By Ronnie Williams
When it comes to chemical straightening products and processes, there could be a lot of confusion involved, especially if you are a woman of color trying to decipher which method is right for your hair type. Before you attempt any process, be sure you have the right one for your hair type.
Who are these processes for?
Texturizers and Relaxers would be ideal for someone with a tight curl/wave pattern that wants manageable to straight hair.
Straighter hair would benefit from the curling effects of a permanent wave.
What is a perm?
A perm or permanent wave is NOT the same thing as a Relaxer. This process was introduced in about the 1920s, and it involves 2 chemical reactions meant to permanently curl or wave the hair. The first chemical breaks up the peptide bonds in the hair. Rods are then inserted in the hair and the second chemical, called a neutralizer, works to reform the previously broken bonds.This process takes about 1-2 hours and lasts about 2-6 months.
There are 2 types of perms, alkaline and acid. Alkaline perms are meant for those with resistant hair, resistant gray hair, Asian-type hair with low elasticity, fine hair, and coarse/strong hair. Acid perms are much milder and should be used by those with healthy or damaged hair, hair with good elasticity, tinted or highlighted hair and/or hair that are very fragile.
What is a Texturizer?
A Texturizer is a chemical process meant to relax the natural curl pattern of the hair, not reform it. The Ph balance in your chosen application determines the degree to which you will relax your curl. Just as a perm, Texturizers are either alkaline or acidic. Acidic applications being named so because of the lower Ph levels*.Texturizers are the choice for many because of the freedom to alternate between straight and curly tresses. However, Texturizers should not be applied to relaxed or permed hair, as over time the relaxed portion of the hair will disintegrate.
What is a Relaxer?
Close descendant of the perm, a Relaxer is the chemical process that works by breaking and resetting protein/keratin bonds. However, the hair is not reshaped into a curl or wave pattern, it is straightened and meant to be worn so. Relaxers come in 2 forms, non-lye and lye. In No-Lye Relaxers, the chemicals disrupt the protein bonds in the hair, the bond is not destroyed. However, the natural oils of the hair are depleted more in this process than with the lye process. For this reason many are wary of the No-Lye Relaxer.
*Ph levels lower than 7 are considered acidic, higher levels are considered alkaline. Water, which is in the middle, has a Ph level of 7. Keep in mind that a 1 point raise in a Ph level is equal to 10 times greater.
Exp. A Ph level of 12 is 10 times weaker than a Ph13.