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This is a place where I share my love for hair and all the things I have learned in hopes that you too will fall in love with your Divine Tresses.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Relaxers. The good, the bad, the ugly and the myths: Busted!

There is a common misperception that you can “sweat out a relaxer” when in all actuality, that’s not possible. (I’m going to get technical at some point here)

Relaxers are a chemical process that break down the proteins in curly hair in order to straighten the strands. It’s irreversible due to this fact. When the process doesn’t fully take, your hair takes a while (Maybe a couple of washings) to readjust and show that its under processed; which is why it would seem that its “sweating out”…this feeds the “I’m not going to wash b/c I don’t want to mess up my perm” mentality. Think of it like you painting over a scratch on your car, at first it looks great but as it settles, its only then that you can point out the deficiencies in the workmanship.

If you get a 90% to 100% bone straight relaxer, I can assure you that a little water will not affect the straightness of your hair. (It won’t affect it at any % that you get is straightened…I was just putting emphasis on what I meant. If you under process, it will show eventually. Look at it while its wet right after the relaxer…if you see waves of any size, its going to show more in a few weeks/washings.)

The other side to this is the fact that your hair grows from the root. It will get frizzy near the base and appear to sweat out but its not, I’m not sure of the actual per day growth rate but hair on average grows .5” per month. With that said, it won’t take long for you to see frizzies and think its b/c of sweating. I have washed me hair the very next day (and every day after that) with no adverse affects.

I personally choose to relax my hair and not go beyond 70% curl release b/c I like some texture to be left in my hair; I only want it to be manageable.

That’s another misunderstanding about relaxers…they are only meant to do just that. Relax the curl. Our hair shouldn't be chemically taken to Bone straight. Getting your hair anything over 90% is one of the most damaging hair choices women make next to double processing (color and relax). This leaves you prone to dryness, brittle hair, split ends and severe breakage….I won’t even talk about the effect on the follicles and scalp. OUCH!

I'll add more once I get a chance.....this is a topic I hold near and dear to my heart.

OK, so where was I.........

Oh yeah! Let's go there and talk about the damage relaxers cause to the scalp and follicles. Relaxers (Both Lye and No Lye) are bases toned down to be milder on the scalp with a longer reaction time. With that said, please don't go over the time limit prescribed on the packaging for your specific hair type/texture b/c no matter how you drop it, its still breaking down the proteins in yur hair. Granted, its weaker than let's say Boric acid but would you put any of this stuff on for extended periods of time on your arms? Legs??....why do it to your scalp? Exactly!

Now, for the prep, I highly recommend greasing/oiling the scalp well before a relaxer. Unless you texalax (<--we'll get to this later) then please avoid the actual hair and stick to just the scalp. Its best to use something heavier like the following: Vaseline Shea Butter Grease (This is the ONLY time that I will ever recommend using grease) Olive oil Or a mixture of oils and Vaseline/Shea butter

This will help you avoid getting any relaxer on your scalp by creating a barrier just in case during the application you do get some on it.

Some women (self included) like to add things to the relaxer itself to make it more beneficial to their hair. You might be saying "Huh?? Things like what??....and what do they do?" things like:

Silk Amino Acids (SAA)- Hair is made of protein (Keratin), this is a protein so it helps to strengthen the hair and counter some of the weakness caused by the chemicals breaking down the Keratin in your tresses.

Oil (Olive, Coconut, Jojoba, etc)- Depending how much you add, these can either make your hair silkier or make your hair silkier and weaken the relaxer for a good texalax (<--Again, be patient, we are getting there, LOL). For silkier hair w/o weakening the relaxer, for a full kit don't add more than 2 table spoons of oil (total, regardless if you want to mix and use 3 different ones). I think that this coats the strands and allows the relaxer to only remove so much of the natural oil/moisture, just speculation.

If you add more for a Texalax, about 1/5 to 1/4 cup is good but I suggest working your way up to this amount starting at 3 tablespoons and experimenting with the processing time to make sure you have a solid technique to achieve the curl/texture you want every time.

Conditioner/Deep Conditioner- This is the more obvious addition.......it helps condition while the chemicals work. You can use any daily or deep conditioner for this in the same proportions as I listed for the oils above. If you want to do oil and conditioner, you can do half and half or 2/3 and 1/3...and the variables go on. Its really up to you to try it out and tweak it to your liking. I think this one is worth a shot.

Do people add other things? I'm sure they do but I don't know or I've forgotten (I work 12 hours a day everyday so the brain cells tend to get scrambled occasionally, I apologize in advance.) I'll add to this as I hear of things.

Now on to Texalaxing. This is applying a relaxer to do what texurizers do. You might ask "Why? Just do a Texturizer for all of that" Well, you can't....Texturizers and Jherri curls are Thio based and are not compatible with any relaxer base. If you apply one to hair that has been process with the other, you will experience EXTREME dryness, breakage and brittleness, you will basically lose all of your hair as well. No one wants that so I don't advise trying it.

Texalaxing is an easy way to retain some of your natural texture (how much is up to you) if you are relaxed without having to cut off all of your hair to start using a texturizer. You are basically under-processing your hair on purpose so you won't have straight hair but it will be more manageable. Texalaxing is beneficial in many ways including the following:

Helps retain thickness
Stronger hair (Less of the proteins are broken down b/c you aren't trying to get stick-straight hair)
Less breakage
No risk of over-processing
Depending on how much texture you leave in, you can acheive "wash and go" relaxed hair

Texalaxing can be acheived 3 ways:

1. Leave the relaxer on for no more than 10 mins

2. Add oils, conditioner, etc

3. Do both of the above

**Personal choice: I don't use a comb or application brush b/c they get my hair too straight. I use my fingers to smooth the relaxer thru my hair. Once I used an applicator bottle and it worked out GREAT. The relaxer was thinner and easy to squeeze b/c I add oil and conditioner. The application process was fast and clean (You have to pre-part the hair first). The only reason I haven't done it again is b/c I don't have another bottle, LOL. I was too lazy to wash that one out so I threw it away.....I'm in Iraq, things aren't that easy to come by and I hate waiting for mail.

Anyway Divas,
That's all for tonight. I hope you've enjoyed this tasty morsel....more is sure to come.



Braids4Gro said...

Girl its about time you post! This post is the truth! Once you relax that hair...you can 4get about it reverting or stop thinking you are sweating it out! People dont realize how strong those chemicals are. I think the whole "sweating it out thing" is a saying that has been passed on and nobody bothered to really research it until now! Thanks girl. This is a great blog. Keep posting and congrad's on ya growth.

B said...

Thanks for stopping by and being so supportive :-)


Roshonda said...

This is great. Thanks for the info, Miss B.

shanda said...

This was some of the most helpful information I have ever read on relaxers. I have been trying to get the texturize look for the longest and just as you say I combined the texturizer and relaxer so now my hair is a brittle mess so I'm wearing braids but now I have hope again. :)

Kay F said...

Overall a wonderful post. However, lye and no-lye relaxers are NOT acids; they are bases. Lye relaxers are essentially diluted sodium hydroxide (NaOH). On the acid end of the spectrum are "relaxers" made of thiogylcolic acid. Since each type works in a different manner ie acids and bases break different bonds in the hair, they cannot be used interchangeably.

james said...

i love your blog.

Tai Nycole said...

Your post is EXACTLY what I was looking for. I'm going to be adding oil to my relaxer but I'm not looking for texlaxed results. Thanks for giving an approximate amount of oil so I won't be too heavy handed. Happy Hair Journey!

I BS said...

Thank for all they information on relaxer... Seriously, I wish there were more blog post like this out there. Hopefully next time I am around here I will see more post on products. Wo knows, maybe even Wigs for Black Women next time.