Hair relaxers are used to change the texture of curly hair to a straighter form and have been used by African-American women for years.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a relaxer as “a chemical solution used on tightly curled hair to soften or loosen the curls”.
We all love lustrous and great-looking hair that is easy to manage. Black hairstyles are renowned; however, sometimes African-American hair can be difficult to style compared to others.
To manage black hair, the easiest way is to use relaxers for black hair.
Since relaxing is a chemical process, choosing the right kind of relaxer and the technique that is best suited to your hair type, is very important. Choosing the wrong kind of product can damage your hair for weeks or months and even cause irreparable damage to it.
All hair relaxers for African-Americans work by straightening their hair to some extent. If you don’t want to feel the texture of your natural curls, you can use a hair relaxer. But if you want a more natural feel you can texture your hair.
Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr., the inventor of hair relaxers, produced the same quite inadvertently. He was originally working on creating an original lubricating liquid for machines. He happened to wipe his hands on a woolen cloth and when he returned the next day he discovered that the texture of the woolen cloth had changed. He then tested it on an Airedale Terrier dog which is famous for its curly hair and was successful in changing the texture of its hair. It was a result of subsequent experiments on human hair that, in 1914, the first hair relaxer was introduced to the world.
Types of Hair Relaxers
There are two types of hair relaxers – alkaline and lye retainers, and no-lye relaxers.
The first relaxer (alkaline and lye retainers) was produced commercially by Proline in 1971. However, soon people realized that the lye present in the relaxer, damages the hair causing it to lose its luster and shine.
This resulted in the manufacture of no-lye hair relaxers, which were also first started by Proline.
The latest natural relaxers contain no-lye or harsh chemicals. This causes the least damage to the hair. However, almost all major hair relaxers today contain alkaline chemicals. Therefore, it is very important to neutralize your hair after relaxing.
Relaxers for African-American hair are available in three strengths:
A mild strength relaxer works best on hair which is thin or if you have hair that is extremely fine in its texture. It can also be employed on permanently colored hair.
Regular strength ones should be made use of only for hair with medium texture. It works fine even on hair with coarse texture.
Super strength relaxers are supposed to be used only on hair types that are really short and resistant.
While Lye-Based Relaxers
While lye-based relaxers are widely known as the best relaxer, it is also said that they can damage the hair, especially, if not handled in the right proportion. Thus, it is better to let a professional decide what suits your hair the best.
All hair relaxers contain strong alkaline chemicals, which break the sulfide bonds between the proteins present in the hair. These bonds are what help the hair retain its natural shape, i.e., whether its curly or straight. Once those bonds break, the relaxers can change the shape of your hair. In the neutralization phase, the proteins come together, and give the hair a new texture. Sulfide bonds are known to provide the hair with the much-needed elasticity and rebounding ability.
Tips to Choose One
Hair can be relaxed at the salon or at home with the help of the kits that are available at various pharmacies and stores. Hair relaxers require periodic touch-ups just like hair dyes. As the hair grows, the treated part moves away from the scalp and the new hair has to be treated. It is very important not to treat hair that has already been treated as this may cause breakage and thinning of hair.
What to Avoid
Refrain from wetting your hair or going in for an allergy test at least a week before you plan to use hair relaxers, no matter where you get the relaxing done.
Before relaxing your hair it is necessary to do a strand test. A strand test is when you relax only a portion of your hair to see if your hair can handle relaxing. If the hair has a lot of color in them, or has been treated a number of times before, it will break off or fall out. In order to maintain the body, bounce and strength of your hair while making your hair straight, it is imperative not to relax your hair more than 80%, or it may lose its elasticity.
If you wish to relax your hair at home, it is extremely important to rinse off the relaxer thoroughly. To be on the safe side, wash your hair 3 to 4 times after relaxing. If you leave even minute amounts of the relaxer in the hair, it will result in, what’s called residual chemical action which causes the hair to over process and eventually break. Do not relax your hair when you first remove braid hairstyles or extensions. You must avoid overlapping of the chemical on previously relaxed hair.
Whether done at home or professionally, chemical hair relaxing can alter the structure of your hair, transforming it from curly to a straighter form. Remember, while selecting relaxers for black hair, consult a professional to check for suitability of the relaxer. Avoid using harsh chemicals that will strip your hair off its shine. After all, natural black hair is always beautiful!