If you are of African American descent, you are well aware of how difficult it can be to manage natural black hair. What we’ve grown up referring to as “nappy”, is really just tightly curled hair that coils as it grows out. When the hair all over your head is growing out tightly coiled, the hairs tend to tangle together resulting in “nappy” hair. If you have this type of hair, you are most likely aware that the easiest way to achieve a straight, easy to manage hairstyle that lasts, is by using a relaxer. A relaxer is a chemical used to permanently straighten the natural curl pattern of the hair. Typically, relaxers are used by women of ethnicities that have very naturally curly hair to create a permanently straight style.
You have the choice between professional relaxers and at-home relaxers. At-home relaxers should only be used if you have done it before or are confident enough with the process to ensure you won’t cause damage to your hair during the process. African American hair is extremely fragile and as such it can easily be permanently damaged from incorrect use of hair relaxers.
In general, the wiser course would be to have a relaxer applied professionally by a knowledgeable stylist so as to ensure the relaxer is applied correctly and washed out efficiently. Some relaxers when applied to the hair after a different type/brand of relaxer, can severely break down the bonds of protein in your hair leading to major breakage and hair loss. This can happen even if the previous relaxer was applied several months before. Make sure to inform your stylist of the history of your relaxer use. Discuss with him or her exactly what kind of results you are hoping to achieve. Your biggest concern should be having healthy relaxed hair, which can only be achieved by applying proper methods when selecting and applying your relaxer.
Despite the fact that relaxers are made up of harsh chemicals, you can safely use at-home relaxers with a little extra attention and care. If you choose to use an at-home relaxer, it is important to know the specific options relaxers are available in, so as to select the correct one for your specific type of hair. First off, relaxers come in 3 different strengths: mild, regular, and super. Determine what type of relaxer is best for your hair type based on the sensitivity of your scalp as well as how thick your hair type is. If your hair is more on the finer side, you’ll likely want to go with a mild relaxer. If you have thicker courser hair, you may need to opt for the super. I always recommend going with a mild relaxer if you can because it’s going to be the safest option for your hair.
You will also need to decide between three different varieties of chemical relaxer types: sodium hydroxide (lye), guanidine hydroxide (no-lye) and ammonium thioclycolate (thio). Lye relaxers are the strongest type of relaxer and are more likely to cause harmful effects and as such, need a bit more caution when used. Select a lye relaxer for thick, course hair or hair that has never been previously relaxed. No-lye relaxers, are just another type of relaxer that is believed to be less harmful but should still be treated with the same caution as it still contains harsh ingredients.
It is extremely wise to do a strand test on your hair before applying the relaxer. Test out the product on a less than noticeable area to ensure your hair can handle the chemical. If you have recently colored your hair or have had any other types of chemical treatments, it is best to wait a while before applying your relaxer because the result of chemical on top of chemical can lead to serious irreversible damage and breakage.
All in all, relaxers can considerably reduce your daily hair woes as far as manageability and time consumption. However, relaxers can also cause major hair woes if care is not taken to applying it to the right condition of hair with the appropriate method of application. Relaxers should never be applied to hair that is presently thinning or breaking. Though your natural curls and coils may seem like they require a lot of maintenance, relaxed hair also requires consistent upkeep to prevent breakage. As previously mentioned, always opt for the mildest option possible when selecting your relaxer.