"Hair breakage, hair thinning, lack of hair growth, scalp irritation, scalp damage, hair loss. These are just some of the complaints from many who experience problems due to the misuse of chemical hair relaxers. In fact, the FDA lists hair straighteners and hair dyes among its top consumer complaint areas. Yet, in so many stores around the country, chemicals are available for everyone to use, without much instruction, a powerful process which transforms the basic chemical makeup of the hair strand.
Sodium Hydroxide is the strongest type of principal chemical used in some chemical relaxers because it provides the most long lasting and dramatic effects. However, this same sodium hydroxide is found in drain cleaners which well demonstrates the strength of this chemical. It is what is used in products that are referred to as “lye” relaxers. The strength varies from a pH factor of 10 to 14. With higher pH, the faster the straightening solution will take hold, but the more potential the damage.
Guanidine Hydroxide is the other common option of relaxer chemical used today. This is what is referred to as “no-lye” relaxers. This label can be misleading to some consumers. It does not imply that there aren't any strong chemicals used or that the chemicals used are somehow less potentially damaging. Some have mistakenly thought that with “no-lye” relaxers there are less steps and all the worry of chemical hair straightening is removed.
Both lye and “no lye” relaxers are very strong chemicals that work in the same manner by changing the basic structure of the hair shaft. The chemical penetrates the cortex or cortical layer and loosens the natural curl pattern. This inner layer of the hair shaft is not only what gives curly hair its shape but provides strength and elasticity. Once this process is performed it is irreversible.
This process which produces the desired effect of “straighter” hair at the same time leaves hair weak and extremely susceptible to breaking and further damage. One must keep in mind that relaxers do not help the hair, but actually strip it. So by applying chemicals to the hair, even if it is to achieve a desired effect, is never really to the benefit of your hair health.
For more information visit The Truth About Hair Relaxers by Cassia McClain.