The natural hair movement has empowered so many black women to embrace their natural hair. While it’s amazing to see more women rocking their natural ‘fros and protective hairstyles, it’s left some people feeling ashamed about the choice to relax their hair. Choosing to relax your hair is 100% your choice and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to go all out. The most important thing is that you don’t damage your hair in the process. If you are interested in relaxing your hair while maintaining healthy, strong strands keep reading.
What are relaxers for natural hair?
Chemical relaxer or hair texturizers are treatments that permanently or semi-permanently straighten or alter the texture of your natural hair. The treatment can be done in a salon or at home, and lasts for about six to eight weeks. This gives curly girls who crave sleek strands a chance to take a break from using hot tools.
Difference between “hair texturizer” and “relaxer” and a “perm”
Relaxers are a cream or lotion-based treatment that are made to “relax” the curl completely, resulting in bone-straight strands. Relaxers chemically — and permanently— break down the bonds of your hair and alter its structure, leaving it straight for up to eight weeks. A texturizer smoothes and defrizzes your hair, while maintaining your natural curls. Rather than straighten the hair completely, they loosen the natural curl pattern and can give you a wavy texture.
The amount of time the chemicals are left to react to the hair is the main differing factor between the two processes. Texturizers shouldn’t be left on for more than five to 10 minutes. Hair relaxers, on the other hand, are typically left on the hair for about 20 minutes.
Both relaxers and texturizers contain chemicals that change the hair permanently alter your hair and often they contain the same ingredients.
A perm, on the other hand, is formulated to create curls and waves in straight hair. Most black women opt for relaxers or texturizers instead of perms. No matter which process you choose, the process starts with choosing one that is right for your hair goals.
Different types of relaxers and how to choose the best one
There are three types of relaxers: sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, and ammonium thioglycolate. Sodium hydroxide relaxers are commonly called lye relaxers. Lye relaxers can be used on all hair types. No-lye relaxers, or calcium hydroxide, are formulated for those with sensitive scalps and can be used on all hair types. Ammonium thioglycolate isn’t strong enough to straighten very coarse or coily hair, but is great for straightening fine, curly, or wavy hair.
Make sure you choose a relaxer that is compatible with your hair type for the best results. The amount of the active chemical determines the strength. Mild is best for fine, colour treated, or damaged hair, regular is for normal hair, and super strength is for those with thick, coarse, or very coily textures. If you have very damaged or bleached hair, you should skip relaxing it altogether.
8 best hair relaxers to use at home
We don’t recommend experimenting with strong chemicals at home, and seeing a hair professional will always give you the best results. However, if you already relax your hair and need a touch-up, there are lots of at-home relaxers that get the job done, and leave your hair sleek, healthy, and hydrated. Here are eight of our picks.
This relaxer is marketed for kids, but the no-lye formula is great for those with super sensitive scalps. It has a straightforward application process and the kit comes with everything you need. It’s formulated with coconut milk, shea butter, vitamin e, and sunflower oil, which will leave your hair looking and feeling healthy. If you have super thick or coily hair this might not be a strong enough formula for you.
If your strands are super parched, you should opt for a relaxer that can give you an extra boost of moisture. This one is formulated with olive oil, which is super moisturizing, and will infuse moisture into your hair as it relaxes it.
Achieve silky, straight hair in six easy steps with this relaxer. The first step is a protective pretreatment regimen, that protects your hair before you put the relaxer in. It also comes with a neutralizing shampoo, reconstruct treatment, and a leave-in moisturizing treatment.
Optimum Care is known for being super moisturizing because of the coconut and ceramides ingredients that strengthen the hair. It is also very budget friendly and works on all hair types.
This relaxer is on the pricier side, but worth every penny. It will leave your hair shiny, healthy, and straight. The formula strengthens your strands without irritating your scalp. Like other relaxers, it doesn’t leave a film when rinsed out. It is great for those with colour-treated hair or a sensitive scalp.
This relaxer yields professional results from home. This “no-base” relaxer is easy to use as it needs no additional chemical mixing, so it’s great for beginners. This relaxer contains natural oils, protein, and DNA to strengthen and protect hair during the relaxing process. The mineral oil and petroleum jelly in the relaxer act as an excellent protective barrier that reduces scalp irritation. It’s formulated specifically for kinky texture hair, and will get even the tightest coils silky straight.
Colouring and relaxing your hair at the same time can be complicated, but this 3-in1 kit makes it super simple. You can relax, colour, and condition your hair in 30 minutes all with one kit. It is formulated with shea butter which helps to moisturize dry, damaged hair. It’s available in the colours, black, brown and red.
Relaxers don’t have to suck the life out of your hair. This formula has protein, shea butter, avocado oil, and jojoba oil which leaves your hair healthy and moisturized while giving you the glossy look you’re going for. This kit also comes with a shine cream and silk keratin serum to keep your hair shiny for days.
Some relaxers can really dry out your hair, which is a recipe for disaster (especially during the colder months). But this hair relaxer is packed with a blend of hydrating ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, and honey, to give your hair a boost of moisture.
Shop our favourite hair relaxers below
Why you should or shouldn’t get a relaxer
There are a lot of great benefits for texturizing or relaxing your hair. It gives you more manageable curls, helps boost shine, reduces frizz and flyaways, and can promote hair growth if done and cared for correctly.
If you want to switch things up, and are committed to the maintenance, a perm or relaxer might be a great choice for you. Be sure that your hair is healthy and unbleached before going through the process, as it could damage your hair further.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to alter your natural curls. Beauty standards have convinced us that only straight hair can be put together, polished, and sophisticated. The truth is, all textures are beautiful and embracing your natural hair is empowering.
If you do choose to try a relaxer or texturizer, it’s important to care for it properly to maintain healthy, relaxed hair.
How to care for relaxed hair
Any sort of chemical treatment that compromises the hair will make it more prone to damage if not cared for properly. Contrary to popular beliefs, there are healthy ways to wear chemically treated hair and a good hair care routine can make all the difference. One of the key components to maintaining chemically treated hair is keeping it moisturized. Make sure you’re keeping up with regular washing and conditioning, and using a deep conditioner once or twice a week.
Once you start relaxing your hair, we suggest relaxing new growth every eight to 10 weeks to keep things maintained. If you wait too long, your hair may start breaking at the line of demarcations (where new growth meets old growth). If you relax too soon you may overprocess your hair.
Keep using the heat tools to a minimum, as they can add to the dryness and damage of your relaxed hair. Instead try styling techniques and hairstyles that don’t require a lot of heat to do. Protective hairstyles are a great choice, especially for those growing out their hair, because they keep your hairs moisturised and tucked away. Even if you’re not growing your hair, well-moisturized ends are still important, because they are necessary for overall hair health. If you notice your ends are drier than usual, trim them. If you want a super long head of hair you can always opt for extensions while your hair is growing out.
All that said, remember that choosing to relax your hair is a personal choice, you should feel confident no matter what you choose to do to your hair.
Written by: Phelisha Cassup