If you have natural hair, then you may have considered getting a hair relaxer. After all, taking care of your curly strands can be time-consuming, which can make having a sleek, super-straight mane straight out of bed sound pretty appealing. Of course, curly hair relaxers aren’t for everyone, and just like with any beauty procedure, we highly recommend doing your research before taking the plunge to determine if it’s the right move for you. Luckily, you don’t have to take to Google to find the answers you’re searching for. Below, we’re answering what a hair relaxer is, how natural hair relaxers work, what to know before trying one, and how to care for relaxed hair. That’s a lot—so let’s get to it!
WHAT IS RELAXED HAIR?
So, what exactly is relaxed hair? Natural hair relaxers, also known as chemical straighteners, are chemical lotions or creams applied to natural hair to give it a sleek, straight appearance by “relaxing” your curls. According to a study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), relaxers are used by more than two-thirds of African females to straighten hair for easier grooming and increased length.
WHAT IS A HAIR RELAXER AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
Now that you’ve got some background info, you may be wondering how curly hair relaxers work. First, let’s cover what hair relaxer is. A study from the NCBI states that chemical-based hair relaxers are broadly classified as “lye” relaxers, no-lye relaxers, and “thio” relaxers. The main ingredient of “lye” relaxers is sodium hydroxide, no-lye relaxers contain calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate, and “thio” relaxers contain thioglycolic acid salts, according to the NCBI. This is where things get a little tricky, so we’ll try and keep it as short and sweet as possible.
According to a study from the United States Patent, the first stage of processing is referred to as the reduction stage, where the disulfide bonds of the hair fiber are broken. This is important because the presence of disulfide bonds is directly linked to how curly your hair is. Then the hair is thoroughly rinsed before moving onto the second stage, which is known as the neutralization stage. This step involves using a neutralizing agent to reclose the disulfide bonds into a new configuration, setting hair into the desired shape. Got it?
Next, the hair is shampooed and mechanically positioned into the configuration or shape desired, usually by wrapping the hair around cylinders (AKA rollers) of the appropriate size needed to straighten waved hair. Keep in mind that this process should be done by a professional, as many of the common ingredients used in the process are caustic to both hair and skin, making at-home options less concentrated, and therefore less effective, than those typically used in professional salons, according to the study.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE RELAXING HAIR
Phew—that’s a lot of info! Now that you know all about how curly hair relaxers work, you may have some questions popping up in your head. Here are a few things to know before relaxing your hair. First, it’s important to remember that relaxing your hair is a chemical process, and relaxers should only be used as instructed. A study from the NCBI found that common complaints associated with the use of chemical hair relaxers were frizzy hair, dandruff, hair loss, thinning, and hair breakage. To minimize any potential damage, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises using caution with relaxers and always going to a professional stylist for proper, safe application. If you are working with an at-home kit, it’s a must to read and follow all instructions on the packaging before and during application—just as you would when using an at-home hair color kit.
IS A HAIR RELAXER PERMANENT?
Since chemical processing is known to have long-term effects, you’re probably wondering if hair relaxers are permanent. And the simple answer is no. According to the AAD, curly hair relaxers should be repeated every eight to 10 weeks to keep strands straight. If not, hair will go back to its natural state. Keep in mind, the more you apply hair relaxers to your hair, the longer it will take for you to restore your natural texture.
IS HAIR RELAXER BAD FOR YOUR HAIR?
All chemical processing, including using curly hair relaxers, can damage your hair. The AAD shares that having a hair relaxer and another chemical service can wreak havoc on your strands, which is why they recommend just one service at a time. The NCBI also reveals that excessive chemical treatments can cause the hair cuticles to crack, which can ultimately lead to hair damage.
To relax hair and minimize damage, the recommendations are pretty similar to those for bleaching hair: rely on a professional and don’t overdo it.
HOW TO CARE FOR RELAXED HAIR
Last but not least, we’re sure you want to know how to care for relaxed hair! Keep in mind, maintaining relaxed hair is a process just like anything else. According to a study from the NCBI, relaxed hairstyles can be covered with a scarf while being active as a method for maintaining your straight style. In addition to wearing protective hairstyles for relaxed hair, touch-ups will be needed to relax newly grown hair at the roots, just as new growth needs to be touched up if you switch up your hair color. The AAD shares that in the case of hair relaxing, touch-ups should only be done every two to three months, and that relaxer should never be applied to hair that has already been relaxed.
And that’s a wrap on that! We know it was a lot to take in, so we recommend consulting with your hairstylist to determine if a curly hair relaxer is right for you and to help develop the right post-relaxing hair care routine.
If you are like me, you chemically relax your strands. In doing so, you want to make sure you have the best relaxer for your hair. There are a lot of things to be considered when picking out your relaxer. Things to pay attention to are:
- Your hair type;
- Properties of the formula;
- And, most importantly, the results you want.
The best relaxer for you, will give you the results you desire. Which I hope is a healthy scalp and tresses. It does this by being gentle on your scalp and strands. In order to pick the best relaxer, you need to know the type of hair you have on your head. If you have thick, wiry strands you have coarse hair, thin, smooth strands are deemed as a fine texture while anything between the two is a medium texture. It is important to pick the correct strength formula for your hair type.
Relaxers come in three strengths: mild, regular, and super. If you have fine hair, then you should use the mild formula; if you have coarse hair, then you will want to use the super formula. Be careful in thinking that just because you have thick hair, you need a super strength relaxer. Your thick hair may be a mass of fine strands.
Depending on the formula of the relaxer you are using, you may be able to get your desired results with the mild formula without doing the degree of damage to your hair you may get from using the super formula. You want to start by using a mild formula and then working your way up to the super strength relaxer with subsequent touch-ups if you don’t get the results you want. Some formulas will give you better results than others.n
Traditionally relaxers come in either the No Lye or Lye formulas. Lye relaxers will usually give you straighter hair, but also have the capacity to do more damage. Lye, or Sodium hydroxide, is a chemical used in industrial applications.
If not used with adequate protection, Lye can cause chemical burns on the scalp. But, when used correctly, it can leave the hair straight, moisturized and soft. No lye relaxers are typically milder than lye formulas, as they have a lower pH balance.
If you have sensitive skin, then a no-lye formula is for you. “No base” formulas claim to be less damaging to the scalp, but a petroleum base is always advised as an extra precaution.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I have switched between the top three with my last three relaxers. Bad, I know. but I think I may have found a keeper with Mizani Butter Blends.
They say the most important step in picking a relaxer, is the strand test (which, I have honestly never done). I just don’t see the point in relaxing a piece of my hair to see how I’ll like it and then having to go back and do the whole head. SO, basically, if I do not like the results, I would have already purchased this relaxer, which I can’t return…I feel it’s just a waste of time.