The 13 Best Hair Relaxers of 2023

Our best overall pick is the Dark and Lovely Moisturizing No-Lye Relaxer

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
The 11 Best Hair Relaxers of 2022, According to a Hair Stylist

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

If you've been blessed with naturally wavy, curly, or coily hair, but prefer to wear it bone straight, then you've likely heard of hair relaxers before. These lotions or creams work by chemically altering the structure of the hair for temporarily (usually about six to eight weeks) sleeker strands. It sounds intimidating, but the good news is that hair relaxers have come a long way since the 90s.

You can definitely have healthy relaxed hair," says Lyonisha Sanders, hairstylist, and owner of Lavish Salon & Extensions Bar. "Just like any other chemical hair manipulation, you just have to care for it properly with TLC.” While a professional stylist offers the safest option for chemical relaxing, there are plenty of over-the-counter options that will give you the sleek, straight strands you’re looking for.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick in hair relaxers is the Dark and Lovely Moisturizing No-Lye Relaxer. It conditions and fortifies while straightening, leaving hair glossy and voluminous. We also love the more budget-friendly Revlon Professional Regular Conditioning Creme Relaxer because it gives you salon-quality results at home.

To find the best hair relaxers on the market, we conducted hours of research—evaluating each of our picks based on their active ingredients and how well they were able to straighten coarse hair textures. After consulting an expert and considering hundreds of formulas, we landed on these top-rated picks.

Best Overall

Dark and Lovely Moisturizing No-Lye Relaxer with Shea Butter

4.8
Dark and Lovely Moisturizing No-Lye Relaxer with Shea Butter
What We Like
  • Softens hair

  • Adds shine

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Needs a larger serum for longer hair

The results are consistent, and the formula claims to protect the five signs of healthy hair: moisture, shine, strength, softness, and body. The kit is also super easy to follow, making it an ideal choice for newbies. Reviewers love that it didn't burn their scalp (which can be common when relaxing hair) and that it left their hair smooth and shiny.

Price at time of publish: $6

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget

Revlon Professional Regular Conditioning Creme Relaxer

Revlon Professional Relaxer Super Conditioning Cream

Courtesy of Sally Beauty

What We Like
  • Creamy, easy-to-apply texture

  • Softens the hair

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Not as strong as the original

  • Might need cosmetic knowledge

This no-frills, no-fuss relaxer gets the job done without breaking the bank. Fair warning: This is a professional-grade relaxer made for those with some cosmetology knowledge. However, if you’re a self-relaxing pro, go for this conditioning formula.

Price at time of publish: $6

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Color-treated, fine | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Remember that healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. You might have become accustomed to burns from relaxers, but burning and scabbing are not a good sign. Apply a base cream on your scalp and hairline to protect it from the chemicals.

Best for Damaged Hair

Design Essentials Conditioning Relaxer

Design Essentials Conditioning Relaxer
What We Like
  • Rinses quickly

  • Strengthens hair with infiltrated protein

  • Moisturizing with infused olive oil and shea butter

What We Don't Like
  • Might be drying for some

This relaxer is infused with olive oil and shea butter and enhanced with the HydraStrength Vitamin & Protein Complex to condition and strengthen while straightening your hair. Long story short, it doesn’t just make hair more manageable—it promotes health for the long haul.

Price at time of publish: $55

Active Ingredients: Water, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, olive oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Size: 64 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Runner-Up, Best for Damaged Hair

TCB No Base Creme Hair Relaxer with Protein and DNA

TCB Hair Relaxer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Protein-rich formula

  • Smoothing

What We Don't Like
  • Can damage the scalp if left on too long

This professional-grade relaxer also makes a great option for damaged or fragile hair, as it contains protein and hydrolyzed collagen for stronger, healthier strands. Reviewers love that it makes their hair soft and shiny, and the product has a good value and lasts multiple uses.

Price at time of publish: $8

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Size: 15 ounces | Cruelty-Free: N/A | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gentle

Just for Me No-Lye Regular Conditioning Creme Relaxer

Just for Me No-Lye Regular Conditioning Creme Relaxer
What We Like
  • Highly hydrating ingredients

  • Gentle on the skin with no-lye

  • Makes the hair sleek

What We Don't Like
  • Not as strong

Sure, this formula is targeted towards children, but adults looking for mild results or with sensitive skin can also benefit from this gentle no-lye relaxer. It delivers the sleek strands you’re looking for while also hydrating with ingredients like coconut milk, shea butter, vitamin e, and sunflower oil.

Price at time of publish: $7

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, coconut milk, shea butter, vitamin E, sunflower oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

To avoid burning and irritation, always be sure to remove braids, extensions or any other hairstyles that create tension on the scalp at least a week before relaxing.

Best for Dry Hair

Mizani Butter Blend Relaxer Medium Normal Kit

Mizani Butter Blend Relaxer Medium Normal Kit
What We Like
  • Strengthens and conditions

  • Easy to wash out

  • Smooth texture

  • Comes with a protective pre-treatment

What We Don't Like
  • Might take a bit longer to fully straighten

You don’t have to settle for dry, brittle hair just because you choose to relax. This transformative relaxer leaves hair smooth and more manageable while also hydrating with shea butter, cocoa butter, and honey. It comes with a protective pre-treatment to prevent burns, and users rave that it washes it out easily.

Price at time of publish: $64

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, coconut milk, shea butter, cocoa butter, honey | Hair Type: All, fine, color-treated | Size: 30 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best No-Lye

SoftSheen-Carson Professional Defy Breakage No-Lye Relaxer

Softsheen-Carson Optimum Salon Haircare Optimum Care Defy Breakage No-Lye Relaxer
What We Like
  • Ensures up to 90 percent less breakage

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers reported dry hair

Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, is found in many relaxers because it works to break down curls, but it can also cause burns and has a less-than-pleasant smell. This no-lye relaxer kit puts the health of your hair first and comes with six easy steps (from pre-treatment to conditioner) to ensure up to 90 percent less breakage than traditional relaxers.

Price at time of publish: $8

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, coconut oil | Hair Type: Kinky, curly, wavy | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Coarse Hair

ORS Olive Oil Built-In Protection No-Lye Hair Relaxer Extra Strength

ORS Olive Oil Built-In Protection No-Lye Hair Relaxer Extra Strength
What We Like
  • Has extra strength for resistant hair types

  • Adds shine

  • Built-in protection

What We Don't Like
  • Might not work on all types

For hair textures that are more resistant to relaxers, this extra-strength formula gets your hair straighter without compromising its integrity. The kit comes complete with castor oil and olive oil-infused treatments for nourishment and shine as you prepare to style your hair.

Price at time of publish: $8

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, castor oil, olive oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Color-Treated Hair

Mizani Butter Blend Relaxer for Fine-Color Treated Hair Kit

Mizani Butter Blend Relaxer for Fine-Color Treated Hair Kit
What We Like
  • Comforts the hair

  • Easy to use

  • Gentle on the hair

What We Don't Like
  • Might take longer for thicker hair types

Hair that has been color-treated or bleached is more porous than hair types, so it’s important to find a safe relaxer that won’t damage the already sensitive strands. This formula is made with color-treated hair in mind to gently relax without causing breakage or brassiness of hair color.

Price at time of publish: $64

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, honey | Hair Type: Fine, color-treated | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

After relaxing hair, one should wait two to three weeks before doing color services to prevent damaging the hair.

Best for Sensitive Scalps

Avlon Affirm Fiberguard Sensitive Scalp Crème Relaxer

Avlon Affirm Fiberguard Sensitive Scalp Relaxer
What We Like
  • Restores moisture and shine

  • Adds elasticity to the hair

  • Sensitive on the scalp

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't include deep conditioner

If you’ve been relaxing your hair for a while, you’re likely no stranger to scalp burns—but this doesn’t have to be the norm. This gentle formula is safe for color-treated hair and even the most sensitive scalps. Users report that it can relax coarse hair with ease and minimal to no irritation.

Price at time of publish: $37

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Color-treated, damaged | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Texturizer

Beautiful Textures Naturally Straight Texturizer Kit

Beautiful textures Naturally Straight Texturizer Kit
What We Like
  • Gentle on the hair

  • Reversible

  • Creates a looser curl pattern

What We Don't Like
  • Hair reverses but to a lesser degree

If you’re not quite ready to permanently relax your hair but are interested in wearing your hair straighter for longer, this texturizer kit is a great option. The reversible system lasts for up to six weeks, allowing you to straighten your hair less and experience less reversion. Some users are happy with the way it loosens curls, while others are disappointed that their tighter texture didn’t return, so only use this product if you’re ready for a looser curl pattern.

Price at time of publish: $8

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil, olive oil | Hair Type: Coarse | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: N/A | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Gray Hair

Gentle Treatment No Lye Conditioning Creme Relaxer for Gray Hair

Gentle Treatment No Lye Conditioning Creme Relaxer for Gray Hair
What We Like
  • Good on gray hair

  • Gentle

  • Neutralizes brassiness

What We Don't Like
  • Need to prime or condition hair first

This gentle formula can relax delicate gray hair while also having enough strength to straighten unruly textures. It also neutralizes brassiness with its yellow-out formula.

Price at time of publish: $7

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Gray, curly | Free Of: Lye | Size: Kit | Cruelty-Free: N/A | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Volume

Linange Shea Butter Cream Relaxer

Linange Shea Butter Relaxer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Works quickly

  • Doesn't leave hair thin

What We Don't Like
  • Does not include a neutralizing shampoo or conditioner

This formula contains shea butter and coconut oil to give hair body and shine, making it a perfect choice if you find your hair becomes limp after using a relaxer. Reviewers noted that it was very moisturizing and made their hair feel softer than it ever had.

Price at time of publish: $20

Active Ingredients: Water, petrolatum, mineral oil | Hair Type: Coarse, kinky, curly | Size: 16 ounces | Cruelty-Free: N/A | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

It’s important to find a relaxer suited especially to your needs. Dark and Lovely Moisturizing No-Lye Relaxer with Shea Butter made the top of our list for being super easy to use and straightening hair without compromising strength or shine. For coarse hair, we recommend ORS Olive Oil Built-In Protection No-Lye Hair Relaxer Extra Strength—it straightens even the thickest strands. And for those with sensitive scalps, look no further than Avlon Affirm Fiberguard Sensitive Scalp Relaxer. It gets hair sleek and straight while avoiding burns. 

Meet the Expert

Lyonisha Sanders is a professional hairstylist based in South Carolina. She is the owner of Lavish Salon and Extension Bar.

What To Look For When Purchasing A Relaxer

Lye Versus No Lye

Relaxers that use lye have sodium hydroxide as the primary ingredient. These relaxers tend to be stronger and have more of a potential for burns, so they are typically applied by a licensed professional. However, they tend to be easier on the hair since they don’t leave behind a mineral deposit. Most at-home relaxers are no-lye relaxers that use calcium hydroxide. These tend to be a bit milder on the scalp but could result in calcium buildup and dryness if not used properly. Whichever you choose, be sure to check in with a stylist regularly to ensure your hair’s health.


Scalp Sensitivity

If you have a dry, sensitive scalp or sensitive conditions like eczema, you’re going to want to be sure to purchase a relaxer that is gentle and specifically formulated for scalp sensitivity. You should also be sure to pretreat your hair with a protective base and be sure to never apply the relaxer directly to the scalp.


Formula Strength

Coarse hair and tighter textures are going to need a stronger formula, while light waves and finer textures might need a more mild formula. Take your hair texture into consideration before choosing a relaxer.

FAQ
  • How long do relaxers last?

    “Depending on your hair texture and growth, relaxers last from six to 12 weeks before needing a re-touch,” says Sanders.

  • Is it safe to relax hair at home?

    “I don’t typically recommend over-the-counter relaxers due to them potentially causing the hair to develop calcium buildup, which could eventually cause the hair to become brittle, dry, and break," says Sanders. "However, if one must do their relaxer at home, choose a mild formula that’s safe for a sensitive scalp.”

  • How can you keep relaxed hair healthy?

    To keep relaxed hair healthy, Sanders advises seeking a professional stylist for regular hair maintenance, including getting ends regularly trimmed. Other recommendations include always keeping hair moisturized and conditioned and sleeping on a satin pillowcase or satin scarf.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Kindra Moné has been creating fashion and beauty content since 2013. Whether contributing to some of the top women’s lifestyle magazines or working in-house with global brands, Kindra has collaborated with some of the most knowledgeable beauty professionals in the industry. When she isn’t writing or trying out Instagram recipes, she’s giving wellness tips and sharing fashion news on The StylingSOUL Podcast.

Updated by Shannon Stubbs

Related Stories