Beauti 101: Garrett A. Morgan Invented the Hair Relaxer

Posted on Feb 1 2011 - 3:10am by BSB

Many of us know Garrett A. Morgan as the African American inventor responsible for the traffic signal and gas mask. Did you know he  invented the hair relaxer by accident?

Hair relaxing is a type of lotion or cream which makes hair less curly and easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls.   Alkaline relaxers were informally discovered in the United States during the 19th century when Garrett Augustus Morgan, an African-American, observed that it is possible to change the basic structure of the hair shaft when certain chemicals penetrate the cortical layer.  As a clothing manufacturer, Morgan experimented with a liquid that gave sewing machine needles a high polish and prevented the needle from scorching fabric as it sewed. Accidentally, he discovered that this liquid not only straightened fabric but also hair.   He made the liquid into a cream and began the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company.  In addition, Morgan also made a black hair oil dye and a curved-tooth iron comb in 1910, to straighten hair. With the proceeds made from Garrett Morgan’s hair refining company, he funded other projects that lead to his invention of the gas mask, traffic signal and, before his death, a self extinguishing cigarette.

Check out ads for his hair straightening cream and pressing combs.  How do you feel about hair relaxers?




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13 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Grace's NYC Sis February 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    WOW……The ad said “war declared on bad hair”……

    Unfortunately, things have not changed and people actually think there is “bad” hair out there. There is no such thing as “bad” hair – only different hair textures, from straight to wavy to curly to coiled. Also fine to coarse. Get educated.

    • BSB February 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      I totally agree!

      • abby January 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm - Reply


  2. maingurl February 6, 2011 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    It’s really a shame that we’re not to far removed from the continuance of these backwards ideas.

    • SoleRebel August 20, 2011 at 6:04 am - Reply


  3. SoleRebel August 20, 2011 at 6:02 am - Reply

    Adding insult to injury; check the before and after. He’s dark brown with the so-called bad hair. When he straightens it, his complexion maxi ally lightens. I am amazed at the self degradation.

  4. SoleRebel August 20, 2011 at 6:06 am - Reply

    That should read “his complexion magically lightens”. Mobile phone auto correct messed me up.

  5. Nu Nu March 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    oh lordy…the list of items in the last picture says bleecheen (bleaching) your only chance to get a ‘smooth light complexion’. so sad.

  6. Angela Ware April 3, 2013 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Sadly enough blacks still use relaxers even though they are the most harmful thing on can put on their hair. Im suprised that the inventor is a man.

    • Lula May 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Im too, because they are the first to put black women down for it. Reading on, I found out black men wore relaxer way before the black women. However, the black women had be force to use it. Society used her job & tried take her reapect telling black women their natural hair wasn’t good enough.

  7. ajah spears April 20, 2015 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    i always thought that madam c.j. walker invented that guess i was wrong. 🙁

  8. Khetsa Nerut October 24, 2016 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Ajah Spears, for some reason I assumed the same as well, but she actually invented the hot comb. Just another self-degrading hair-straightening technique, but the relaxers are obviously much worse.

  9. Brynlee February 14, 2018 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    how come the hair relaxers not on here i mean the picture

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