My relaxer series went into detail about what relaxing actually is and what it’s doing to your hair. When you decide to relax your hair, you have to understand that you’re adding chemicals that are created to weaken the natural texture of your hair, allowing a new straighter texture. Your hair becomes weaker and dryer, therefore an ongoing hair care regime is paramount in ensuring that you don’t experience hair breakage. That’s a lot to commit to …
Today I’m going to expand your knowledge on relaxers. Everyone’s talking about lye relaxers versus no lye relaxers. Some say it doesn’t matter which one you use, others swear by either of the two. Let’s get into it.
Recap – what is a relaxer?
‘A relaxer is a type of cream generally used by people with afro textured hair, which makes hair less curly and also easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali, although some formulations are based on ammonium thioglycolate instead. The relaxer is applied to the roots of the hair and remains in place for a “cooking” interval, during which it alters the hair’s texture by a process of controlled damage to the protein structure.’
As a whole, relaxer formulations have pHs that range from 10-14. The higher the pH of the chemical the more damage the hair cuticle endures. As the strength of the relaxer formula increases, the pH increases. Generally, coarse hair relaxers have a higher pH (therefore stronger chemicals) than fine hair relaxers. This is why it’s important to understand your hair type (thin, medium, thick) so that you can determine whether you use a relaxer for fine, normal or coarse hair.
What is a lye relaxer?
Lye relaxers have a higher PH content than no-lye and are the stronger of the two chemicals. They are ready to apply when bought. Because of their strength, most lye formulas are not available over the counter and are used in salons.
What is a no-lye relaxer?
No-lye relaxers have a lower PH than lye relaxer. They include an activator step (where you mix a separate liquid into the relaxer) However, not every no-lye relaxer needs to be mixed. Lithium and potassium hydroxide relaxers are no-lye relaxers that are sold as “no mix” formulas.
No lye relaxer formulas are best for self-relaxers and can be bought over the counter as their formulation isn’t as harsh as lye relaxers.
Which one is better for your hair?
No-Lye relaxers are gentler on the scalp than lye relaxers (therefore if you have a sensitive scalp, it may be better to use a no-lye relaxer)
No-Lye relaxers are harsher on the hair than lye relaxers. No-lye gets your hair straighter than lye meaning that it damages the hair bonds even more, making it weaker and limper.
Lye relaxers still allow the hair to maintain more of its natural strength and elasticity as it doesn’t straighten the hair as much as no-lye
Lye relaxers process faster which may lead to chemical burning of the scalp (the higher pH makes them a more aggressive chemical). They must be applied carefully and quickly to avoid damaging hair and burning scalp
Both no lye and lye relaxers have downsides. One is easier on the scalp, yet can damage the hair and the other is easier on the hair and can damage the scalp. Relaxers by their very nature have been created to weaken your hair as the nature of it changes.
There are a lot of examples of women with relaxed hair that are doing it right and allowing their hair to grow in a healthy way. How … you ask? By following the following Relaxer Commandments:
- Follow all the steps written on the relaxer kit ALWAYS
- Before applying relaxer, base your scalp with a petroleum product. Also add conditioner or oil on the processed hair to curb over processing of the hair
- Always select a quality and trusted relaxer brand. If the one you’ve used for a long time has worked for you, continue using it and bump up your after retouch care
- Use a light / medium protein treatment a few days before you retouch your hair. And during the retouch, do another protein treatment after rinsing out the relaxer and before a neutralising shampoo is used.