Guide to Hair Relaxers

Hair Relaxer : What is it?

Hair Relaxers

Hair relaxers straighten curly hair to make them more manageable. They work by softening the hair so that they remain straight when stretched. Their effects are usually temporary to semi-permanent, depending on the application and the strength of the chemicals.

Hair relaxers use mild depilatory chemicals – the same ingredients used in hair removal – to thin and soften the hair. These chemicals can damage the hair and skin when not properly applied. Although hair relaxers may be applied at home, experts recommend having them applied by professionals to prevent the chemicals from damaging the hair, scalp, and surrounding skin. 

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Types of Hair Relaxers

Hair RelaxersHair Relaxers

Kinds of Hair Relaxers include the following:

Alkaline relaxers

  • Alkaline relaxers cause hair to swell and become porous, allowing them to penetrate each strand.
  • They break the cross-bonds at the cortical layer, the inner shaft that defines the shape of the hair.
  • They contain 5% to 10% sodium hydroxide and have a pH of 10 to 14.
  • They have a high alkaline content and should be applied in small, controlled amounts.

No-lye relaxers

  • No-lye relaxers use a mixture of calcium hydroxide cream and guanidine carbonate, which is less corrosive than alkaline solutions.
  • They do not corrode as easily as alkaline, but may dissolve the natural fat and oils from the scalp and cause itching.
  • Hair is usually conditioned before and after application to prevent the scalp from drying out.

Thio relaxers

  • Thio relaxers contain ammonium thioglycolate, a much milder chemical compared to sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide.
  • They work by changing the cystine linkage in curly hair, rearranging them to form straight strands.
  • They have a pH of 9 to 9.5, which makes them less corrosive and gentler on the hair.
  • They usually come in a cream or gel form, and are applied over a pre-softener to speed up the softening process.

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Choosing Hair Relaxers (Buying tips)

Strength: Choose a mild hair relaxer to prevent damage to your hair and scalp. Look for one with a pH of 8 or higher. This indicates that the solution has little or no acidity. Make sure it contains no allergenic chemicals. Test a small sample on your skin before buying.

Choose a thick, heavy hair relaxer to slow down dripping and keep it away from the surrounding skin. If the solution is too thick to apply smoothly, ask your dealer if it can be dissolved in water to improve consistency.

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