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By Serfronya Wallace

Many African American women like their hair straight. Either they prefer that look over natural coils or they want a texture that can be combed and styled with ease. So they choose to use relaxers to achieve the smooth hair texture that they desire. Yes, properly applied hair straighteners succeed in giving natural black hair a straight, silky look and feel. But the potential dangers of relaxers necessitate a warning to all who use these products. Consumers should know that possible negative effects exist when relying on chemicals to straighten the hair.

Relaxers chemically altar the composition of the hair. The ingredients in relaxers are harsh to natural hair. The January-February 2001 FDA Consumer magazine warns about the possible dangers of chemical straighteners. In the article Heading off Hair-Care Disasters: Use Caution with Relaxers and Dyes, author Michelle Meadows states that “according to the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, hair straighteners and hair dyes are among its top consumer complaint areas.” Ms. Meadows then details how relaxers can cause bald spots, scalp irritation, and hair breakage. And worse, 2nd degree chemical burns can result when relaxers are improperly applied directly to the scalp.

But chemicals that over process the hair aren’t the only culprit. For the woman who chooses to relax her hair, heat serves as both friend and foe. Heat has to be applied to the relaxed hair to completely straighten it. Blow dryers and curling irons maximize the straightening process. This makes the hair silky and smooth, which is the desired result. But at the same time, heat damages hair. It can cause dryness and can make hair brittle. This increases split ends and breakage.

Most women have to deal with the time consuming process of getting their hair relaxed. From start to finish, this entire process takes several hours to complete. The relaxer must be applied to new hair growth and set for 15 – 25 minutes, depending on the hair texture. Then the relaxer is shampooed out with a neutralizing agent. Then trimming split ends may be necessary. And finally the hairstyle is completed by either sitting under a hairdryer or blow drying and using a curling iron. This easily results in spending the majority of the day at the beauty salon or several hours at home for the woman who puts in her own relaxers. And all these steps need to be repeated approximately every six to eight weeks.

Of course, most black women who use relaxers do not suffer from all of these negative effects. Although many do experience a few of these problems when dealing with products that chemically change their hair. But many women feel that the final result of straight hair makes it worth dealing with these issues. Nonetheless, care should be taken when using these products. Women should carefully consider the time and possible risks involved when dealing with relaxers.

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5 Life Skills Everyone Should Have

It used to be that every high school in the country offered classes that taught life skills. For girls, it usually meant they would be taking “Home Economics” courses. These included topics such as sewing, cooking, childcare, and home management. The boys took things such as agriculture, woodshop, welding, and auto repair. They may not have known it, but they were being taught life skills – how to survive as an adult in the real world.

Unfortunately, these types of vocational classes are no longer common in the technology-driven high schools of today. Our modern world of cell phone convenience and disposable everything actually keeps people from learning some basic skills to survive. A large part of the population would freeze in their tracks if the internet and cell phone system went down. They would have no clue how to proceed and survive without their constant technology. To combat this possibility, here are 5 life skills to learn and teach your children.

Feed Your Family

Learning to plan and cook nutritious meals for yourself and your family is not hard. With the millions of cookbooks and classes available today along with readily available ingredients, you can be whipping up good, tasty food in no time. Let your kids join in on the fun and soon they will be cooking for you.

Aside from the large amounts of money you save by preparing food at home, knowing exactly what you’re feeding your family is important. Food that is created from fresh ingredients will always be healthier than that take-out pizza or noodles from a box.

Don’t Throw Out That Sock

The simple task of sewing a button back onto a shirt terrifies many people. When a sock gets a hole in the heel, it is easier for them to toss it and buy new ones instead of taking a few quick stitches to close up the tear.

Community colleges and adult schools offer simple sewing classes that last from one day to entire semesters. They will teach you how to preserve and even make your own clothing. Online videos can also teach you to easily darn that holey sock.

Fire the Maid

Busy households get messy fast and need constant attention. If you’re one of those fortunate people with a maid or staff, that’s great. If not, you need to know some basic cleaning skills: washing dishes, vacuuming the floor, dusting shelves, scrubbing the bathroom, doing laundry, etc.

It is never too early to start teaching kids to do household chores such as taking out the garbage and sweeping the garage. Why hire a maid if you have kids (or a spouse) that can pull their own weight? Fire the maid and save the money for a family vacation or better yet, a spa trip for yourself.

On the Road Again

It’s true that cars used to be pretty simple beasts. They had straightforward components that were easy to identify, monitor, and maintain. The cars of today are complicated, computerized machines that watch their own fluids, talk to you, and even drive themselves in some instances.

This is still no excuse to not have the ability to change a tire in an emergency. Tires go flat all of the time and when it happens, you’re stuck. If you’re somewhere with no cell service to call for help, you’re really stuck. Have your mechanic or car dealer show you how to change the tire on your car so you can get back on the road right away.

My Pipes are Leaking

Learning to do simple home maintenance yourself can save you thousands of dollars. If you don’t have to call out the plumber to replace a faucet washer or an electrician to change your light bulb, you’re ahead of the game.

Many of the big box hardware stores have regular classes to teach these routine skills. They even have some classes taught exclusively for women who want to learn how to lay tile, install a garbage disposal, or hang drywall. The possibilities (and the savings) are endless.

If you were to look only at the money you would save by doing any of these tasks yourself instead of paying someone else, it would be eye-opening. When you add in the satisfaction you’ll feel when you’re able to say “I did this myself”, it becomes priceless.

What are some life skills that you learned in high school?

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