Relaxing Your Hair

You may have heard of Madame C. J. Walker or Annie Malone, some of the earliest connoisseurs of hair care products for African Americans. But the earliest documented use of a hair relaxer was by a black man by the name of Garrett Augustus Morgan, in 1909 (Biography.com).

Garrett had his own successful repair business, working with sewing machines. This caused him to encounter woolen fabrics that would frequently get scorched by the sewing needle. So, Garret tried a chemical solution that would help reduce the friction, and noticed the woolen hairs became straighter. According to Biography.com, after testing the chemical on dogs’ furs, and then on himself, Garrett was able to open the successful G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company and sold his hair cream to African Americans!

If you have naturally curly hair that undergoes shrinkage, you may use or thought of using hair relaxers to straighten your hair and/or to increase length. A relaxer uses chemicals to straighten the hair and comes in the form of hair creams or lotions. The chemicals are usually a strong basic (alkali) agent, although some are acid-based. Relaxers break the protein bonds of hair, which changes the texture and gives it the straightened look. Also, relaxed hair is prone to breakage so may not even retain length, unless properly managed.

According to Hair Glamourista, common ingredients in hair relaxers are:

*Hydrogen Peroxide – a mild acid with bleaching properties

*Hydroxyl Compounds – alkali compounds, i.e., Sodium Hydroxide (most common in relaxers); Ammonium Hydroxide; Calcium Hydroxide

*Phosphoric acid – acidic

These relaxers will temporarily straighten the hair. You should get hair relaxed every 8 to 10 weeks. According to Byrdie.com, there should be enough new hair growth for the relaxer to adhere to. This will usually be ½ to 1 inch of new hair growth which normally occurs every 8 weeks. Also, you do not want to apply a relaxer all over the hair, once it has been previously relaxed. This will help to avoid breakage. Only apply the relaxer to your new growth. Also, avoid waiting too long between touch ups or your hair will become weak and have breakage/damage.

The strength of relaxers will differ. You should choose a mild relaxer for fine hair, color treated hair or damaged hair. You should choose a regular relaxer for normal hair. And you should choose a super strength for thick, coarse hair.

If you are not keen on getting your hair chemically process, you can try natural relaxers. Natural relaxers include cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil and activator gel. These natural ingredients do not break the protein bonds in the hair. It moisturizes the hair and reduces tangles and tight curls (cocoa butter), straightens and strengthens (activator gel), straightens and maintains natural hair structure (olive oil) and promotes healthy hair with vitamins and minerals (coconut milk).

So, should you relax your hair? Because chemical relaxers are weakening the hair’s protein bonds, there will be damage to some degree if you relax your hair. However, it is possible to maintain and keep chemically straightened hair as healthy as it could be. You should not leave the chemicals on the hair for too long (overprocessing), wait the recommended time-frame between touch ups, avoid constantly applying high heat when styling hair, moisturize and condition regularly and trim as needed are some of the ways to maintain your relaxer. Thus, getting a hair relaxer is totally up to you!