What is Relaxing???
Relaxing is the use of chemicals to permanently change the curl pattern of our natural hair in order to obtain straight hair. If you read my post on hair structure you will remember that our hair is made up a hard protein called keratin. When the chemicals are applied to our hair the chemical bonds in the protein structure are broken giving our hair it’s new straight texture. This chemical change also weakens our hair at the same time and can make it thin and limp if the chemical is left on for too long and the hair is over processed.
What do I use ….
The relaxer I use on MY hair is Mizani Butter Blend Sensitive Scalp Rhelaxer (No lye). I started using it because my scalp is VERY tender and sensitive to relaxers. I always burn very fast, so when my friend mentioned it to me, I read some reviews and gave it go. It’s worked very well for me and I don’t see myself changing any time soon.
The choice is yours when it comes to what product you use, but make sure that you are taking note of the results as you go along. Also be consistent with your relaxers. Do not “relaxer hop” from one product to the next. This is not good for your hair…
Types of Relaxers (most common)
- Lye Relaxer- These are the strongest and give the most dramatic effect on our hair as they contain sodium hydroxide. People with very coarse hair that seems resistant to processing would lean more towards these.
- No Lye Relaxer – These are considered healthier for our hair because they have a lower alkalinity and are less harsh on the hair. They contain guanidine hydroxide.
Understanding the relaxer process
Now when it comes to understanding relaxers I like to give the example that’s applies to every Zim woman. The case of “kuibvisa bvudzi.” Something that many hairdressers hammered into our heads since we were young. Lol. Gone are the days!!
- Bvudzi ra ibva – Hair is fully processed. More protein bonds are broken during the relaxer process making hair very straight and also very weak.
- Bvudzi risina kuibva – Hair is under processed. Less protein bonds broken and so hair retains part of its curl pattern. The curls become looser as opposed to bone straight. Hair will be weakened but not as much as completely processed hair.
There are two main things that contribute to the above that we must all be aware of; Processing time and Hair texture.
When relaxing hair the chemical is only left on the HAIR for a specific period of time to allow chemical reactions to take place. Time is limited so as to NOT damage the hair through over processing. Also time is limited because the chemicals inevitably come in contact with our scalps and when left on for too long will cause temporary or long term damage to the scalp. Processing time will vary from one head to another for different reasons. Some people have scalps that are more sensitive to these chemicals and so contact must be avoided or limited in time. Then there is the issue of hair texture which causes the greatest variance in results.
You can relax two people with the same type of relaxer for the same duration of time and find that their hair could be processed completely different. This is because some people may have very thick coarse individual strands while others have finer more soft strands. The thicker strands will require stronger Lye relaxers and possibly more processing time as opposed to those with finer hair who would need the weaker No lye relaxers and less processing time.
Another thing about hair texture is that it varies on individual heads. For example my hairline and nape are a lot softer and finer than the hair in the middle of my head. Therefore, I will apply relaxer to these areas last to avoid over processing, while giving the hair in the middle more time to take to the relaxer.
Does this all make sense? I hope so… it’s important for us to know what we are doing to our hair and the impacts, both positive and negative. It’s YOUR hair so take ownership and responsibility over it!! Ok pep talk over, and onto the more fun stuff.
Why Relax ???
- Straight hair is much easier to comb/detangle both dry and wet
- Relaxed hair looks great and you get to feel the wind blowing on your scalp J
- You use less heat on your hair when styling and you have more styling options
- You have more versatility with hair styles
Negative side of relaxers!!
- You are using CHEMICALS…. Enough said.
- Our hair structure becomes much weaker because of breaking of chemical bonds in our hair.
- Processed hair needs a lot of care/maintenance to keep it healthy and products can become expensive.
- Hair looks good but the chemicals make the hair more dry/brittle and so it is more prone to breakage if we don’t deep condition and use protein treatments regularly. This makes length retention difficult.
- Relaxers must be done on a regular basis to maintain similar texture of the hair. Managing multiple textures may cause breakage.
- Because the hair is so straight it can look flat and rather lifeless especially when over processed
- Chances of scalp burns/damage are high.
It may seem that there are more negatives than positives but relaxed hair can still be healthy and long. No matter how you keep your hair it will require commitment and effort to manage it so don’t fear!
Do you relax you hair? If so please share feedback on what product you use, why you chose to relax and any pros and cons 🙂 Also if you DON’T relax your hair tell us why. Some people are on the fence about whether to relax or not and your input could make the difference.