In the quest for straight, flowing, easy-to-manage hair, many women with wavy, curly and kinky hair employ the use of relaxers. Others use relaxers to define their curl patterns by relaxing the tightness of the curl or the kink of their hair. There is a dizzying array of relaxers on the market, with brands specializing in relaxers for children and men. While many women get their hair relaxed in salons, there are various types of relaxers available for home use with options of different strengths and formulas.
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Lye Versus No-Lye Relaxers
Most home-use relaxer kits are made with no-lye formulas. In lye relaxers, the active ingredient is sodium hydroxide; in no-lye relaxers, calcium hydroxide is the active ingredient. No-lye relaxers are usually a little milder, suiting those with sensitive scalps, and they've gained in popularity over lye relaxers in recent years. You can choose from many no-lye relaxers, including African Pride Miracle Deep Conditioning No-Lye Relaxer System, which comes in regular and super strength; Optimum Amla Legend No-Mix No-Lye Relaxer, which comes in one formula for all hair types; Mega Growth's Profectiv Relaxer Kit, which is regular strength; and Motions Silkening Shine Relaxer System in an alternate no-lye relaxer.
Texturizers Vs. Relaxers
Relaxers typically completely straighten the curl pattern in curly to kinky hair, whereas texturizers only slightly relax the curl pattern. "S"-curl patterns respond to both relaxers and texturizers quite well, whereas hair with the tighter "Z"-curl patterns will not have success with texturizers. The same ingredients are used in both texturizers and relaxers. While relaxers are left on the hair for 10 to 20 minutes, texturizers are left on the hair no longer than 10 minutes. Texturizers are popular with men and are sometimes used on children's hair. Silk Elements No-Lye No-Mix Texturizer System is made for women, and Pro-Line Comb-Thru Regular Texturizer is marketed to men. To gently relax a child's hair, Dark and Lovely Beautiful Beginnings No-Mistake Curl Softener is one of the texturizer options.
Make no mistake, any relaxer -- even a "natural" relaxer -- changes the chemical structure of the hair, altering the curl pattern or texture. There are many relaxers that have the word "natural" in the title, but they still contain calcium hydroxide. What differentiates the so-called "natural" relaxers from regular no-lye relaxers is that they contain some botanicals to aid with strengthening and conditioning the hair post relaxing. PhytoSpecific PhytoRelaxer is a natural relaxer that doesn't contain calcium hydroxide and is made with soy and egg. PhytoSpecific PhytoRelaxer Index 1 for delicate, fine hair is an ideal match for those who have wavy hair, whereas PhytoSpecific PhytoRelaxer Index 2 for normal, thick, resistant hair is suited for kinkier hair types. Two other "natural" relaxers are TCB Naturals No-Lye Relaxer Kit and Soft & Beautiful Botanicals No-Lye Sensitive Scalp Relaxer.
Relaxers For Children
Relaxing children's hair remains controversial, as a child's scalp does not mature until the teen years, and the chemicals in a relaxer can burn and cause lesions on young scalps. For that reason, some brands have made relaxers that claim to be gentler on young scalps. Some options formulated for children include Soft & Beautiful Just for Me! No-Lye Nourishing Creme Relaxer; Dark and Lovely Beautiful Beginnings No-Mistake Smooth Relaxer for All Hair Types; and African Pride Dream Kids Olive Miracle Relaxer.