When it comes to making highly textured hair more manageable and easy to comb through, relaxers and texturizers are often used. Chemically, there is no difference between a relaxer and a texturizer; what makes them different is how they're used. Women who want to relax hair that's previously been texturized need to know what to expect for the most satisfactory results.
Relaxers and texturizers straighten or soften the curl of highly textured hair, typically that of women of African descent. Relaxers are generally used to completely straighten the hair, while texturizers are used to gently soften the curl without removing it completely. These products contain the same active ingredients of either sodium hydroxide (lye relaxers) or calcium hydroxide (no-lye relaxers).
For complete straightening, or relaxing, the relaxer is left on the hair for about 20 minutes. To texturize, or soften the curl, texturizers are usually left on the hair no more than 10 minutes.
The effects of relaxers and texturizers are permanent. You can apply a relaxer to a head of hair that has previously been texturized, but only on the new growth at the roots. You can't put a relaxer onto textured hair. Typically, relaxers and texturizers are retouched every eight weeks. At this point, a person would have about 1 inch of new growth to apply the chemicals to.
If you apply a relaxer to hair that has already been treated with texturizing chemicals, you will over-process it and weaken it more than it already is. This leads to breakage, dryness and damage.
Applying a relaxer to new growth at the roots will straighten that area of the hair. If the rest of the hair has been texturized, all except the new growth will be slightly curly or wavy. To blend the textures together, you may need to flat iron the hair. For the best, most uniform results, continue texturizing instead of relaxing, or cut the textured hair off and begin relaxing your hair.
Women who use relaxers or texturizers usually like the manageability that the chemical treatments provide. These chemicals straighten Afro-textured hair, making it easier to comb through and more willing to stay straight without reverting in humid temperatures (which happens with temporary processes such as hot combing or flat ironing). A woman with relaxed or texturized hair can swim without worrying that her hair will go back to being in its natural, curly state.
Both relaxers and texturizers break down the hair's bonds, leading to damage that isn't visible to the naked eye. The longer you leave the chemicals on, the more severe the damage is. Consult with a licensed stylist to get the best results, if you want to apply different chemicals to your hair.
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Since 1996, Zoe London has written extensively on fashion, health, beauty, crafts and parenting. Her work has appeared in "Mahogany Magazine" and "The Kid Turned Out Fine".