Would anyone put this chemical on their face, or on their arm, and leave it there for 10 or 15 minutes? Then why put it on your head? That's the message from Sandy Field, a natural-hair proponent from Detroit. In my April column, I ran an excerpt from a speech written by Field, who was asked to write a persuasive speech for a school assignment. She chose to write about the harmful effects of chemical relaxers, which are widely used by African-American women.

Here is the final segment of "Sandy's Position on her Transition":

Chemicals are absorbed through the skin into the tissue, cells, and blood stream. We rub creams and lotions on our skin, knowing that it will absorb them and be moisturized by them. The medical industry administers drugs through skin absorption, such as patches for smoking, sea sickness, and birth control.

The instructions on boxes of chemical relaxers often say to wear gloves. That is because it contains chemicals that are caustic.

These chemicals are applied directly to the hair and scalp and left there for a period of time.

Sodium Hydroxide has been the main ingredient in many chemical relaxers. The FDA (federal Food and Drug Administration) banned the manufacturing of household liquid drain cleaners that have a higher than 10 percent solution of Sodium Hydroxide. The chemical has been known to corrode drain pipes.

There have been many cases where relaxers with sodium hydroxide has dissolved the hair when it was left on for long periods of time. Leaving it in for more than 10 minutes can cause damage. Women have experienced burns and scabs from these toxic chemicals. But much like having an addiction, they continue to go back every few weeks for their regular dose of this "creamy crack."

Love Yourself

In order to stop these damaging practices, we must first learn to love ourselves as we are. Why should we continue the practice of chemically damaging our hair so that we can wear it in styles created for other hair textures when African-American hair can be styled beautifully just as it is?

It's not hard to work with, and there are lots of varieties of styles to choose from. There are locks, twists, coils and afros. There are dressy “up-do’s,” and the “free-styles."

Our hair is not unmanageable. My aunt once told me that our hair is easy to manage as long as we stop trying to force it to do things it wasn't designed to do.

Hair doesn't have to be straight to be beautiful. It simply has to be well-groomed.

Our skin is brown because it's supposed to be. Our hair is kinky because it's supposed to be. It's not something that needs to be fixed or hidden. It's not something to be ashamed of. There is no bad hair or good hair. It’s just hair.

We shun our own natural hair texture because we have been told for generations that nappy hair is bad. We've been made to feel that the only way to attain "good' hair" is to straighten it. We've turned perfectly neutral descriptive words into negatives.

When we can hear the words “kinky” and “nappy” as being purely descriptive and carrying no negative connotation, and when we can all "stop living the lye," we will truly be able to accept ourselves.