The Difference Between a Texturizer and a Relaxer

Woman with Beautiful Curly Hair
A texturizer loosens curls while a relaxer straightens them. (Image: puhhha/iStock/Getty Images)

There are vast numbers of beauty products available for managing hair health and style. Getting the right product for your hair type is not always a straightforward process. This is especially true if your hair is difficult to manage. Once you understand the differences between products such as a texturizer and a relaxer, you may be able to make proper choices for hair that is full and luxurious.

Texturizers

A texturizer relaxes natural curl patterns in hair. The purpose of a texturizer is to take tightly curled hair and loosen it. The texturizer’s job is not to straighten hair but relieve some of the tension in curls. The end result is loose waves of curls as opposed to tightly coiled spirals. Benefits of a texturizer include hair that is easier to comb and style without damaging strands.

Texturizer Application

Use a texturizer that is made with herbal and botanical ingredients to improve conditioning while loosening curls. Application methods vary per product, but most texturizers are on hair for a short time. Once a texturizer is on, it shouldn't be combed through hair. This may straighten the hair as opposed to just loosening curls.

Relaxers

A relaxer will straighten hair completely. A relaxer leaves behind sleek hair and does more straightening than a texturizer. While relaxers come in formulations with or without lye, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises even though a relaxer may contain a no-lye formula, there is still potential for scalp burning. Skin Biology reports sodium hydroxide is a common ingredient in relaxers. This chemical alters the pH factor of hair to straighten it. No-lye formulas use guanidine hydroxide, which may be less damaging but still harsh enough to cause problems.

Relaxer Application

The potentially harsh chemicals in a relaxer require the user to follow instructions provided with the product closely concerning the application, pre- and post- conditioning as well as how often to use the product. Product instructions should clearly state how long to leave the relaxer on the hair after applying it. When straightening completes, the hair is washed with warm water and a neutralizer is then applied. The neutralizer provides chemicals that stop the straightening action and keep hair from overprocessing.

Considerations

When selecting the product best for your tight curls, consider the condition of your hair, the results you hope to achieve and the health of your scalp. Those with damaged hair may want to use a texturizer as opposed to a relaxer. The relaxer may harm hair while a texturizer may be less harsh.

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