Several years ago, my friend Sandy Fields made a conscious decision to ‘stop living the lye.’

Sandy, who lives in Detroit, made the transition from using chemical relaxers and has been basking in the beauty of her nappiness ever since.

For a school assignment, Sandy was asked to write a persuasive speech. She chose to write about why she feels the use of chemical relaxers is bad, particularly for African-American women with kinky textured, tightly curled hair.

The pros and cons of chemical relaxing is a touchy subject, especially in African-American circles where the ‘good-hair/bad hair’ myth unfortunately still exists. That’s why I salute Sandy for taking on such a sensitive topic and doing a good job of backing up her position. Sandy’s speech is not dogmatic or highly emotional. It is informative and based on pretty good research.

As a journalist, I’m big on stuff like that.

Since I’m often asked for information about the effects of chemical relaxers and its use on the hair of African Americans, I asked Sandy’s permission to run excerpts of her speech:

Sandy's Journey

"This information was derived from Tulani Kinard's book 'No Lye' and Pamela Ferrell's book, 'Let's Talk Hair.'

So many women today suffer from all types of hair loss. Alopecia, age, heredity, and stress are some of the most common causes. The cause that is found in almost epidemic proportions in black women, however, is chemical damage from relaxers or chemical hair straighteners.

Most of us have no idea what these relaxers really do to our hair -- how they actually go about the process of straightening.

There are two types of relaxers. They are sodium hydroxide (lye based) and guanidine hydroxide (no lye). Although the no-lye products are thought to be less damaging, both types are harmful to the hair because in order to straighten it, they must first strip it of its natural moisture, and then break down the structure of the hair.

Let me briefly explain. The hair has two bonds -- a physical bond and a chemical bond -- referred to as the S and H bonds. These bonds create the S-shaped kink or curl in African-American hair. Chemically processing the hair changes the molecular structure by breaking down these bonds, thereby damaging the hair. Once the bonds are broken, the hair loses its natural shape and elasticity and can then be manually formed into straight hair.

The changed S-shape bond can never be returned to its original healthy form.

It has undergone a permanent change caused by chemical damage.

Sodium hydroxide and guanidine hydroxide both have a very high pH factor, meaning they are highly alkaline products. When applied to the hair, they immediately strip it of all moisture, because any retention of moisture would reduce the effectiveness of the straightener.

This is why a deep-conditioning treatment is always applied to the hair after the chemical process. These treatments are designed to drive moisture back into the hair shaft and to coat the hair strand to make it look shiny and appear healthy, or in other words, to camouflage the damage.

But no hair that has undergone a chemical relaxer is healthy. It has been purposely and permanently damaged by the chemicals, and hair can't be damaged and healthy at the same time."