Chemical hair relaxers are widely used to permanently tame stubborn curls. But how safe are they, really?
Before discussing whether hair relaxers are safe for you to use, it’s a good idea to learn a bit more about them first.
How do relaxers work?
Hair relaxers are designed to straighten curls that resist other straightening methods. This means that they need to be pretty powerful.
Relaxers work by breaking the di-sulfide bonds deep inside every hair fiber, and re-forming them while the hair is being held in a straight pattern. They literally reshape the very fibers of your hair.
The chemicals needed to relax your hair have to be strong to work. That means that they come with their own dangers.
It’s easy for the chemicals that penetrate your hair to damage its cuticle structure, leading to brittle hair. The reshaping of your hair’s disulfide bonds can also lead to a weakening of the strand.
You also must be extremely careful to prevent scalp irritation, since the three main chemicals used in relaxers - sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, and sodium thioglycolate - are all notorious skin irritants. They could cause stinging, redness or even chemical burns.
Using relaxers safely
Any time you relax your hair you’re exposing yourself to powerful chemicals that can be damaging.
But by following some smart tips, you can help prevent scalp and hair issues:
- Always follow the manufacturer’s usage instructions
- Start with a healthy scalp: get rid of dandruff before using relaxers
- Never use relaxer on freshly-washed hair: your natural scalp oils help protect your skin from chemicals
- Avoid relaxer contact with the scalp- consider applying a protective base to the scalp as an extra barrier between the chemicals and your skin.
- Don’t relax sections of the hair that have already been straightened once (no overlap)
After using a relaxer, make sure that you wash your hair thoroughly with a nourishing shampoo or co-wash, designed to give your hair and scalp the moisture they need. Follow these tips and you can keep your scalp and hair protected and moisturized, while enjoying straight, beautiful locks.