A hair relaxer is a type of chemical used to straighten hair permanently. It is used by people, usually women, who want to straighten their naturally curly or wavy hair permanently so they don’t have to use hot combs or flat irons regularly to get straight hair. It may also be used by women who are seeking a means of thinning out hair that is very thick or make it more manageable. Chemical relaxers, which either contain lye or a no-lye chemical formula, work to soften the hair and change its natural structure to a straighter form.
Although hair relaxer is considered a permanent type of hair straightening treatment, it does have to be performed on a regular basis. Hair grows at different rates, so sooner or later there will eventually be new hair growth that is in its naturally curly, wavy or coarser state. As such, it is necessary to apply hair relaxer to the new growth to make sure it matches the chemically relaxed hair. Touch ups used to be done every six to eight weeks, however as people get better educated on how relaxers work and the damage they can cause, the time between touch ups can be stretched for as long as the individual feels comfortable. Trichologists advise a break of at least three months between touch ups to allow sufficient new hair to grow which will reduce the risk of applying relaxer to already processed hair.
Many women go to professional stylists in order to have their hair relaxed. However, there are many hair relaxer products that can be used at home. The process of applying a relaxer involves putting a cream or lotion on the hair to be straightened and allowing it to sit in place for a set period of time. During this period, it alters the hair’s natural structure.
After sitting on the hair for the required amount of time, the relaxer is rinsed out, and a neutralizing shampoo is typically used afterward. A moisturizing hair conditioner is generally used following the neutralizing shampoo. This is due to the fact that the relaxer’s chemicals usually strip the hair of a significant portion of its natural oils. The conditioner can be used to restore moisture, balance and shine.
Sometimes, chemical hair relaxers lead to hair that is dry, brittle and prone to breakage. This most often occurs when the hair isn’t properly moisturized in between hair relaxer treatments; it may also occur if the time between touch ups is prolonged, as the relaxed hair may begin to break off from the stronger new growth, especially during brisk combing. The point where the new growth meets the already straightened hair is called the line of demarcation and it is very fragile. Additionally, hair breakage may result when relaxers are applied not just to the new growth but also to the hair that has already been chemically relaxed during touch ups. This is referred to as overlapping. Most stylists know the importance of relaxing only the new growth, but sometimes people spread the chemical on the already relaxed hair. This occurs mainly when the hair relaxer is applied at home.