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Are Hair Relaxers Harmful? A Closer Look at the Potential Risks Involved

hair relaxers

Hair relaxers are a popular hair product used by many to straighten and soften curls. However, there is much debate over whether or not hair relaxers are safe to use. Some studies have shown that certain chemicals found in hair relaxers can lead to scalp irritation and even hair loss. In this article, we would be taking a closer look at the potential benefits, risks, and drawbacks of using them.


The primary benefit of using a hair relaxer is that it helps create smoother, straighter, and more manageable hair that can be easily styled. This is especially helpful for those whose natural curl pattern is difficult to control. In addition, hair relaxers can also help reduce frizz and make detangling much easier.


Hair relaxers contain harsh chemicals such as lye or sodium hydroxide which are known to cause scalp irritation and damage to both the follicles and the scalp itself. Additionally, if the relaxer is not applied properly it can cause breakage or even permanent damage to your natural curl pattern. Finally, since these products contain such strong chemicals they require proper maintenance when in use which means regular deep conditioning treatments as well as regular trimming every 6-8 weeks for best results.

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  • Lye (Sodium Hydroxide): One of the primary active ingredients in many hair relaxers is lye, also known as sodium hydroxide. Lye is a caustic substance that helps break down the bonds of the protein molecules in the hair shaft which makes them easier to straighten and style.                                                                                  Unfortunately, lye can also cause scalp irritation and damage to the skin if not used properly or if left on for too long. It’s important to always follow directions when using a hair relaxer with lye in order to minimize any potential damage or irritation.
  • Ammonium Thioglycolate: Another common ingredient in many hair relaxers is ammonium thioglycolate, which helps break down disulfide bonds in the hair shaft so it can be re-shaped into a different style. This chemical is also able to penetrate deeper into the cortex of the hair than other chemicals, making it more effective at changing its shape permanently.                                                                                                            However, it can cause some scalp irritation due to its acidic properties when left on for too long or not rinsed out completely after use.
  • Alkaline Agents: Alkaline agents like guanidine carbonate are commonly found in permanent wave solutions as well as some types of hair relaxers. These agents help break down keratin proteins so that they can be re-shaped into a different form more easily. They work by raising the pH level of the solution, making it more alkaline which helps weaken proteins so they are easier to restyle without causing damage to the cuticle layer of the hair shaft itself.                                                                                                                                                        However, overuse of alkaline agents can lead to dryness and brittle strands due to their dehydrating effects so care should be taken when using them on delicate strands such as fine or color-treated locks.

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The following are factors that you should consider on how to choose the best relaxer for your hair type and texture so that you can enjoy salon-worthy results in the comfort of your own home.

  • Consider your hair type and texture: If you have naturally curly or wavy hair, you should opt for a relaxer designed specifically for those textures. But if you have coarse or thick hair, you may want to choose a stronger formula as it will penetrate deeper into the cuticle and give you more control over the final result.
  • Consider the amount of time available for the treatment process: If you don’t have much time, then using a pre-made solution might be a better choice than mixing up ingredients yourself. Pre-mixed relaxers typically require less processing time and offer more consistent results compared with DIY mixes.
  • Finally, make sure that you follow all safety instructions when using any kind of chemical product on your hair—relaxers included! Always read the product label carefully before use and always do a patch test to check for any allergic reactions before proceeding with full application.

By considering these factors before use and following all safety guidelines, you’ll ensure that your new relaxed look is both stylish and healthy.


Here are some of the best practices for using hair relaxers safely and effectively.

  • Consult a Professional: Hair relaxers contain strong chemicals that can cause serious damage to your hair if used incorrectly. It’s best to consult with a professional stylist before using them so they can determine the best product for your particular type of hair. A professional stylist will also be able to provide advice on how often you should use the product and which application method is best for you.
  • Test it out: It’s advisable to do a test run on a small strand of hair before you apply the relaxer to the entire head. This will help you to see how well the relaxer works and what kind of effect it has on your hair. You should also make sure that you follow all safety instructions on the packaging before performing any tests.
  • Avoid Over-Processing: When applying the relaxer, it’s important to avoid over-processing your hair as this can lead to dryness and brittleness. Be sure to only leave the product in for as long as directed by the manufacturer. Never leave it in longer than recommended. Also, make sure that you always rinse off all traces of the product after use and condition your hair well afterward.

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For years, women of color have relied on chemical relaxers to achieve straight, manageable hair. But what happens if you suddenly stop using them? Here’s what you need to know.

  • The first thing that will happen is that your new growth will be very kinky and curly. This is because the chemicals in relaxers break down the proteins in your hair, which makes it easier to straighten. Without relaxers, your natural hair texture will start to grow.
  • Breakage: You may also experience some breakage as your new growth comes in. This is because the new growth will be weaker and more brittle than the relaxed ends. It’s important to be gentle with your hair during this transition period and to use products that are specifically designed for curly hair.
  • Relearn how to style your hair: This may mean investing in some new products and learning some new techniques. But it will all be worth it when you see your healthy, natural hair thriving!


Hair relaxers offer many benefits for those looking for an easier way to style their hair but it’s important to remember that there are also some drawbacks associated with this product as well. While it may save you time in terms of styling your hair, it will take additional time when it comes to upkeep and maintenance due to its harsh chemical content. If you are considering using a hair relaxer be sure to do your research beforehand so that you know what risks may be involved before taking the plunge! That way you can make sure that you get all of the rewards without any of the risks!