Relaxer chemical burns. Ouch!
Every woman dreads relaxer chemical burns, and most of us have battled with a relaxer burn or two . . . (or three) in our lives. Though they tend to happen frequently, relaxer chemical burns are not a normal part of chemical relaxing. In fact, a properly applied chemical relaxer should never cause a burn. Chemical burns can only occur when protective petroleum layers on the scalp are breached. When relaxer chemicals are left on the hair beyond manufacturer’s suggested processing times, or the scalp is not based well prior to relaxer application, scalp burns and hair breakage from overprocessing will occur.
When the scalp is burned, it often becomes tender. Scabs soon form, and hair can become caught within the scab and become “glued” to the scalp. So what can you do to prevent and treat chemical relaxer burns?
Tips for Preventing Chemical Burns
1.) Do not scratch your scalp prior to applying your relaxer. Scalp irritation always leads to burns. Though it seems like your scalp gets its itchiest just before a relaxer, fight the temptation to scratch your scalp!
2.) Avoid washing the hair the day prior to chemically relaxing. A freshly washed scalp is highly susceptible to burning from relaxer chemicals.
3.) Avoid brushing or hard parting your hair and scalp, especially around the fragile hairline prior to the relaxer.
4.) Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly or grease to the hair and scalp to protect them from harsh relaxer chemicals. By increasing the thickness of the petroleum barrier, harsh chemicals are less likely to damage the hair and scalp.
5.) Process your hair for the manufacturer’s suggested time for your hair type. Even a few moments beyond the suggested time could result in a burned scalp and lifeless, overprocessed hair.
6.) Thoroughly rinse and neutralize all traces of relaxer from your hair and scalp. This is critical. Allow your neutralizer to sit on your hair and scalp undisturbed for 3-5 minutes before rinsing. This will give your neutralizer a chance to bring your scalp’s pH down to stop the relaxer from continuing to work on the scalp.
7.) If you are visiting a stylist, be sure to lift your head at the shampoo bowl as your relaxer is being rinsed. Often times, the uncomfortable angle of the bowl makes us want to rest our heads and necks on the rim for relief– but this can cause overprocessing and chemical burns in the nape area of the head. Make sure this area is rinsed thoroughly,
8.) Let your stylist know if you are susceptible to burning, and inform him/her immediately if you begin to feel the common, initial tingle that often precedes full scale burning.
Treating Chemical Burns
Because the scalp skin is like other skin on the body, typical burn ointments like Neosporin will help heal and condition it. Additionally, you may apply Vitamin E oil or Aloe vera gel to the burn to calm redness and irritation. If your hair is stuck within the scab, apply petroleum jelly to help soften the scabbed skin and gently attempt to free a few strands at a time.
Deep conditioning the hair will also help soften your scab so that it gently falls away.