What Are Hair Relaxers and Are They Safe to Use?


Hair relaxers might be your ticket to a world of luscious, straight tresses, but that magic hides a dark secret. If you aren’t careful, hair relaxers could cause mild to severe health issues, ranging from scalp irritation to cancer. This guide will show you how to use hair relaxers safely.

What Are Hair Relaxers?

Hair relaxers are hair products designed to straighten curly or frizzy hair. Largely composed of chemicals like sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide, these formulations work by breaking your hair’s protein structure. This process alters the natural texture and curl pattern.

Can You Use Chemical Hair Relaxers Safely?

Many people have concerns about the safety of hair relaxers, mostly because they contain lye. This substance is found in oven cleaners and paint thinners, as it’s a highly corrosive substance. A study conducted by the NIH found that chemical hair relaxers put women at a higher risk for uterine cancer, with black women being more affected due to higher use. While we’re living in an age where natural hair is more celebrated than it was in the past, there are still many women who are required to use relaxers due to societal pressures. Fortunately, there’s hope. If you are one of these women diagnosed with uterine cancer, you can start a hair relaxer uterine cancer lawsuit or join a class action suit. And if you decide to continue to use hair relaxers, there are safe ways to use them, whether at home or at a local salon.

How Can You Use Chemical Hair Relaxers Safely?

Even if the relaxer says that it contains no lye, it can still damage your hair and scale. However, go with the no lye option because it’s safer, and be sure to use these other important tips.

Follow All Directions on the Package

Understanding and following all instructions on your hair relaxer’s packaging is important. These directions are written by experts who know how to use the product safely and effectively, so it’s crucial to adhere to their guidance. Any deviations could lead to misuse of the product.

Do a Patch Test on Your Skin

Before you apply any chemical-based hair product, performing a patch test is essential to avoid a severe allergic reaction. Apply a small amount of the relaxer behind your ear or on your inner elbow, then wait for 24 hours to see if there’s any adverse reaction like itching or redness.

Wear Gloves When Applying

Always remember to put on waterproof gloves before handling chemical relaxers. Contact with bare skin can cause irritation or burns due to the highly alkaline nature of these products. Gloves also prevent the product from coming into direct contact with your fingernails.

Don’t Relax Eyebrows at Home

Hair dyes and relaxers are different; they have different pH levels and ingredients. Hence, using hair relaxers for dying eyebrows is dangerous as it can lead to serious issues like allergic reactions or even blindness. Only allow a professional to put chemicals on your eyebrows.

Don’t Use on Unhealthy Hair or Scalp


Relaxers are pretty heavy-duty, and you’ll need your hair and scalp to be healthy if you want to make sure your body can take the chemicals. Unhealthy hair and scalp won’t have as many resources to protect your body from the more adverse effects of lye and calcium hydroxide.

Know the Signs of Damage

If your scale is burning, your hair is breaking, or you are experiencing dryness, stop using relaxers right away. If you continue, relaxers could cause an unbalanced scalp pH, sores, follicle inflammation, and hair thinning. And, of course, you could be more at risk for uterine cancer.

Never Double Process Hair

Double processing means applying two strenuous treatments (like dyeing after relaxing) on your hair without enough intervals between them. This exposes your hair to twice as much damage causing serious repercussions such as breakage or balding, even on healthy hair.

Don’t Leave It On Longer Than You Should

Relaxers need specific time durations for application according to their strength and type (mild, regular, or super). Exceeding this stipulated time frame can result in excessive protein loss leading to severe damage such as hair breakage or scalp irritation, so don’t do it.

Only Use Relaxers Two to Three Times a Year

Given how chemically potent these products are, limiting usage is mandatory for maintaining healthy tresses. Experts suggest restricting the application of relaxers to only up to two-three times per year while allowing an optimal gap between the sessions for natural recovery.

Change Your Lifestyle

If you’re specifically worried about uterine cancer, know that you can reduce much of your risk through a healthy diet and exercise. That still doesn’t mean you should ignore the other tips on this list if you do both, but lifestyle changes can help you use chemical relaxers more safely.

In Conclusion

Transforming your wild curls into sleek, straight hair might seem like a dream, but with the right knowledge and careful use, it can become a reality. Remember that understanding your hair and its needs is as important as the actual relaxing process, so do your research before application.

Written by Megan Taylor
Megan is a beauty expert who is passionate about all things makeup and glam! Her love for makeup has brought her to become a beauty pro at Glamour Garden Cosmetics.