options out now for everyone’s desires. I don’t think relaxers will take over again, but I do think there will be a leveling out where all three options (relaxed, natural, TMS’s) will have their market. I think it shows that natural/black hair care much like black people are not monolithic and one dimensional. We all have different desires and needs, and as this hair movement has revealed we have vastly varying hair types and textures, so there is no one stop shop hair solution.

Bridget J
Bridget J
5 years ago
Reply to  Stace

I totally agree. i think there will me some naturals who will return to relaxers eventually, but I also believe many will continue to rock their natural curls, while others will continue to straighten their natural hair. I think the goal should be acceptance for either of the choices that Black women make regarding their hair.

RolondaLarae
5 years ago

This is such a interesting observation. The comparisons between TMS and Madame CJ Walker’s system are undeniable. However, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that the TMS is leading us back into the clutches of creamy crack. If it lives up to its claims, a system that allows naturals to rock their hair straight without the fear of damage or permanent change to their natural texture is a great thing. I style my hair without heat around 99% of the time, and I generally stay away from any styling that includes high heat tools (i.e. the… Read more »

Rochelle
Rochelle
5 years ago

I haven’t had a perm for over twenty years and have worn it in everything from locs to twist outs to tiny afros. And I don’t consider straightening hair (even perms) a rejection of natural hair. It’s a frame for my face that I like to switch up. I’ve used a TMS system and think that it will actually encourage more women to maintain their natural hair because it allows us to reverse the process whenever we choose.

silkynaps
silkynaps
5 years ago

The demise of the Black Power Movement (1968–1980) coincided with the rise of the jheri curl. Coincidence? Probably not. All of a sudden giant afros were no longer the thing…people needed to have curly hair. Even if that meant everything they owned would be stained by jheri curl juice. I absolutely see the Natural Hair Movement’s demise coinciding with the resurgence of relaxers because there are still many women that simply just do not like their natural hair. Curl envy, texture discrimination, whatever. Some women need a support system in place to make them feel good about their hair. Women… Read more »

Rochelle
Rochelle
5 years ago
Reply to  silkynaps

This is an interested perspective about the demise of the Black Power movement. And perhaps the outward display of solidarity to Black identity was effected by the weakening of the movement, but please bear in mind that hair did not cause that weakening. Government targeting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO), big business mainstreaming and stereo-typing, and saddest of all, the untimely death of Black leaders are at the top of the list for the cause of the downfall of the movement. It’s important to note that neither our hair nor the more potent circumstances described above, have robbed our people of our power. We… Read more »

Bumper1959
Bumper1959
5 years ago

I am never tempted by these new ‘manageability’ systems hitting the market, despite having type 4b/c hair. When I made the decision to go natural, I defined what natural meant to me — being chemical free and embracing and working with the natural texture of my hair as it grew out of my head. The only change would be to use ceramic straighteners, which I do very rarely — maybe once a year. I have learned what products work for my hair, I have my regimen game on and, guess what, my hair is manageable, healthy and thriving!

Kim
Kim
5 years ago

Hmm, interesting question. I think it depends on several factors. The numbers of new ‘converts’ will continue to rise as many see examples of viable and appealing natural styling options for all hair types and want to try it out. Over time however, manageability may determine the trend for some. For those whose hair is not as ‘challenging’ to manage, it’s reasonable to expect an easier decision. But let’s be honest. As much as we love and accept our hair, for some of us, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. We may deal with slower growth rate, detangling nightmares, temperamental… Read more »

lala
lala
5 years ago

Sometimes i think it is not so much about natural hair.it’s knowing that we too can have our own hair long and healthy.

t.c.
t.c.
5 years ago

There seems to be so much “relaxer panic” in the natural online community these days. if someone wants to go back to a perm, I don’t see why I or anyone else should feel worried about their choice.

Bekkah
5 years ago

This just goes to show that they will stop at nothing to get us to change our hair and spend more money.

cacey
cacey
5 years ago

let’s be real. if science were to come out with a pill today that promised to alter black people’s genetics so that they’d grow straight hair just like other races do, i’d be willing to bet your average black woman (at least half of us) would throw up their life’s savings and then some to acquire this “miracle” drug. so no i wouldn’t be surprised if many naturals returned back to relaxers or something like it. how many of us, after going natural, have contemplated relaxing still many times again? it’s not called a struggle for nothing.

mo
mo
5 years ago
Reply to  cacey

I wouldn’t and I haven’t

mochachick10
mochachick10
5 years ago
Reply to  cacey

Not me at all. Even when I was relaxed, I generally opted for spiral or straw sets. I am now 4 yrs relaxer free AND I haven’t used a flat iron in 2 yrs. My hair is awesome and I wouldn’t change it ever.

zyaran
zyaran
5 years ago

Well I don’t think being natural will be ever lasting. Myself personally it’s been 5yrs and I’m tired of dealing with my 4b/c hair. I plan on texlaxing my hair before the year is out. I also have brought the Beautiful Texture TMS kit as well to try out on my hair. I just want to be able to get my hair detangling cut down in half, and to be able to try different styles w/o all of the struggles of wondering how my hair is gonna come out and such. Plus, there is nothing wrong with perms esp. when… Read more »

Jemmy
Jemmy
5 years ago

There seems to be two camps who are into these manageability systems. The first are the vloggers paid to promote the item and the second are the women who are dissatisfied with their natural hair and its perceived limitations. I do think these systems will replace straight relaxers with the majority of black women and we will definitely end up with some product that promises to straighten our hair and allow it to revert when we’re ready for it to revert. I also think blowdryers and appliances will advance and make it easier to straighten our hair without drying it… Read more »

Yo Yo
Yo Yo
5 years ago

I think it depends on why someone went back to natural in first place. Did they do it because they were following the influx of naturals we see on TV (commercials), magazines, instagram, and celebrities showcasing what they have been hiding under their weaves? Did they do it to rid their bodies inside and out of chemicals (like I did my fourth and last time transitioning)? Did they do it for the styling versatility (straight, curly/coily, locs, afro, etc.)? Did they do it out of curiosity to see what their natural hair looks like because they have not seen it… Read more »

Shaniqua
5 years ago
Reply to  Yo Yo

This. Thumbs up. In my case, I’d like to think relaxers will continue to be on the decline for no other reason than the insane health risks associated with them. On top of that, I want my future daughters to see themselves unaltered in the mirror and love the reflections. If mommy is constantly straightening her hair, or has a perm or texturizer, they will have no choice but to question their natural beauty, because their first example of what a black woman should be doesn’t embrace her natural beauty. Children always want to imitate what their adult loved ones… Read more »

Miss Elisa K.
5 years ago

Please note I LOVE my natural, 4C hair. However, many things have me contemplating to get a relaxer on and off. I’m not going to get a relaxer because I just felt like relaxers would only be great for me if used as infrequently as every 6 months which was still frustrating. My body and hair didn’t like the chemicals. So why am I considering it: I colored my hair. Now that it is growing out, my hair feels and acts like it did when I was transitioning. You can always do protective styling with wigs, braids and weaves but… Read more »

JenniD
JenniD
5 years ago
Reply to  Miss Elisa K.

No judgment but you ( any anyone else in the time constraint predicament) could just get a short easy to maintain hair cut and keep it moving. Why hang on to length if its taking up valuable time. If you gotta do what you gotta do a hair cut is less costly and less dramatic. Sometimes its not about “looking right” or wrong head shape none sense but more like a common since approach. Don’t make your texture the issue when you could just stand to part with some inches so that you can devote more time to other things.… Read more »

Mimi
Mimi
5 years ago

Considering that all women throughout history, regardless of ethnicity, find ways to alter their appearance, I don’t know why it’s hard to fathom that relaxers, straightening tools, and texture manageability systems, are here to stay. Actually, I see as many women who still relax their hair in my area, NYC, although more and more women are wearing their hair natural. Why is coloring your hair not viewed in the same light? It is a chemical process as well. And other styling strategies can also bring their share of hair damage woes. Wearing too tight braids or keeping them in too… Read more »

juanicole617
juanicole617
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Never thought about how we are actually mixing politics with hair. That’s something I’m going to keep in mind.

Mimi
Mimi
5 years ago

I forgot to mention: I have 4c hair that’s thick, coarse and wiry with heavy duty shrinkage. I have no curl pattern and when my hair is in an untamed Afro, it closely resembles the hair of boxing promoter Don King. (No exaggeration.) In the 4 years since I BC’d this time, using the styling strategies of the current natural hair wave, I have yet to see my hair twin among the countless youtube videos, online photos and women in the street. My hair loves fsg and most gels, and heavy, slick butters. I can’t braid and although I manage… Read more »

Lydia
Lydia
5 years ago

I was just thinking the same thing. My friend told me about Aveda’s Smooth Infusion, and I went looking all over for it. My 8 year-old daughter’s hair is 24″ and growing daily and it takes a whole weekend to braid or twist or whatever. She suggested I try it. I bought some and plan to test a small section, but I feel like I’m selling out. I have been heat/chemical free for 5 years, my daughter has only sat under a hood dryer for deep conditioning or drying before going to bed. I’m not going to straighten her hair… Read more »

Napturally Kia
Napturally Kia
5 years ago

i say a woman should do what she thinks is best for her and her lifestyle.

notconvincedgranny
notconvincedgranny
5 years ago

Relaxers never went away. No relaxer = no comb through my hair (and finger combing is an absolute waste of time). I don’t want to spend hours and hours every week on my hair; relaxing and moisturizing have made it possible to grow my hair to my mid-back with regular trims. My hair, my way.

Lauren Bay
Lauren Bay
5 years ago

Relaxers will make a comeback (somewhat) some people will remain natural, some will go back to relaxers, some will go back and forth. My story: from birth to 18 years old: natural, from 18 to 20 relaxed, from 20 to 23 natural, and now still at 23, in my last year of law school, a month ago I chopped my APL hair to neck length and relaxed… I just wanted my hair to be shorter and straight, didn’t want to weave or braid or twist it and that’s okay. Who knows? might want to be natural again in a few… Read more »

Darlyn
Darlyn
5 years ago

I went back to relaxing before and I’ll never do it again. My hair was so damaged because it’s just not meant to be straight.

Andi
Andi
5 years ago

Amazing! I went natural on Jun 7 2014 after 40+ yrs. of having a relaxer. Although my hair is easy to manage and naturally curly, I want straight hair so badly…I’m tired of curls. A couple of hrs. before I saw this article, I was at Walgreens looking for the Texture Manageability System and found it for $8.99. I think my hair is 4b/4c, is definitely curly and coily, 4 inches on top, a little shorter on the sides, and shrinks close to 100% when wet and when I add a curl enhancer. In the past 10–15 yrs., I have… Read more »

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain

I find the name to be insulting! They could have a different name for the product. You don’t manage your “texture” by straightening it, you manage it by doing simple hairstyles.
http://www.coilsandglory.com/anti-shrinkage-natural-hair-products-anyone-relaxer-companies-just-dont-get-it/

GSOLDIER
GSOLDIER
5 years ago

Sorry, It was supposed to be a thumbs up! 🙂

Macfille
Macfille
5 years ago

It depends. If products/methods are developed that will help naturals (especially type 4s)maintain their coils more easily without much breakage, tangles and with the ability to retain length without such harsh chemicals (the Maximum Hydration Method fad, for example), then no, chemical straighteners will not make a comeback. If it continues to be a struggle like it is for many type 4s, then you will see them going back to the creamy crack, even if they feel guilty about it.

Sophi
5 years ago
Reply to  Macfille

Interesting points made.

Sophi
5 years ago

I hope relaxers don’t make a comeback. I want all Black women to be natural and not because I’m a natural nazi but simply because I want Black women to be healthy. I truly believe what we put on our bodies can be just as detrimental to our bodies as what we put in.

It is work and it takes more effort but I just want us (me too) to work hard for our tresses, our bodies and our health.

Lakitha Goss
Lakitha Goss
5 years ago
Reply to  Sophi

I agree so much. Health and beauty are most commonly not regulated by the FDA. Many of the ingredients in relaxers have been linked to fibroid tumors in the uterus.

Nicole L. Mack
Nicole L. Mack
5 years ago

Interesting that you chose to go all the way back to Mdm. CJ Walker when you only had to go back to the 70’s. I share the same curiosity as you do, but I wondered why the ladies who were ‘liberated’ from relaxers & pressing combs in the 70’s chose to go back to them. Sadly the elders I spoke with just brushed off returning to relaxers as a simple fashion trend. How do we know we won’t be repeating the same very same conversation I had with my grandmother with our own grandchildren?

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