Hair Relaxers What You Should Know

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By definition, a hair relaxer is a lotion or cream that makes the hair easier to straighten and manage. It reduces the curl by breaking down the hair strand and chemically altering the texture. Most women who decide to get their hair relaxed have curly hair who want it to be stick straight without any frizz. The results vary depending on your hair type, but usually a hair relaxer will leave your hair straight for about six to eight weeks. Unlike other permanent straightening methods, relaxing your hair will require touch-ups from time to time. You can go to a professional stylist, or you can purchase a hair relaxing kit to be used at home.

NaturallyCurly talked to Texas-based stylist Latara Porch to learn more about relaxers and some frequently asked questions about the process.

What are the benefits of going to a professional?

While getting your hair relaxed by a professional is expensive, it is the best option if you decide to relax at all. Porch said professional stylists like herself know how to care for your hair and can properly add all the nutrients that have been stripped during the chemical process. A professional can perform a “strand test,” which will test the strength of your hair in order to further assess which type of relaxer is best for you. Porch added that professionals have better, stylist-approved hair products that can help specially treat your hair. Apart from their years of experience, some professionals actually keep records of what treatments you have had or what procedures other clients had that will help them determine how strong the relaxer should be for your hair type.

What are the different types of hair relaxers?

Hair relaxers, most commonly, are available in two types: Lye relaxers and No-Lye relaxers. Opinions on the two vary, but as with everything, it depends on your hair type and texture. Lye relaxers are known to work quickly on the hair, but as a result they might also rinse out of your hair easily. Their main ingredient is sodium hydroxide, and they are also known as “alkali” relaxers. No-lye, on the other hand, is mostly made of calcium hydroxide, which can dry out the hair. However, no-lye is better for people with sensitive scalps. When using no-lye, it is imperative that you use a “de-calcifying” shampoo to prevent calcium buildup.

What are some disadvantages of using hair relaxers?

Hair relaxers are very powerful chemicals; they have to be if you want your hair’s texture altered so drastically. Depending on your hair type, hair relaxers might cause breakage, hair thinning, and stunt your hair growth. Porch said the process may also result in chemical burns on the scalp and other areas — with some women have also complained of scalp irritation, scalp damage or hair loss. Remember that hair relaxers are stripping your hair of its natural oils, so be very attentive to your hair if you decide to relax it.

What are some advantage of using hair relaxers?

Despite the hair breakage and and scalp irritation, Porch said there are some advantages of getting your hair relaxed. Your hair stays straight for the most part and it’s easier to manage and style and less likely to frizz.  

Should I get a relaxer?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question — but Porch always wants to understand from her clients why exactly they want a relaxer. Having straight, relaxed hair is no “easy” task — relaxed hair needs special attention by keeping the hair moisturized, along with weekly deep conditioning, drinking plenty of water, and utilizing leave-in conditioners. Be sure to use a reconstructing shampoo and conditioner the week following your hair relaxing, and stay away from heat that will further dry your hair. It’s important to understand that if you get a relaxer, your hair will be damaged in the long run and will require special care to repair it.Porch said she’s seen healthy and damaged relaxed hair and healthy and damaged natural hair — but it’s all about how you take of your crown.

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