When you have naturally curly hair, you may want to change it to give yourself a different look. Perhaps your curly hair is unmanageable that no amount of styling can tame. Or maybe you don’t like how curly hair looks on you. Whatever the reason, you can semi-permanently straighten your hair by using a hair relaxer.
Hair relaxers work to break down parts of your hair to straighten it for an extended period, usually a few weeks. Your hair will remain straight even after washing, working out, and even in the worst humidity.
There are many different types of hair relaxers on the market today, and no two are created equal. Some of the products may work better for your particular hair needs, and some may not work for you at all. So, how do you decide which one is best to tame your curls? Here is all you need to know about hair relaxers.
How Do Hair Relaxers Work?
Hair relaxers work to change your hair’s structure, “relaxing it” from curly to straight. Hair relaxers contain strong chemicals that penetrate the hair follicles to alter its structure and break down the properties that make up curly hair.
The effects of this relaxing process usually last a month or longer before you need to use another hair relaxing product. Hair consists of both strong and weak bonds within the hair structure.
However, since these bonds are weak, they will go back to their normal state (curly) once exposed to water or humidity.
To have straight hair hold up to these elements, you will need a product to break down the stronger bonds. Once these bonds break, the hair will remain straight for an extended period, even when exposed to water and humidity.
But, since you cannot permanently change hair follicles, any new hair will grow out in its natural state. Eventually, your natural hair will overtake the relaxed hair, so you will need to re-apply the product to maintain relaxed hair.
Different Types Of Hair Relaxers
There are two types of hair relaxers: ones with lye and ones without lye. Lye hair relaxers contain the chemical sodium hydroxide, and non-lye hair relaxers contain other chemicals like lithium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide.
Hair relaxers may also include various vitamins and nutrients to help lessen the product’s sometimes harsh effects. Before applying any hair relaxer, you will first need to apply a base to prepare your hair for the straightening process.
Some hair relaxers have this base mixed in with the relaxing chemicals; others require a separate base product. Be sure to check the packaging to determine if your chosen hair relaxer has a base in it or not.
How To Choose A Hair Relaxer
Figuring out which hair relaxer to buy depends on your hair type, structure, and needs. It also depends on how sensitive your skin and scalp are. Using a hair relaxer can help tame even the curliest of hair. Straightening your hair can also eliminate frizz, making hair easier to style and maintain.
Lye hair relaxers are appealing because they work quickly but may not last as long and can be very harsh. But, if you have a sensitive scalp, reach for a non-lye hair relaxer, but be aware that it may dry out your hair.
Looking at and comparing the ingredients of each type of hair relaxer you are considering will be pivotal in deciding which one is best for you and your hair. If you have questions about different types of hair relaxers, consider going to a salon for the first application.
A professional stylist can help you navigate the different chemicals and weigh each one’s pros and cons as they relate to your specific hair. They can also teach you the proper way to apply the hair relaxer to minimize damage to both your scalp and your hair.
Side Effects Of Hair Relaxers
Since the ingredients found in hair relaxers are strong enough to change your hair’s structure chemically, they often come with some potentially harmful side effects. But, keep in mind different types of hair relaxers will have a different impact on different types of hair.
It’s essential to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work for your specific hair. Applying strong chemicals on your hair can cause it to become weak and break easily. Hair can become more fragile the longer you use hair relaxers.
The chemicals in hair relaxers are sometimes so harsh that they can cause burns on your scalp. These burns can be excruciating and take some time to go away. Other problems with using hair relaxers include scalp irritation, dandruff, and even hair loss.
In some cases, these side effects get so severe that you may have to see a doctor. It’s essential to pay attention to these side effects, and if they get worse, it’s best to stop using the products until symptoms subside or until you can consult with a doctor.
How To Keep Hair Healthy
Caring for your hair does not stop once you use the hair relaxer. It’s important to use products to boost your hair’s health after relaxing it. Remember, hair relaxers break down bonds in your hair, and this can include stripping your hair of vitamins and proteins.
Developing a routine to keep your hair nourished will lead to shiny and more manageable hair with less chance of breakage. Like different hair relaxers affect different hair differently; other post-straightening products will also have differing effects.
Be Mindful Of Washing
After relaxing your hair, don’t reach for just any shampoo. Instead, look for shampoos that are made especially for relaxed hair. Specially-formulated shampoos will work to condition your hair to prevent it from drying out too much and from breakage. Also, look for a shampoo that is free from drying ingredients, like alcohol.
If you have a shampoo with a moisturizer in it, it’s ok to wash your hair every week. If you don’t, then try to wash your hair every two weeks to prevent more damage. Wet hair is weaker hair, so washing your hair too often can leave it prone to breakage.
This hair washing schedule may take some fine-tuning to get to the right balance, so make sure to pay attention to how your hair responds to washing and how it feels afterward.
Condition, Condition, Condition
Hair straighteners strip vitamins and proteins from your hair as they work to alter its chemical structure. Without these vitamins and proteins, hair can become dry and weak.
Using a good conditioner on your relaxed hair will help restore these vital vitamins and leave your hair looking healthier and shinier. If you are using a shampoo that already has a conditioner, you are all set.
If those products aren’t giving you enough moisture, then look for a separate conditioner and use it after every time you wash your hair. You can also try a leave-in conditioner for maximum moisture. Natural ingredients to look for when choosing a conditioner include coconut oil and Aragon.
Heat is similar to water when it comes to hair – it makes hair weak and prone to breakage. When you are styling your hair after using a hair relaxer, try to avoid styling tools with high heat, like a curling iron. If you choose to use a heated styling tool, try turning the heat down to limit how hot your hair gets.
Trim Split Ends
Dry and damaged hair can split, causing unsightly split ends, which can prevent your hair from growing. Consistently trimming your split ends will not only help your hair grow but also makes it stronger and healthier.
To Relax Or Not To Relax
Deciding to use a hair relaxer on your curly hair is a tough one with pros and cons. Positives of using hair relaxers include taming frizzy, out-of-control hair, saving time by cutting down on styling time, as well as boosting self-confidence.
On the flip side, there are some drawbacks to using hair relaxers. Using any type of hair relaxer can cause severe side effects like burns and irritation. Relaxing your hair also takes commitment because you need to re-apply the relaxer every few weeks and maintain a consistent hair regime between applications to boost your hair’s health.
Remember, different types of hair relaxers work differently for everyone, so if you try one product and find that it doesn’t work, you should try another one. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the exact products that give you the look and feel you want without destroying your hair.
Another aspect to keep in mind is your hair once you no longer want to relax it. Since hair relaxers use chemicals, your hair will need some time to recover from hair relaxation. Sticking to a hair care routine will help restore your hair to its once-healthy curly state.