For many Nigerian women, hair is an intricate part of their identity and a symbol of beauty. However, achieving the desired look can be a challenge, especially for those with naturally curly or kinky hair.
That’s where hair relaxers come in – they promise to make hair smoother, straighter, and more manageable.
But, as with any beauty product, there are pros and cons to using hair relaxers. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the popular hair relaxers used in Nigeria, and weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. Also, we’ll cover hair relaxers and alternative hair straightening methods. Additionally, we will discuss the notorious cancer link to hair relaxers, so you can make an informed decision about your relaxed hair care regimen.
The Pros of Hair Relaxers:
- Improved manageability: Hair relaxers change the structure of the hair, so it’s straighter and easier to style. This can be especially beneficial for those with curly or kinky hair that is difficult to manage.
- Results last longer: Hair relaxers last for several months, so you won’t have to style your hair as often.
- Increased versatility: With relaxed hair, your options are more when it comes to hairstyles. You can wear your hair in a straight, sleek style or opt for gentle waves or curls.
- Enhanced confidence: For many women, having smooth, straight hair can boost their confidence and self-esteem. It can also make them feel more comfortable and accepted in social settings where a certain standard of beauty is expected.
The Cons of Hair Relaxers:
- Chemical damage: The chemicals used in hair relaxers can be harsh and damaging to the hair, leading to breakage, split ends, and dryness.
- Scalp irritation: Some people experience scalp irritation, itching, and burning as a result of the chemicals used in hair relaxers.
- Maintenance: Relaxed hair requires regular touch-ups, and if not properly maintained, it can become brittle and prone to breakage.
- Cost: Hair relaxers can be expensive, and the cost of touch-ups and maintenance can add up over time.
- Risk of Over-Processing: If hair relaxers are applied too frequently or left on for too long, they can cause over-processing, which can result in hair that is dry, brittle, and easily breakable.
- Loss of Curl Pattern: Hair relaxers can permanently alter the natural curl pattern of the hair, which may not be desirable for everyone.
- Inaccurate Results: At-home hair relaxer kits can be difficult to use accurately and may result in uneven results or over-processing if not applied correctly.
- Allergic Reactions: Some people may have an allergic reaction to the chemicals in hair relaxers, which can result in symptoms such as itching, hives, and difficulty breathing.
Knowing the best type of relaxer to use with the right application method will help your hair grow and flourish for years to come.
This is why it is good to know about the different types of hair relaxers and the best one for your hair.
Here is a list of 8 popular hair relaxers used by Black women, their most active ingredients, and different methods used to apply them:
- Lye Relaxers:
Also known as sodium hydroxide relaxers, these are one of the most popular hair relaxers used by Black women. The active ingredient is sodium hydroxide, which is applied to the hair in a creamy formula. Although Lye relaxers are better for hair fibers and do not leave mineral deposits on the hair, women with a sensitive scalp are advised against using them. It can be applied using the molding or wrapping method.
- No-Lye Relaxers:
Many women opt for these relaxers because it contains calcium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide as the active ingredient. No-lye relaxers are gentle on the hair and scalp, and are suitable for women with sensitive scalp. Although they are infamous for leaving hair dry, and at higher risk of breakage. They are applied in a similar manner to lye relaxers.
These are milder versions of hair relaxers that do not completely straighten the hair, but instead soften and loosen the curl pattern. The active ingredients in texturizers are guanidine hydroxide or guanidine carbonate. They are usually applied using the molding or wrapping method.
- Thermal Relaxers:
These relaxers use heat to straighten the hair and are usually applied using a hot comb or flat iron. The active ingredients vary but may include a combination of chemicals and heat-protectant oils.
- Japanese Hair Straightening:
Also known as thermal reconditioning, this is a long-lasting hair straightening treatment that uses chemicals and heat to change the structure of the hair. The active ingredients include hydroxide and thioglycolic acid.
- Keratin Treatments:
These treatments use a protein called keratin to smooth and straighten the hair. They are usually applied using a brush and flat iron and can last up to several months. The active ingredients in keratin treatments include formaldehyde, cysteine, and glyoxylic acid.
- Relaxer Kits:
These are pre-packaged relaxer systems that can be applied at home. The active ingredients vary, but may include sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, or guanidine hydroxide. They are usually applied using the molding or wrapping method.
- Argan Oil Relaxers:
These are new types of relaxers that use argan oil as the active ingredient to nourish and hydrate the hair. They are gentler on the hair and scalp and can be applied using the molding or wrapping method.
Note: It is important to follow the instructions provided with each type of relaxer, as well as to use a neutralizing shampoo after the treatment to ensure the hair is thoroughly cleansed of chemicals. It is also important to seek advice from a professional stylist or trichologist to determine the best type of relaxer for your hair type and desired results.
Is it true that hair relaxers cause cancer?
There is currently no scientific evidence to support the claim that hair relaxers cause cancer. However, some of the chemicals found in hair relaxers, such as formaldehyde and sodium hydroxide, have been shown to have carcinogenic properties.
Carcinogenic properties mean a product that can cause you to have cancer.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and exposure to high levels of formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.
Sodium hydroxide, the active ingredient in lye relaxers, has also been shown to cause skin and eye irritation, and inhalation of the fumes can cause respiratory irritation.
That being said, the levels of formaldehyde and sodium hydroxide in hair relaxers are generally low and are considered safe for topical use when applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Popular no-lye relaxers can be found in ORS, Dark & Lovely as well as Hawaiian Silky. “No-lye” is usually written on the front cover. There is no sodium hydroxide. And calcium hydroxide is listed as an ingredient on the back cover.
However, it is always important to follow the instructions provided with each type of relaxer, and to use a neutralizing shampoo after the treatment to ensure the hair is thoroughly cleansed of chemicals. It is also important to seek advice from a professional stylist or trichologist to determine the best type of relaxer for your hair type and desired results.
In conclusion, hair relaxers can be a suitable option for those looking to make their hair easier to manage and more versatile. However, it’s wise to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks before making a decision. If you’re considering using a hair relaxer, it’s advisable to consult with a stylist or trichologist who can give you personalized advice based on your hair type and goals. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to choose a product that will work for you and help you feel confident and beautiful.