Despite different ethnicities having different hair textures, hair relaxers are universal. When it comes to hair relaxing, it's far more important to consider the individual's hair rather than ethnic origin!
Identify Your Hair Type
The dense tight curls and waves of African Americans' hair are caused by variations in the diameter of the hair along the length of the hair shaft. Asian and Caucasian hair may also be curly and therefore have varying hair-shaft widths, but usually not as much as African hair. Of course, these are generalities. The hair of a person within any race may vary significantly from the norm.
Evaluate Your Hair
It's important to assess the current condition of your hair. Has it been processed recently? Colored? Cut? In general, fine textured or heat damaged hair will need less relaxing time than course hair. Always do a strand test before using an at-home relaxer, even if you have used the same relaxer before. Consult a professional before relaxing color treated or previously relaxed hair. Hair that has already been processed requires special consideration, especially in product selection.
With white or Caucasian hair, some hair stylists recommend relaxers with the active ingredients ammonium thioglycholate or guanidine hydroxide. These products are commonly called "no lye" relaxers. They are gentler than relaxers that contain sodium hydroxide, and therefore easier to control on fine textured or delicate hair. However, amonium thioglycholate and guanidine hydroxide break down hair protein bonds according to the same chemical principles as sodium hydroxide. So no-lye relaxers will also damage hair if used improperly.
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What Relaxers Do
Home hair relaxers straighten hair by permanently rearranging the protein structure of the hair shaft. Strong alkaline chemicals are applied to the hair to break the sulfide bonds that hold the protein molecules together. The hair is combed straight and the chemicals are allowed to act for several minutes. The relaxer is rinsed from the hair and a neutralizing chemical is applied to the hair to stop the bond breaking process.
Relaxing hair, at home or in the salon, always results in some damage to the hair. To minimize damage, relaxing must be timed precisely, the hair checked frequently, and the relaxer removed from the hair immediately once hair is straight. Miscalculation of application time or misjudging hair condition can result in significant hair breakage and even temporary bald patches. Having your hair relaxed by an experienced professional is always safer.