Are Texturizers a Good Way to Transition to Natural Hair?

A hairstylist and cosmetic chemist weigh in.


@aysha.sow / Design by Bailey Mariner

Making the transition from relaxed hair to your natural curls can present some challenges. Not to mention the journey can leave you confused about which road to take to get there. You may be wondering if big chopping, protective styling, or using an alternative chemical hair smoothing agent is the best option.

All of these questions are valid, and there is no right or wrong answer here. Working with your natural hair can take some getting used to, but once you find the right products and a style that works best for your hair texture and lifestyle, you'll find the process much easier. During your research, you may have read about chemical options that don't straighten the hair entirely but instead loosen your hair texture. Say hello to a process known as the texturizer

We spoke to Angela Stevens, an Emmy Award-winning hairstylist and Desiree Mattox, a cosmetic chemist to find out how texturizers affect our hair and if they are an ideal option for making the transition into the natural hair community. 

Meet the Expert

  • Angela Stevens in an Emmy Award-winning celebrity hairstylist and Cantu partner.
  • Desiree Mattox, also known as The Glam Scientist, is a cosmetic chemist and beauty brand strategist. 

Are Texturizers Safe?

Like relaxers, texturizers are made of chemicals that alter the hair texture. So if you've seen products labeled all-natural, sadly, that's just not possible. For a more in-depth explanation, Stevens breaks down the difference between the two. "A texturizer is similar to a relaxer, but advertises a more gentle formula that allows the consumer to still have somewhat of a curl pattern," she explains. "You can technically texturize the hair with a relaxer by using a gentle formula and not leaving it on for too long." 

Many texturizers contain similar straightening ingredients to relaxers, like sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide (no-lye). With that in mind, Stevens notes that even though some see texturizers as relaxer lite, for certain hair types, "a texturizer can be equally damaging as a relaxer. In other cases, it may be exactly the amount of softening you need."

"Relaxer lite" is actually a great way to describe a texturizer," says cosmetic chemist and beauty brand strategist, Desiree Mattox. "Relaxers and texturizers are made of the same "active" ingredients, which are designed to break the disulfide bonds in the hair, causing the curl to relax," she says. The difference between a traditional relaxer and a texturizer is that the concentration of the active ingredients differ.

"Texturizers are less potent than traditional relaxers, so in theory, they are less damaging to the hair. Most texturizer products include a few key ingredients to help condition and restore the hair. However, it is important to remember that a chemical treatment, no matter how 'lite' is still a chemical treatment. Your hair will definitely need some TLC after a texturizer to keep it healthy," she says.

Hair Texturizers: When They Work Well vs. When They Don't

When working with chemicals, everyone's hair will have a different response, and texturizers prove to be no different. Stevens cautions that, "texturizing the hair can lead you back to the early beginnings of going natural due to its inconsistent level of results." However, for those that have grown out their relaxer and are two seconds from either opting for a cropped cut or giving up their natural hair journey altogether, she says, "it [a texturizer] might be a helpful solution. But, she adds, "I don't offer that option to clients because the hair is healthiest when you completely remove the chemicals from the hair." 

But there is one more way to relax your curl pattern without a relaxer or texturizer, and that's with hair color. Stevens notes that hair color can be a texturizing solution. "It breaks down the texture similar to a texturizer, and you have a beautiful color as well. That's two for one, in my opinion." 

No matter what solution you choose, Stevens emphasizes that "any time you put a chemical on your hair; it breaks down its strength," especially since "textured hair is already fragile." Texturizing will likely make hair weaker, but it is still possible to maintain healthy hair. She suggests, "[being] more mindful of your circumstances. For example, swimming in chlorine pools will cause damage, and using heat will also break down the hair more." As we've learned from our experts, the effects of chemicals on the hair can have a range of results. Paying attention to how your hair feels and reacts post-treatment will let you know how you and your stylist should care for your hair. 

To repair severe breakage at home, try a protein treatment followed by a deep conditioning treatment.

The Final Takeaway

Anyone who wants 100% natural hair should steer clear of texturizers because the service will only prolong your journey to completely chemical-free coils. Be kind to yourself as you get to know your hair texture for the first time. If you feel overwhelmed, Stevens strongly suggests "wearing protective styles back to back for six to eight months." But you'll want to ensure each time you uninstall your style of choice that you "trim and deep condition your hair, and go right back into another protective style," which will allow your natural hair to grow. Not to mention, "the trims will allow you to gradually remove the chemically processed hair while monitoring the growth of your natural hair." 

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