The Truth About Relaxers: Can Relaxed Hair Really Be Healthy?

Who says your hair can’t be chemically relaxed and healthy at the same time?

Contrary to popular belief, you can be chemically relaxed and have strong, healthy hair that retains length, moisture, and shine – minus the breakage. But to do so, you must have a true understanding of how relaxers chemically change the hair, consult with a licensed stylist, and be willing to commit to relaxer maintenance.


Let’s start with the basics…Relaxers are designed to straighten extremely curly, coiled, or tightly coiled hair by breaking disulfide bonds found within the cortex layer of the hair. During the chemical process the curl pattern is loosened or relaxed. The cortex is elongated, stretching the original curl pattern, therefore making this a permanent change – meaning there’s no going back (unless you big chop or transition from the relaxer).

This permanent chemical change in the hair structure is enough in itself for people to question the safety of relaxers – often deeming them unhealthy or dangerous. But what really makes relaxers dangerous, is that they are characterized by an extremely high alkalinity and can literally melt or dissolve hair and skin if used incorrectly.

You may remember Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, where he demonstrates Sodium Hydroxide (the main ingredient used in most chemical hair relaxers) dissolving an aluminum soda can…Yup, that’s the same chemical we apply to our hair and scalp when receiving a relaxer service. Which is why relaxers must be handled with the utmost caution and responsibility.

We highly recommend consulting with a licensed professional for all chemical relaxer services. Neglecting to do so often results in improper application techniques, including over-processing, over-lapping relaxer on previously relaxed hair, and allowing the relaxer to sit on the hair and scalp longer than the recommended processing time. Consequently, these common application mistakes have been known to cause scalp irritation, severe hair breakage, bald spots, thinning, and in extreme cases, permanent damage to the hair follicle or scalp.

And if that isn’t scary enough, studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that the use of chemical hair relaxers may increase the risk of uterine fibroids.  According to, scientist found that the two-to three-times higher rate of fibroids among Black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers. However as of now, there is no definite way to prove this cause and effect between relaxers and fibroids since chemical relaxers aren’t regulated by the Federal Drug Administration.

That being said, and now having better knowledge of chemical relaxers, we hope this information helps with deciding if chemical relaxers are the right choice for you!  But if you’re still indecisive as to whether chemically relaxed hair can truly be healthy, here’s a few suggested Do’s and Don’ts to ensure an overall healthy relaxer experience:


  • Do schedule a consultation prior to the relaxer service to discuss your hair type, texture, and condition. Ask questions about relaxer choices, application procedures, and what to expect during and after the relaxer service.
  • Do ask for a strand test prior to the service to see how your hair reacts to the chemical relaxer.
  • Don’t allow relaxer services on young children or teens who haven’t gone through puberty, since hair texture changes frequently during the early years of life.
  • Do understand having a relaxer is a commitment that requires extra hair care. You may have to adjust how often you use thermal styling tools, receive permanent high-lift color, or go swimming – as these activities can impact the integrity of relaxed hair and may cause breakage.
  • Do ask your stylist to apply a base cream or gel to your scalp to reduce irritation, and a protectant like Design Essentials RESTORE Vitamin Treatment to any previously relaxed or color-treated hair to prevent over-processing and over-lapping. Don’t skip this step!
  • Don’t allow your stylist to have you process until you start to feel a tingle sensation. Relaxers should be closely monitored to prevent over-processing and should never exceed 20 minutes.
  • Do speak up immediately if you feel any burning, itching, or irritation.
  • NEVER sit under a hair dryer with relaxer on your hair to speed up the smoothing process.
  • Do commit to hair maintenance after receiving the service. This may include conditioning treatments, re-touches, and hair trims to help strengthen your hair, reduce breakage, and retain length.

Watch as our Global Educational Corporate Trainer, Alicia Bailey, uses proper application techniques while taking a client from natural to chemically straight, applying Design Essentials Lo-Lye Relaxer with Olive Oil & Shea Butter.

And there you have it, the truth about relaxers and how to have a healthy relaxer experience and healthy hair in the process. Stay woke – continue to educate yourself on trending relaxer topics, always consult a licensed cosmetologist, and if you do decide on a relaxer, commit to relaxer maintenance.

Want to learn more about Design Essentials relaxer choices? Keep reading…

Design Essentials Regular Conditioning Relaxer with Olive Oil & Shea Butter – is a Sodium Hydroxide relaxer that conditions and strengthens, while straightening medium to thick, or coarse hair textures. This relaxer is ideal if your hair is in a healthy condition and you prefer a smooth, silky straight texture.

Design Essentials Lo-Lye Relaxer with Olive Oil & Shea Butter – is a Sodium Hydroxide and Lithium Hydroxide relaxer that gently loosens the bonds for manageability and control, while maintaining some level of texture in the hair. Ideal for color-treated hair below level 7, damaged hair, or multi-textured hair types seeking to loosen the curl pattern. The Lo-Lye relaxer is also best for teenagers or young children, due to the low concentration of Sodium Hydroxide.

Design Essentials Sensitive Scalp Relaxer System – is a conditioning relaxer designed to straighten the hair of those with special scalp needs without irritation or discomfort. Ideal for medium to thick, or coarse textures.

Read More