TO RELAX OR NOT RELAX HAIR
As a child, I remember my mom telling me not to scratch my scalp for the next few days because I was due for a relaxer. And if you are anything like me, and didn’t listen or forgot and scratched your scalp anyways, then you may know of the painful ramifications it caused. The burning, the pain and the rushing to get to a sink to wash that stuff out of your head is unforgettable. Who remembers how it felt to get spritz sprayed on your hair after a fresh relaxer? Ouch! Lol I do! And who could forget that awful smell?
Most African American women have at some point or another received a relaxer as a child. Either by a parent, aunt, grandma or hair stylist. And some of us got the bad end of the stick and received one from that cousin that thinks she knows how to do hair but only uses you when she needs to practice a new hair style.
For those of you that don’t know, a relaxer by definition is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair which makes hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali, although some formulations are based on ammonium thioglycolate instead.
TO RELAX OR NOT RELAX HAIR
Women of color have chosen to use relaxers for a number of reasons. Some use the procedure because they like the bone straight look. Some find that their hair is easier to manager and some find that they have more styling options. Whatever the reasons are, women that use relaxers should know the risk involved.
If the chemical process is done incorrectly or you neglect to properly maintain your hair following the treatment, you may experience significant damage, scalp irritation, breakage and/or hair loss.
There are two types of relaxers. Lye and no lye. Lye relaxers contain sodium hydroxide, a harsh, caustic chemical with a pH factor ranging from 10 to 14. No lye relaxers are milder, but can still cause damage to the hair and scalp.
No matter if one chooses to use lye or no lye, all relaxers are potentially hazardous and comprised of loads of chemicals. Relaxers work by eternally breaking down protein bonds within the hair shaft to help loosen the curl pattern (i.e. make the hair straight).
RELAX OR NOT RELAX HAIR
Do Not Over-Process
Relaxers come in a variety of strengths. Mild, Regular and Super. Be sure to use a relaxer that is suitable for your hair type and texture to avoid over-processing and damaging your hair. You may also want to make sure your hair is in a healthy state before a relaxing treatment. DO NOT relax your hair right after coloring or bleaching. Permanent damage, breakage and hair loss can occur if you relax your hair to close to your last treatment. And lastly always make sure to neutralize the hair to stop processing from continuing.
Chemical burns are another risk involved when relaxing your hair. Always Always ALWAYS apply a base or some petroleum jelly to the hairline, scalp, nape and ears before doing performing a relaxer treatment. This will help to minimize the risk of burns and/or hair loss. It is also imperative to avoid receiving a treatment if you have abrasions or open sores on the scalp.
Once relaxed, your hair can result in being weaker and /or drier. Regular conditioning and protein treatments are vital to help with strengthening the hair shafts again. It also helps to restore the moisture balance and prevent breakage. It is crucial to deep condition your hair at least once every two weeks, and use a leave-in conditioner between washes to keep the hair strong, healthy and moisturized. Regular trims and can also prevent split ends as well.