The decision on what relaxer to use is a very important albeit confusing one. When on a healthy hair journey, relaxer day is one of the most nerve racking days. One bad relaxer can set you back weeks, months or even years! So it is important to proceed with caution.
Most relaxers contain either of these 2 active ingredients: Sodium hydroxide (Lye) or Calcium hydroxide (No lye). Lye relaxers usually come in a jar and don't require any mixing while no lye relaxers usually come in a kit with the relaxer, activator and other accessories. Both active ingredients work by breaking down the bonds of the hair. The key difference is the effect on the hair and scalp.
Lye relaxers can be quite harsh on the scalp so if your scalp is sensitive, this may not be the best option for you. They also tend to process the hair faster which is great because it means that you don't have to leave the relaxer on as long as you would a no lye relaxer to get the same results. The major advantage of lye relaxers is the fact that it is much gentler on your hair than no lye relaxers. You hair is better able to absorb and retain moisture when you use a lye relaxer and is therefore healthier, stronger and less likely to break.
No Lye relaxers:
No lye relaxers have calcium hydroxide as the active ingredient. They are gentler on the scalp than lye relaxers but significantly harsher on the hair. No lye relaxers leave calcium deposits on the hair which prevents your hair from absorbing and retaining moisture properly. This leaves your hair dry and susceptible to breakage. To combat this, use a good clarifying shampoo regularly if you relax with a no lye relaxer. The clarifying shampoo will help remove the calcium buildup. However, in the process of removing the calcium deposits, it also strips and removes other nutrients from your hair so be sure to replenish by deep conditioning after clarifying.
As is often the case with hair care, there isn't a generic right or wrong answer to the question of whether to use lye or no lye. It really just boils down to the individual. The sensitivity of your scalp, how well your hair takes to relaxers, what your preferred outcome is (bone straight or texlaxed) etc.
I prefer to use a lye relaxer because even though my scalp is sensitive, I like to under process my hair (texlax). So I typically wash off the relaxer immediately after applying (and before it has had a chance to wreak havoc on my scalp). This way, I don't have any burns or irritation from using a lye relaxer, I avoid overprocessing my hair and I also avoid having to deal with dryness from the no lye relaxer.
Since we are talking relaxers, I'll leave you with these quick tips on how to ensure that relaxer day goes smoothly:
- Do not over lap relaxers (apply ONLY to new growth)
- It is okay to change relaxers (as far as your adher to #1 above) but once you find one that you like, it is recommended that you stick to it.
- Always make sure your hair is well detangled before relaxing
- Always wait at least a week after washing to relax your hair.
Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.