The Difference Between Hair Texturizers and Relaxers

Updated 05/09/19
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How you decide to style your natural curls is completely up to you. If you prefer to straighten your hair chemically, you’ve got a couple options: a hair texturizer or a relaxer. Both chemical treatments are fairly similar, so understanding the differences between the two can get pretty confusing. Yes, both are chemical processes that permanently alter the shape of the hair strands, but a few key differences lie in the process and result of each treatment. Before paying your stylist a visit, figure out which of the two chemical treatments are best for your hair goals and hair type.

How Long Hair Texturizers and Relaxers Take

The amount of time the chemicals are left to react with the hair is the main factor in differing results between the two processes. Relaxers are typically left on the hair for about 20 minutes, while texturizers shouldn't be left on for more than five to 10 minutes.

This time factor is also what can make it difficult to get uniform results from one texturizer to the next. Two minutes may make a big difference in your results if you're after slightly relaxed hair instead of a completely straight style.

Chemical Differences of Hair Texturizers and Relaxers
Many hair products make claims of being "natural" on the bottles and jars, but don’t be fooled by claims that texturizers are a natural product. Both relaxers and texturizers contain chemicals that change the hair permanently. In many cases, these products contain the same ingredients, which is why a relaxer formula can be used to get texturizer results. What alters the results is the amount of time that they're left on the hair.

Texturizers are particularly tricky. They can be packaged differently and offer various claims – i.e., they're "healthier" or "better" for your hair than traditional relaxers – but read the ingredient labels. You’ll find that most contain sodium or calcium hydroxide, just like a relaxer.

No matter which process you decide on, it's important to rinse it out with a neutralizing shampoo and care for it properly afterward. Since the chemicals can be damaging and dry out your hair, you'll want to use plenty of moisturizing products and treatments.

Results From Hair Texturizers vs. Relaxers

When it comes to how straight you want your hair to be, there's a big difference between the two processes. Relaxers are made to "relax" the curl completely, resulting in bone-straight strands. This sometimes results in over-processing and can leave the hair with less elasticity and little or no body. Texturizers, on the other hand, are applied when you don't want all of the curl removed from the hair. Instead, they loosen the natural curl pattern and can give the strands a wavy texture.

With a relaxer, you’re limited on the range of styles you can wear. For that reason, a lot of people who choose to texturize their hair do so because they want to easily switch between straight and curly or wavy styles. With help from a curl-defining styling product or a straightening product, you can easily alternate between curly days and straight. Overall, a texturizer can cut down on style time and make the strands a little more manageable in a humid climate.

One important consideration is your natural texture, so it’s crucial to honestly assess your hair to ensure the best results. Texturizers simply give better "curly" results on some hair textures than others. For instance, Z-shaped curls do not typically respond well to texturizers, though they do work well with relaxers. And while they can be helpful in loosening tighter curl patterns, texturizers can't create a curly texture where it doesn't already exist.

The Bottom Line

With either of these processes, it's important to avoid over-processing your hair. If you remain vigilant about the chemicals used, the product is used properly, and you properly maintain your hair following the treatment, you can avoid serious problems like breakage and hair loss.

Qualified stylists who care about the health of their clients' hair can typically get consistent results with relaxers, and even texturizers, although the latter tend to be a bit trickier. While relaxers work well on S-shaped curls and Z-shaped curls, honest stylists should advise clients about unpredictable results from texturizers on Z-shaped textures.

For the best results, you should go to a professional stylist. Experience will help her determine which product is best for your hair and the results you're after. Getting either chemical process done at the salon will also help eliminate the risk of damage to your hair, so it’s best to leave things in the hands of a professional.

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