Although natural hair is all the rage right now, many people still love the look and ease of straight hair that stays that way. But a badly done relaxer can cause irreparable damage. Unfortunately, some of the warning signs a relaxer is damaging your hair are commonly accepted.
Relaxing your hair at home can be dangerous, but even professional stylists can make mistakes when it comes to applying chemicals. The best way to prevent bad relaxer damage (and potential hair loss) is to visit a pro who specializes in kinky or curly hair and prizes your hair's and scalp's health above anything else. If you experience any of the following during or soon after a relaxer treatment, you're probably suffering damage to your hair and/or scalp.
Some people believe that "beauty is pain," but that doesn't have to be true, and definitely shouldn't apply to any burning sensation you feel from relaxer chemicals. Don't think that the pain only happens when a relaxer is left on too long. Your scalp can be sensitive to a certain formulation, and leaving it on for even the minimum time period has the potential to give you chemical burns.
Too many people believe their hair will turn out straighter the longer the chemicals stay on, but usually, bone straight hair is just overprocessed. Ignoring time frame instructions is a recipe for potential and permanent disaster. As soon as you feel tingling from a relaxer application, rinse it out thoroughly and with plenty of lukewarm water. Better yet, don't wait for a relaxer to "tingle" at all. Despite what you may have been told, burning is not normal.
Sores on Scalp
Along with burning, you may experience sores on your scalp soon after a relaxer causes damage. In some cases, the sores may ooze fluids and/or crust over. This is serious, and could lead to infection or permanent hair loss. You might develop sores due to a reaction to the chemicals, no matter how long they're left on your head. You could be allergic, or the relaxer may be low-quality (another reason to see a stylist who has the proper products at their disposal). Any break in the skin means your relaxer has gone way too far.
Thin hair is only unavoidable in cases of genetics or natural aging. Relaxer damage and overprocessing are both major, problematic causes of hair thinning. Applying chemicals to already thin hair or damaged follicles can eventually go so far as to lead to baldness. Instead of trying to relax hair as straight as possible, cut the time you leave relaxers on. You'll have more body and volume, and lessen the chance of damage.
If it seems like your hair isn't growing, it's possible that it's breaking at the same rate (or faster than) it grows. Unless you have an experienced partner to help you apply a relaxer, it's difficult to do a good job on the back of your head at home. Overlapping is common and leads to breakage.
Identifying breakage isn't always easy, since humans shed hair every day. But if you constantly find short hairs lying around right after styling, there's a good chance it's just breakage. If you relax your hair, try to avoid heat styling—too much can cause breakage in the healthiest of hair.
Relaxers are designed to break the disulfide bonds in the hair, so by their very nature, they cause damage. Because the hair shaft undergoes such a change, it's weaker than healthy natural hair would be. Because of the damage, hair doesn't hold onto moisture the same way, which leads to serious dryness. Oil sheens, sprays and lotions don't actually add moisture; they're designed to hold it in, but hair needs to be moist before adding products. Otherwise, they simply sit on top of the hair shaft and help to keep moisture at bay. Use a hair treatment like Joico's Defy Damage Protective Masque a few times a week to keep your tresses healthy as can be.