press and curl

Can’t Tell Which Hurts So Good-er

If you want to look good, sometimes it has to hurt.

This weekend, as I sat in my salon chair for my regular soul flagellating ritual of a relaxer, I was convinced to try

pressing instead. The results, are thankfully the same–my hair is straight and the little curls of God’s practical joke are gone…and both methods come with pain, discomfort and a credit card bill near or in the three digits…But I’m not sure which is the best way to go.

For those of you who are already blessed with hair that responds to a comb and that your beloveds can easily run their fingers through, here’s a quick primer on what we do to keep our locks in line.

Relaxer: Imagine spreading a slice of sandwich bread with a thick layer of mayo.

Getting a relaxer is like only the sandwich bread slice is your scalp and the “new growth”–tightly curled natural hair that has yet to be tamed. And the mayo is lye a relaxer cream that in about 10 minutes of it landing on your skin begins to cause second degree burns. Luckily, it takes about 20 minutes for a relaxer to do it’s thing, so you’ve got plenty of time to sweat, squirm and stew about how lucky you’d be if you didn’t have to do this.

Pressing: No chemicals, so it’s healthier. But it’s also painful. Imagine raking your lawn. See how pulling the rake through the grass makes the lawn look all pretty?

Now imagine the lawn is your hair and the rake is a metal comb that’s been heated up to about 400 degrees. Also imagine that in order to make the rake work, you have to smooth just a bit of oil on the grass first so that when the 400 degree metal comb touches the oil, some vaporizes, but what doesn’t, melts on to your scalp and causes a quickly cooling, but mild first to second degree burn.

The pain of the relaxer is more intense, but sustained, so you can build resistance and is over in about 20 minutes.

The pain of a press and curl is more sporadic, so you’re not sure when to stop tensing and lasts longer as the oil-then-rake process must occur a couple hundred times (using very small chunks of hair each time) before you’re done.

Relaxers also last longer so you don’t have to endure them as often; but the scars they leave behind tend to last longer than the welts brought up by a relaxer.

Hmmm. Definitely want to make sure that my hair process reinforces the self loathing…there’s beauty in pain after all. Not sure which is the better way to go. What do you think?