One of the most debated hair care topics today is whether the hair of coloured women should be relaxed or not . In truth, it is most ideal to avoid the use of those chemicals totally for a completely healthy natural hair . However, most people easily go for a relaxer because of how it works. We think keeping our natural hair is stressful to comb and to style, so instead we opt for the easy way out.
We also want to get our hair relaxed because for some reason, that is the standard of beauty we keep seeing- straight hair. It’s almost as if it is unprofessional to have anything “natural “ on your head, so you go through the rigorous process of perming to get an unnatural straight hair instead so you can be accepted. Many people do not mind going through the rigorous process to get their dream straight strands , the only problem is that they will hardly take their time to sit back and find out what a relaxer actually does to their beautiful God-given hair.
So How Does a Relaxer Work?
First thing to note is that the relaxer is used by people with thick, fussy or coiled hair to get their hair straight so that it is easier to handle.
The hair possesses a protein known as keratin. The protein is responsible for the different textures each person’s hair takes on. For the way the hair curls, the hydrogen bonds and the disulphide bonds play a massive role in the determination of these patterns. Hydrogen bonds are the kinds that take place between molecules of water, they cause the curliness of hair when it is drying. The bonds break when water gets into the hair, leaving the hair wet, then when the hair dries, they begin to form again and the hair curls.
Moving on to the disulphide bonds, they are stronger bonds in the hair that form bonds between sulphur atoms to give strength to the hair. Since they are stronger than the hydrogen bonds, they can’t be broken by water, this is where the hair relaxers come in. What the chemicals in a relaxer do is break the disulphide bonds in the hair, thereby straightening the hair permanently. The relaxer is able to perform this because of its high pH. pH is used to describe the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. On a scale of 1 to 14, pH values ranging from one to 6 are acidic. Seven is neutral and 8 to 14 is alkaline. The pH value of the relaxer falls at 9-14, which is highly alkaline, it is this property that makes them able to change the structure of the hair.
Different relaxers have different chemicals and different pH values. For example, Thiol relaxers have a thicker consistency and are easy to apply. With a pH value of about 10, the disulphide bonds are broken relatively with ease. A neutralizer is often used after this kind, to bring the pH of the hair back to about 5.
Lye relaxers on the other hand have lye as their active ingredient and possesses a pH of around 13. Lye is a product of mixing emulsifiers, sodium hydroxide, water, mineral oil and petroleum jelly together. But Lye relaxers weaken the bonds in the hair, not break them completely.
The no-lye relaxers came up after the discovery that sodium hydroxide was could do a lot of damage to the hair. So the sodium hydroxide was replaced with guanidine, potassium or lithium hydroxide.
The hair is permanently straightened after relaxing and will not go back to its natural texture easily. The roots of the hair however will keep growing naturally, creating the need for constant relaxing to get the roots to fall in place with the others. Overuse of the substance or unprofessional application could cause a lot of damage to the scalp and strands of the hair.
With an idea how the relaxer works, it is easier to explain the Side Effects of Relaxing Your Hair. Keep reading
1. Respiratory Problems
This is the most dangerous side effect of using a hair relaxer. The strong chemicals they contain should not be inhaled so often as they could cause issues for both the hairdresser and the one whose hair is being relaxed. If these chemicals are inhaled often, especially for the hairdresser, it could lead to respiratory problems, sneezing and coughing. It is way worse for the ones who already have respiratory issues. If you are going to use a relaxer, make sure you always have a mask on, to minimize or curb this.
2. Burns on Scalp
As damaging as the chemicals in relaxers can be to the hair, it has same effect on the scalp too. The use of a bad relaxer can cause serious burns to the scalp some of which unfortunately could become long lasting overtime. As a rule, if you must relax your hair, do so with a good relaxer and be sure to not leave it on the hair for long after applying, it could also cause scalp burns.
3. Hair Breakage
Consistent use of hair relaxers could lead to hair breakage. This is because the chemicals in the relaxer permanently alter the texture of the natural hair making the hair weaker and more likely to break. It begins at thinning and then hair can begin to seriously break at various areas on the scalp, or all areas sometimes. This could lead to receding hairline in some, if the breakage keeps happening at the hairline front. If you notice this, then you should keep away from hair chemicals for a while, at least until your hair is whole again.
4. Infections on the Scalp
Infections on the scalp is almost a common issue for most. These Infections could become serious and sometimes can lead to irreversible hair damage. Bald spots can also become a resultant effect. These can only be treated by a professional.
5. Dry and Frizzy hair
Relaxing the hair causes the hair to lose its moisture and become dry. This dryness further leads to frizziness. It is worse when you use a relaxer and then heat the hair after words with blow dryers, hair dryers or hair stretchers. Frizzy hair never lays down, making it difficult to style.
6. Split Ends
The relaxer possesses chemicals that can lead to split ends in the hair. This happens as the relaxer wears the protective layer of the hair out, exposing the hair shaft. In the end, it leads to uneven hair and causes damage. It also does this as a result of the dryness that occurs from relaxing, causing them to get damaged and break easily.
When all is said and done, it still boils down to your choices. If you choose to keep relaxing your hair, keep in mind these adverse effects. There are other ways to straighten the hair without using harsh chemicals, these techniques include hair stretching, blowing out or even henna. In all you do, be sure your hair stays ultimately healthy.