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Hair Straightening -- for 8-Year-Olds?!

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We were shocked when we heard about a salon that offers chemical hair straightening for kids as young as 8. Is this safe? Our pediatrician weighs in.

Girl in hair salon

Beach Comber Kids Cuts hair salon in Seattle now offers chemical hair straightening for children as young as 8 years old. Huh??

When a mom we know called to inquire about the procedure, she asked if the straightening treatment they used was non-toxic.

Kelly, the stylist who performs the hair-relaxing technique, says that the main ingredient in the straightening solution is ammonium thioglycolate, and the second ingredient is alcohol. But she said the only time the chemicals come in contact with the skin is while rinsing.

We checked with momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson to see if chemical hair-straightening was dangerous or safe for children. Here's what she had to say:

"I am concerned about hair straightening among young girls for two reasons. The first -- and to me more important -- is that a school-aged girl should not feel the need (or the pressure) to 'beautify.' What standards are we setting for our daughters if we take them to the hair salon for hair straightening at 8 or 9? Childhood is a time to run around with your frizzy hair or your mop-like ponytail and not care. If we tell our young daughters that they need to sit in a salon at this age, I feel sure that we are undermining their self-esteem. The one exception is a child battling illness such as cancer. This child deserves -- and needs -- beautification in order to feel normal. So these kids choose to wear wigs or cute hats (or some choose nothing at all)."

Dr. Cara continues: "The second issue with chemical hair straightening at a young age is the chemical nature of the product. Apparently the main ingredient used in this particular salon is ammonium thioglycolate. The safety data is questionable, and there seems to be very little study in children. This information is easy to find: just go onto the cosmetics database provided by the Environmental Working Group. Though most of this product is put onto the hair and not rubbed into the scalp, there is almost certainly absorption through the scalp."

Dr. Cara's bottom line: Chemical hair straightening is not for children.

Would you straighten your kids' hair?

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Emma February 5, 2009, 11:59 AM

oh please i was relaxing my hair when I was 8 and I’m fine

Lisa at EWG February 5, 2009, 12:57 PM

Thanks for talking about toxics in hair products! I work for the Environmental Working Group ( as an online parent organizer and we just wrote about Canada declaring shampoo and conditioner ingredients to be toxic on our blog,

Also, to better regulate *all* of the toxic chemicals in our consumer products, we’re working hard to pass the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act ( Our current law is pretty much toothless.

Help us! Host a house party! Join our campaign. Get in touch:

Jena February 5, 2009, 3:18 PM

Yes, I would have loved to have had my hair straightened at 8 or even before! My hair was (and still is) so thick, curly and impossible that it takes TWO HOURS to comb out after a shower. As a child, it was awful. I was the kid with the whacked off hair because no one could do anything with it that looked even slightly nice. I wouldn’t want that for my child!

Me! February 5, 2009, 10:59 PM

As an African-Aerican women we use relaxers on our hair at an early age I think my first was around 5 and my hair body image brain cells etc. are just fine : )

leelee February 6, 2009, 12:54 PM

My neice uses large curlers to “straighten” her naturally curly hair. Could this be a better alternative? I don’t really know myself since mine is pretty flat/straight and I have two boys.

Mary March 3, 2009, 3:20 PM

My son will be 9 next week. He has thick wavy hair. He wants his hair to look like Joe Jonas. He has been growing it out a bit but it is too puffy. We were thinking about getting it chemically straitened but don’t know of a salon around here that does the process on children. Black people get their kids hair relaxed all the time. I don’t see why it would be any worse for a white kid to get his hair straightened. Most of the boys on Disney channel shows have longer hair. It’s a becoming a fad for regular kids as well.

kelly March 11, 2009, 12:21 PM

My mum used IRON my hair when I was little as I was so desparate for it to be straight!! My daughter now wants her hair straightened not because she wants to beautify herslef simply because she wants to be able to brush it herself a little with out having to put tons of conditioner on it first and looking like a scarecrow!!

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