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If you are hesitant to discard the products you used on your relaxed hair, you are not alone. Estherbeauty from Curly Q&A wants to know is there a difference between natural hair products and relaxed hair products, and the answer is yes and no. Unless the brand states on the packaging which consumers the products were formulated for, then the assumption is that the products can be used by all. 

Question

After transitioning from a relaxer, did your hair products have to change?

Answer  

No. You should use whatever works for your hair, but usually what works on straight hair may not meet the needs and expectations for your natural hair. Most naturals notice that their hair rejects the same products and regimen used for their relaxed hair and here’s why.

Sulfate-free and lather-free shampoo options

Standard shampoos are formulated with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which is a cleansing surfactant that can be drying to textured hair, so most curlies shop for sulfate-free shampoos. Others prefer lather or suds-free cleansers, since lather from ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine can induce tangles. Sulfate-free shampoos and lather-free cleansers are equally effective on relaxed hair, so they are not exclusive to textured hair.

Be mindful that the ingredients in the products you apply and leave on your hair may dictate what kind of cleansers are the most effective. For example, if you are using conditioners with non-water soluble silicones, then you may need to use a cleanser with SLS or SLES to thoroughly remove it.

Read more: The Real Scoop on Silicones and What's the Scoop on Silicones?

Conditioners with more slip and less proteins

Many curlies prefer conditioners with lots of slip, as it provides great lubrication for easier detangling on damp and wet hair. Slip is about enhancing the user experience but does not necessary indicative of how effective your deep conditioner is at imparting moisture. Women with textured hair who follow the CG method or avoid non-water soluble silicones  also tend to avoid SLS and SLES so that they can use gentle cleansers without the worry of buildup.

Products formulated for relaxed hair tend to have more proteins, as this is important for the chemically-processed strands to maintain moisture and reduce breakage for length retention. All hair types can benefit from proteins at different levels because all hair experiences damage, which it is chemical, mechanical, or thermal. If you have curly hair with permanent color, then your hair could greatly benefit from protein-rich products or monthly protein treatments. I have noticed that many protein treatments that are not categorized as “curly” or “natural hair” on the packaging tend to have silicones and/or mineral oil. So, if you are looking for protein treatments without silicones or mineral oil, try these:

Silicones are great for slip, shine, thermal protection, and coating the cuticle, so if they work for you then keep using them.
Moisturizers with heavier or more butters and oils

Moisturizers and leave-in conditioners that say for “relaxed” or “chemically processed” hair tend to be lightweight, containing low amounts of butter and oils or none at all; this ensures that the hair is not weighed down.

Women with textured hair love the benefits of oils and butters, and since our hair naturally grows outward and downward, movement is usually not a top priority. Moisturizers formulated for relaxed hair may be either drying or not rich enough for your curly and coily strands, so only trial and error will let you know. 

Different stylers

Stylers for relaxed hair tend to include foam or wrap lotion  and serums for heat protection while curly styling products include curl definers and twisting creams and butters. Many curlies and naturals still use their tried-and-true heat protectants that they used on their relaxed hair, because the silicones in those products provide great protection to lessen thermal damage.

It’s more about ingredients than packaging

Some of the most beloved brands in the curly community include Desert Essence, Aussie Moist, Aubrey Organics, Elucence, Nature’s Gate, and Herbal Essences, which do not explicitly limit or focus their products to curly consumers. These products tend to be full of natural oils, emollients, and humectants, which deliver on washing expectations.

I encourage you to try what you have, and if it doesn’t try something different. You know what your hair needs, and when you don’t know what to use you have a community of curly comrades excited to provide tips and recommendations.

Did you have to switch products when you stopped relaxing your hair?