These stylist-approved relaxer tips will ensure your hair is kept looking beautiful and healthy.
Determine your hair texture
“Run your fingers through your hair and ask yourself what it is that you feel. ‘Is it thick? Curly or kinky?’,” says Brian Warfield of Tanaz Hair Body Nails. If your hair is fine, feeling thin or smooth, a mild formula works best. If your hair is course, thick and wiry with a tight curl, go for a super formula.
“Relaxers are never meant to damage hair, but choosing the incorrect relaxer and wrongful application can be detrimental to your hair,” adds Brian.
Lye VS no-lye
The main active ingredient in a lye-based relaxer is sodium hydroxide. The pH level in lye relaxer is higher than in no-lye relaxer. A lye relaxer breaks down the bonds of the hair quickly, “which is good because you often experience more scalp irritation with this chemical. The faster it works, however, the sooner you can rinse it out,” says Hanson Ndabeni, Field and National Education Manager for Softsheen Carson. If a lye relaxer is not used with the correct protection, it can cause scalp irritation, so be sure to protect your scalp with before applying the relaxer. Most at-home relaxer kits come with a sachet of scalp protection.
A no-lye relaxer is milder, as the pH level is lower. The main active ingredient is calcium hydroxide or guanidine hydroxide. “These relaxers are often associated with dryer hair because of potential calcium build-up,” explains Hanson. If you have a sensitive scalp, this is the better option for you. Some people make the mistake of leaving a no-lye relaxer on the scalp for too long because of its mild processing, which only “leads to dry, dull hair due to over-processing,” says Brian.
Maintaining healthy hair and a healthy scalp is really important. “Depending on the condition of the scalp, your hair can be washed between once or three times a week. Washing relaxed hair regularly removes product build-up and helps to do away with the limp hair, aiding with hair movement,” says ORS SA hairstylist Betito Ebengo. Remember, when you relax your hair, you’re stripping it of its natural nourishment. So the more nourishment you give it, the better for your hair.
Look out for products that use words like “non-greasy”, “light-weight”, and easy for hair to absorb,” says Betito. “Treatments that provide protein are also key for strength, moisture and flexibility,” explains Brian. He goes on to say that “aftercare products should provide moisture and be able to absorb into the hairshaft. The best way to know if a product will absorb into the hair is to rub a small about of the product on the back of your hand. If it absorbs into the skin and makes it soft but not oily, then it is a good product to use on your hair.”
Need more tips for training your tresses? We’ve got the answers to all your relaxer dilemmas, here.