Q: My cousin recently started to use a flat iron to straighten her year and a half year old's hair. I was curious if it was safe to straighten a child's hair at that age with a flat iron?
A: Using a heat-styling appliance like a flat-iron is not something I would ever endorse for use on a child so small – for many reasons - least of which is the risk of burns to the skin and damage to the
ultra-fine hair most children of that age range possess. Even among ethnic hair types, children of very young ages have an exceedingly fine texture to the hair.
Because of this, children’s hair is easily damaged by simple heat styling processes that adults would take for granted. There is also a greater risk for children of a
condition called central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia. It is also more commonly called “hot comb alopecia”. Because a child’s skin and hair follicles are more delicate, they can be harmed more readily,
and the harm caused can result in hair loss.
Even when there isn’t any wide-spread loss caused by heat styling, little accidents can have much greater results due to the sensitivity of the child’s skin. These small
burns can cause “scarring alopecia” as the follicles are damaged because a heat tool slips and comes in contact with the scalp. The follicles of the scalp that is burned cease producing hair and the child
can develop bald spots that may or may not ever heal to normal.
I suppose that the argument could be made that as long as all caution is taken to prevent damage and accidents, the act of using heat styling on a child is not a dramatic
issue. I simply think the risks outweigh the returns and that there are many options for styling a child’s hair that don’t have the same potential for harm.