With all of the natural hair talk in recent years, it can be easy to forget about chemical relaxers. Chemical relaxers have been a popular hair service for decades and despite the natural hair movement, it is still a service women ask for. As with any chemical service, there is a chance that you can severely damage your strands if the product isn’t used according to its directions.
We decided to reach out to Daryce Brown-Willis, Mizani brand ambassador and expert stylist, to get the scoop on chemical relaxers. Brown-Willis is breaking down everything you need to know about relaxers, including her absolute do’s and don’ts.
What is a relaxer and how does it work?
A relaxer is a cream-based chemical treatment that helps change the texture of your hair. Depending on your hair type, a relaxer can help to smooth your hair out, reduce the curl, or reduce the frizz in your hair. While a relaxer can be used to achieve a number of desired results, it is not suitable for all hair types.
“There are different strengths of relaxers. There’s relaxer formulas for fine hair, color-treated hair, the regular formula, and an even extra strength relaxer. However, whether a relaxer is suitable for someone really depends on the condition of their scalp and hair,” Brown-Willis explains.
Now that you know what a relaxer is and how it works, below you will find Brown-Willis’ biggest do’s and don’ts.
Go to a professional.
Even though, at home relaxer kits are available to consumers with the appropriate products, if you do not feel comfortable performing the treatment on yourself seek an experienced professional. That doesn’t mean you can walk into any old salon, however. Do your research to ensure you’re in good hands. A stylist with ample experience should be able to show you their previous work and walk you through what you should expect from the relaxer.
Furthermore, a professional will know all of the tricks and tips to help make sure you don’t end up with damaged strands such as the strand test to help determine the most suitable relaxer for your hair type.
“No one should use a fine tooth comb to comb the relaxer through your hair. It should be done with either the back of a comb or a sprush, which is like a spatula,” Brown-Willis shares.
Schedule a consultation.
Finding the right stylist is the first step, but there should be one more step before you sit in the chair for your relaxer: a consultation. Brown-Willis says a consultation is a great time to ask your stylist any pressing questions you may have and it will give you a better idea of what to expect when you return for your appointment.
“Understand what strength of relaxer they’re going to use and how much you actually want to decrease your curls. Make sure your stylist knows how much you want your hair relaxed. What you’re supposed to do is relax the hair up to 80 percent of the way, so there still should be some kind of wave in there so that the stretch and elasticity of the hair can return,” the stylist explains.
Buy the products your stylist recommends.
It’s easy to feel like your stylist is instructing you to buy products just to make a few extra bucks, but in reality, they’re trying to do more than just save you time and money. Good stylists will only recommend products they believe will keep your hair looking and feeling as good as possible in between appointments. If you're searching for a simple healthy hair care routine, we recommend picking up Mizani's True Textures Moisture Replenish Shampoo and Conditioner to help your hair retain moisture. When you're styling your hair at home use Mizani's Style & Style Again cream to protect your strands from heat up to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
Maintain a proper relaxer schedule.
If you were hoping relaxing your hair would make your hair care routine simpler—think again. While the day-to-day styling of your hair may become easier, expect to make frequent trips back to the salon.
“People with shorter cuts like a pixie, would probably relax their hair a little more frequently. Closer to the six-week range depending on growth. Relaxer should never be overlapped, so you definitely need at least a half an inch of growth to apply the relaxer to. Usually, that takes anywhere from six to eight weeks in between the services,” Brown-Willis explains.
Color your hair prior to a relaxer.
“The rule of thumb is you can color relaxed hair, but you can’t relax colored hair,” Brown-Willis says. If you’ve recently colored your hair at home, it is imperative that you be honest with your stylist. Applying a relaxer on top of freshly colored hair is a recipe for disaster. Your stylist will be able to tell you how long you should wait in between coloring and relaxing your hair.
Get a relaxer if your scalp is irritated.
While a relaxer should never be applied directly to your scalp, it is applied really closely. If you have a sensitive, irritated or damaged scalp, whether it be by long-term protective styles (such as cornrows), or itchy flakes, the relaxer should not be applied. If the irritation persists, contact your doctor.
If your scalp is irritated, wait at least 48 to 72 hours for the irritation to alleviate itself. If the problem persists, consult your doctor.
Go cold turkey without consulting your stylist.
If you’re looking to go natural canceling your next relaxer appointment is an important step, but there is a method to the madness. Because the line of demarcation between your natural hair and your previously relaxed hair is very, very fragile, Brown-Willis says you and your stylist will have to come up with a conditioning and strengthening routine for your hair.
“You want to make sure you maintain the integrity of the hair by limiting heat styling and detangling properly—which means detangling from the ends to the roots, but making sure you’re not pulling your hair out by using a detangling brush or a wide tooth comb depending on your curl pattern. That is a huge problem that a lot of people have with transitioning because their natural curl pattern is usually a lot tighter, so those strands are usually a lot more fragile.”
If you follow these simple dos and don’ts, you can achieve flawless relaxed hair every time.
Interested in having your hair professionally relaxed? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.