What Are Hair Chemical Relaxers?

A chemical relaxer for hair is designed to eliminate curls, no matter what level of curl the hair has. This can be anything from heavily curled hair to something like tightly-coiled hair that simply creates the curls in the first place. This type of hair is natural, but a lot of people simply don’t like it or grow tired of it. They may also just decide that they want something different in which the curls are getting in the way of what the person desires. They may want a new hairstyle and curls may affect the overall results or make it difficult to obtain that particular style of hair. A chemical hair relaxer will straighten the hair so that curls will not get in the way and they can achieve the style they want with ease.

Types of Hair Relaxers

Chemical relaxers are available in various types. Hydroxide or metal relaxers include lithium, potassium, or sodium ionic metals that mix with hydrogen and oxygen to form relaxers for the hair.

This includes products like:

  • Lye hair relaxers: This type of relaxer includes sodium hydroxide that breaks down the bonds in the hair to straighten them.
  • Non-Lye hair relaxers: This type is composed of potassium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide or calcium hydroxide depending on product. These compounds have lower alkalinity than lye relaxers. Non-lye compositions are safer to use, but take longer to straighten the hair.

Thio relaxers are another type of relaxer and are made of ammonium thioglycolate, which is where the name came from. This type has more thickness and more viscosity than other types, but does require a neutralizer after the application is rinsed away.

Comparing Lye and Non-Lye Hair Relaxers

The main difference between lye and non-lye hair relaxers is that the pH levels are higher for lye compounds. This makes the straightening process faster. Basically, the higher the pH, the faster the product works its magic. However, lower pH levels are safer to use and many consumers have switched to non-lye products. Aside from pH levels, non-lye products are more affordable and have less burning on the scalp. One advantage to lye hair relaxers is that they provide longer lasting results.

Thio relaxers are easier to work with, due to their thickness and viscosity. Upon completion, they return the hair back to its normal structure as a disulfide link, unlike lye and non-lye relaxers that change the hair to a lanthionine link.