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Chemical Services: About Relaxers

What is a Relaxer?

A relaxer is composed of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), a very harsh chemical treatment.  Even a no lye relaxer is still made of potassium hydroxide (KOH), a harsh chemical.  It must be applied with gloves and often technicians wear masks for the damage that could be done to the skin and over time the fumes can cause damage to the lungs.  This is not said to scare you, but to let you know that relaxer is a serious chemical.

What does a Relaxer do?


  1. Softens the hair
  2. Straightens the hair (this is the step when a professional should rinse)
  3. Thins the hair
  4. Dissolves the hair

When left on too long, a relaxer will damage the hair shaft, weakening the cortical fibers, and eventually dissolving the hair strand.

Things to keep in mind:

ü Relaxer is a chemical, which can cause a lot of harm if not handled properly.

ü  It is very important to make sure that all chemicals are applied by a licensed professional.

ü Licensed professional must be trained in proper rinsing techniques for all variations of kinky hair to ensure there are not trace amounts of relaxer left on the hair and scalp.

ü   The towel should be changed after the relaxer is applied, before and after rinsing before shampoo is applied.

ü If trace amounts are left on the scalp the relaxer will dissolve the hair.

Be Proactive!

Do your  homework on the professional that will be applying it and pay attention during the whole process. 

How often?

You should never get a relaxer sooner than every 10-12 weeks and longer in cases where new growth can be managed. 

The reason for this: if hair is relaxed any sooner than 10 weeks, there is not a large enough area of difference between previously relaxed and new hair.  Therefore, it is almost impossible to prevent overlapping.  Overlapping relaxer is applying relaxer on previously relaxed hair.  This causes overprocessing, weakening the hair strand, decreasing strand elasticity, and can lead to a host of problems in the future such as Short Hair Syndrome.

Potential Damage?

With any chemical, if applied incorrectly you can have damage.  Scabs in the scalp are not normal, although they are accepted as a common result of relaxer application. Make sure that your scalp is healthy and the relaxer is applied properly.

Managing new growth

When it is getting close to time for another relaxer, you may get frustrated with your hair.  Make sure that you are calm; choose a style option that you can maintain during this time.  Above everything try to stay patient, frustration can cause the worst damage.  Your support products will particularly help you during this phase.  Use your New Growth Management Program and call one of our consultants if you need any free counseling.