Hair Care

Safe Relaxing Girls (And Boys): All You Need to Know About Relaxers

When I first saw this tweet and the extent of the relaxer damage, I was so disturbed. Unfortunately, relaxer damage isn’t exactly uncommon. Thankfully most cases aren’t as bad as this. I haven’t used a relaxer in almost 6 years myself. My experiences with relaxing were horrible and my scalp to this day has not fully recovered (a story for another day).

However, I’ve been rethinking my stance on relaxers being immediately bad. Some bloggers I’ve been reading have shown that it is possible to have healthy, relaxed hair and scalp. These are bloggers like Jen at justgrowalready.com and Sunshyne at hairliciousinc.com (Links to their blogs included). 

If anything, having healthy relaxed hair seems to involve a lot more care than natural hair. This is probably why my hair never seemed to grow when it was relaxed. It’s not obvious to most people but relaxed hair is even more fragile than natural hair.

Thinking of introducing relaxers to your natural hair? Or you already relax frequently? This post is for you. I want you to be as fully informed as possible.

How Do Relaxers Work?

Relaxers work by breaking the di-sulfide bonds found in the cortex layer of the hair. Then re-forming them while the hair is still being held in a straight pattern. This can only be done using alkaline/basic ingredients like Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) or Calcium Hydroxide.

Relaxed hair structure

Structure of the Hair

They do this by passing through your cuticles. This presents a problem; by causing the cortex to expand, this creates pressure on the cuticles causing them to lift. This then makes hair more brittle, fragile and likely to have split ends. Also, anything alkaline seeping into your scalp can kill your hair follicles and cause permanent bald spots.

What Types of Relaxers Available?

There are two main types: lye and no-lye relaxers.

Lye Relaxers: Bad for Scalp but Better for Hair

Lye Relaxers are highly caustic relaxers. This means they are stronger formulations than no-lye relaxers and should only be done by professionals.

A Lye Relaxer

Pros

  1. Best for coarser hair and/or want a lesser degree of straightening.
  2. Pre-mixed
  3. Doesn’t leave mineral deposits on hair (more on this later).
  4. Good for Several applications

Cons

  1. Can be very damaging on the scalp because of high alkalinity
  2. Higher pH.

No-Lye Relaxers: Better for the Scalp but Worse for the Hair

No-Lye relaxers are less caustic than lye ones, but they can leave mineral deposits on your hair because they are usually formulated with calcium hydroxide. They are the ones that come in a box and are good for only 1-2 uses. 

A no-lye relaxer

Pros

  1. Best for fine hair and a more intense straightening.
  2. Less likely to be damaging to scalp since not as caustic.

Cons

  1. Hair is easily over-processed.
  2. Mineral deposits may stop hair from absorbing much needed moisture. 

What are Ways To Avoid Relaxer Burns?

Don’t wash your hair for at least two weeks before your relaxer appointment. This accumulates sebum on your scalp (and possibly hair) that will help prevent the burns. You can also base your scalp and hair with castor oil and/or petrolatum to achieve the same results.

How Often Should I Relax?

When I used to relax, I’d have one every 6-8 weeks. However Sunshyne recommends having your next relaxer 10-12 weeks after. This way new growth is more visible and chances of relaxing previously relaxed hair decreases significantly.

Always remember to wash your hair with a neutralizing and/or chelating shampoo after. This is to bring your hair’s pH back to 5 and remove the mineral deposits respectively.

Finally, What Could Have Caused the Relaxer Burn Incident?

Mumiya Organics relaxer seems to be only sold in Nigeria. It also doesn’t have a website for me to find the ingredients list. It does say it is no lye. However, I doubt that because the extent of the burns seem too severe to be no-lye.

It could also be no-lye but a bad batch. Unfortunately things like this do happen and L’Oreal was in trouble for this recently with its Softsheen Carson Amla Oil No-Lye Relaxer. It is a very sad thing which is why I remain wary of relaxers. However, I think cases like this more of an exception than the norm. And if some of the above tips are used, I’m sure the chances of this happening to you will reduce drastically.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a wonderful week.

Signing out,

               Sarah.

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