Why Did Black Women Start Perming Their Hair In The First Place | Natural Haircare News
Marcus Woods
Why Did Black Women Start Perming Their Hair In The First Place

Illustration credited to arielbrands.com

Sista, when did you get your first perm? The perm has been a stable within the black community for about a century. Every black woman and their mama has been (or tempted to be) exposed to “creamy crack.” The natural hair movement is in full swing now but some sistas is still perming their hair despite proof that it damages it long-term. So why did this phenomenon begin in the first place?

The Origin of Black Women Getting a Perm

Before the end of slavery, black hair was deemed unattractive. Instead, the beauty stand was long, silky hair like that of white people. Renown white supremacists such as former president Thomas Jefferson set this precedent.

After slavery, the same ideal remain intact. The coarse, kinky hair of black people was considered unacceptable and unprofessional, especially within the workforce. African American women (and some men) began conforming to the traditional hairstyles of White American women to gain acceptance. They would use hot combs to straighten out their hair. However, most black women discovered that their hair would not cooperate with this method. This led many to use hazardous perms and wave creams that is still being used to this day.

Why Black Women Are Still Getting a Perm Despite Its Damaging Effects????

It’s a mystery to me why some sistas will wear perms after seeing what it has done to other sistas’ hair. They go from looking like Halle Berry to Shaq in an instance! All jokes aside, long-term perm usage can cause:

  • Hair breakage
  • Hair thinning
  • Permanent hair loss
  • Frizzy hair
  • Scalp irritation or burns
  • Split ends
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Scalp infection
  • Breathing & stomach problems (Yes, perm usage has been shown to cause these issues as well)


As you can see, perming is not only deadly for your looks but your health as well. While the pictures of the beautiful sistas rocking shiny, silky hair on the perm kit box looks enticing, going bald isn’t. The only reason most black women continue to perm their hair is to assimilate with White culture, especially within the workforce. (The same thing they was doing post-slavery) If it wasn’t for that, then more sistas would rock their natural hair.


Author: Marcus Woods

Comment on this articleChanging attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural. 

3 Responses to Why Did Black Women Start Perming Their Hair In The First Place

  1. Tesha says:

    Wrong. We get perms because we want to have white women hair. Period..has nothing to do with the work place.

  2. j says:

    Natural hair is just more to maintain, and no one will argue that. Some people simple don’t have the time or energy or god forbid that’s all they know. Not every one with permed hair is doing it because of internalized racism or assimilation. Please stop shaming those who do; encouragement is another thing and this article and comments are not that.

  3. Al B. Deere says:

    I agree with this article 110% and thrice on Sundays. Sistas, my beautiful chocolate sistas. Gods first beacon of Humanity! You are the best thing in creation. Please wear your natural hair and stop with the perm. Your chocolate brother loves you just the way you are nappy by nature.

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