The Truth About Relaxers

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Thermal Reconditioning

The mid 1990's brought a new straightening solution to the scene. Thermal reconditioning, more commonly known as Japanese straightening, also uses ammonium thioglycolate as an active ingredient. The solution is applied like a perm, but backwards -- hair is ironed straight rather than set on curlers. Although the chemicals used are slightly less aggressive than traditional relaxers, the same cautions apply: Only proceed if an experienced professional tells you that your hair can handle the process. If your hair is weak, damaged, or bleached, or if your salon doesn't have extensive experience with thermal reconditioning, just say no.

Brazilian Hair Straightening

Most recently, the controversial Brazilian hair straightening method was introduced in the United States. Brazilian hair straightening uses formaldehyde and keratin to relax the texture of the hair. Although the solution will not eliminate all of the curl, it is the least damaging of all commercial relaxers. However, the long-term effects of exposure to formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, should be considered and the procedure should be performed in a highly ventilated environment. Also, make sure any protective masks provided by the salon are specially designed to filter formaldehyde.

Going Natural

If relaxers are not an option for you, consider why you dislike your curls in the first place. If the gels you've used in the past produced crunchy curls that turned you off to wearing your hair curly, the solution could be as simple as changing your styling product. One easy trick is to mix gel with a leave-in conditioner for a softer, smoother look that still provides control. Also, don't forgot to make sure your haircut is maximizing your curl's potential. Find a stylist who specializes in curls and knows how to layer. The perfect combination of layering and texturizing is what curls need to look their best.

Originally published on, January 2009.


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