Hair Relaxers: What Are They and What Are Their Benefits?


We’ve all heard the phrase, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” But for many of us, we want what doesn’t come naturally to us – and this goes doubly for hairstyles. Folks with thin hair long for the looks of thick hair, those with straight hair often daydream about what it might be like to have curly hair. For those of us with naturally curly hair, styling it in a way that works for our mood, wants, and needs can be cumbersome. Some days, we love the way our gorgeous curls look. Other days, we wish we could just run our fingers through our hair without it getting caught on a curl.

For those who love the look and feel of straight hair but were graced with gorgeous curls, there is an option at your local salon. Hair relaxers give you semi-permanent options for straightening naturally curly hair.

How Hair Relaxers Work

How do hair relaxers work? Chemistry.

It’s a relatively simple process to understand when broken down. Primarily, hair’s composition and makeup are caused by chemical bonds at the molecular level. For curly hair, hydrogen and disulfide bonds are the leading players in its texture. When hair gets wet, the moisture changes the chemical makeup of the hair, which is what causes humidity frizz or curly hair to straighten out. However, when the hair becomes dry again, it, for the most part, goes back to its natural molecular makeup. For extremely curly hair, this means that hydrogen and disulfide bonds reform.

When a chemical straightener is added to the mix, it alters the very proteins of the hair and causes the disulfide bonds to weaken. Disulfide bonds are a lot stronger than hydrogen bonds, which is why curly hair does not go completely straight when wet or straightened. However, chemical relaxers “attack” the disulfide bonds as well as the hydrogen bonds, which permanently alters the makeup of the hair. The result is long, straight hair that lasts for longer than a typical straightening process would.

What to Expect From the Process

The process of getting your hair chemically straightened isn’t all that tedious, but it is something that should always be done professionally. Failure to professionally get your hair relaxed can result in an irritated scalp, brittle and unmanageable hair, and at worst chemical burns. Salon professionals, like the ones at David’s Beautiful People in North Bethesda, know how to handle the process efficiently and safely while providing you with high-quality results.

When you go to the salon, your hair should be as natural as possible. You should not have had any chemical treatments in the past few weeks, and you should not have heat-treated your hair recently. Your salon specialist will treat your scalp, usually with a petroleum jelly solution, to protect it from the chemicals in the straightener. Once the scalp is protected, your salon professional will then apply the chemical straightener to your hair evenly. It is essential to leave the chemical straightener on for no more than the intended time, so your salon professional will time the application to ensure your application does not go on for longer than necessary.

After the application and set time (which usually takes between 10-15 minutes), your stylist will wash the relaxant out and follow up with a deep conditioner. From there, they will style as usual.

The Pros of Hair Relaxers

You might be thinking about getting your naturally curly hair treated with a hair relaxer, but might not be entirely sold on the idea. There are obvious pros to getting your hair relaxed. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be readily available as a hair treatment. These are some of the most commonly-cited advantages of hair relaxers

  • It is relatively easy to do. The process of applying a hair relaxant takes about 10-15 minutes after the prep-work. Then, the relaxant is washed out, shampooed, and conditioned. It takes less time than dyeing your hair in most cases.
  • It keeps hair from becoming tangled and knotted. Naturally curly or textured hair can tangle easily. Chemically relaxed hair is often more natural to brush out and more responsive to conditioning treatments.
  • It helps keep hair straight during periods of high humidity and wet weather. Naturally curly hair can become very frizzy during periods of high humidity. Chemically straightened hair is less susceptible to the frizz associated with moisture.
  • It allows for easier hair styling. Typically, you don’t have to go through the same extensive styling processes that you usually must go through with curly or frizzy hair.
  • It allows naturally curly hair to remain straight for extended periods without having to get it re-straightened.

The Cons of Hair Relaxers

The pros of hair relaxers typically outweigh the cons for most people seeking straight hair. However, there are some things to consider.

  • Because hair relaxers are typically chemical, it can weaken the strands of your hair if you are not adequately taking care of it. This is the same for hair dye or any other chemical applicant that alters the look of your hair.
  • Getting it done professionally is recommended for the best results. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to go to the salon every 6-8 weeks to get the treatment.
  • On some people, it might cause scalp irritation even with proper prevention and protection. Usually, this is not an issue when you get your hair professionally relaxed, as professionals understand what needs to happen to protect your scalp. However, not everyone reacts the same way to chemicals. Therefore, it is essential to talk to a professional before getting your hair relaxed.
  • It is not a permanent solution – it only lasts 6-8 weeks, so you will need to get touch-ups.
  • Once you get your hair chemically relaxed, you will not be able to wear your hair curly again until your hair grows out.

If you live in the North North Bethesda, Maryland area, and want to learn more about whether hair relaxers are right for your hair, stop by David’s Beautiful People on Rockville Pike North. You can book online here, or stop by at your convenience.