Monday 3 June 2013

Lye relaxers versus No lye relaxers

The decision on what relaxer to use is a very important albeit confusing one. When on a healthy hair journey, relaxer day is one of the most nerve racking days. One bad relaxer can set you back weeks, months or even years! So it is important to proceed with caution.

Most relaxers contain either of these 2 active ingredients: Sodium hydroxide (Lye) or Calcium hydroxide (No lye). Lye relaxers usually come in a jar and don't require any mixing while no lye relaxers usually come in a kit with the relaxer, activator and other accessories. Both active ingredients work by breaking down the bonds of the hair. The key difference is the effect on the hair and scalp.

Lye relaxers:

Lye relaxers can be quite harsh on the scalp so if your scalp is sensitive, this may not be the best option for you. They also tend to process the hair faster which is great because it means that you don't have to leave the relaxer on as long as you would a no lye relaxer to get the same results. The major advantage of lye relaxers is the fact that it is much gentler on your hair than no lye relaxers. You hair is better able to absorb and retain moisture when you use a lye relaxer and is therefore healthier, stronger and less likely to break.

No Lye relaxers:

No lye relaxers have calcium hydroxide as the active ingredient. They are gentler on the scalp than lye relaxers but significantly harsher on the hair. No lye relaxers leave calcium deposits on the hair which prevents your hair from absorbing and retaining moisture properly. This leaves your hair dry and susceptible to breakage. To combat this, use a good clarifying shampoo regularly if you relax with a no lye relaxer. The clarifying shampoo will help remove the calcium buildup. However, in the process of removing the calcium deposits, it also strips and removes other nutrients from your hair so be sure to replenish by deep conditioning after clarifying.

As is often the case with hair care, there isn't a generic right or wrong answer to the question of whether to use lye or no lye. It really just boils down to the individual. The sensitivity of your scalp, how well your hair takes to relaxers, what your preferred outcome is (bone straight or texlaxed) etc.

I prefer to use a lye relaxer because even though my scalp is sensitive, I like to under process my hair (texlax). So I typically wash off the relaxer immediately after applying (and before it has had a chance to wreak havoc on my scalp). This way, I don't have any burns or irritation from using a lye relaxer, I avoid overprocessing my hair and I also avoid having to deal with dryness from the no lye relaxer.

Since we are talking relaxers, I'll leave you with these quick tips on how to ensure that relaxer day goes smoothly:
- Do not over lap relaxers (apply ONLY to new growth)
- It is okay to change relaxers (as far as your adher to #1 above) but once you find one that you like, it is recommended that you stick to it.
- Always make sure your hair is well detangled before relaxing
- Always wait at least a week after washing  to relax your hair.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.



  1. Thanks for this Bassey! Needed it!

    On the dawn of your hair growth journey, were you already relaxed? Curious because like I had mentioned to you before, I'm virgin natural and I'm not sure if I should begin texlaxing on the virgin hair or go bone straight the first time, in order for my ends to come out decent after flat ironing.
    ALSO, how many days consecutively do you wear your entire hair out after a texlax, blow and flat iron process?? Trying to see if my journey to longer strands will require me tucking my hair in protective styles 99% of the time.
    Blessings to you! ***

  2. You are welcome Ebony.

    Yes, I was relaxed when I started my hair journey. I personally prefer my hair texlaxed to relaxed bone straight because it looks thicker. I don't have any problems with my ends. I am able to get my hair straight (ends included) with a flat iron.

    I probably wear my hair out for about a week after texlaxing and straightening and then it's back to protective styling.

    If you are going to be protective styling 99% of the time, why do you want to relax your hair? I'm just curious. I feel that it might not be necessary.

  3. You are absolutely right on the "lye or no lye" relaxer situation cos i have experienced both, i must confess i prefer the "lye relaxer".
    Will continue to follow your blog on this hair growth stuff cos it has motivated me to pay more attention to my hair, i now give my hair more respect.
    You recommend "very cheap and easy to acquire" products.
    Thanks for opening this blog.

  4. Highly educative post. I don't know if you are based in Nigeria but it would be awesome if you could name products that are available locally in your posts for your home based readers. e.g Can we use the regular olive oil that we have here? e.t.c keep up the good work

  5. My front hair has gone scanty, don't really know what I did that caused it but please advice me on how to grow it back. Thanks


    1. Castor oil

    2. The main reason the front or edges of hair thin or go bald is because of braids weaves and pulling back to a pony tail. The constant stress of the hair causes the strands to give up and break off. Try to not braid the edges of hair. Try to brush hair forward in the front, maybe like bangs so you can give the edges a rest. I did it for my edges and they grew back completely. It's not about what you put on the hair topically, its about how you handle the hair. Don't perm less time than every 6 weeks. I like lye relaxers but i've tried both and it doesn't seem to matter. The only thing that made a difference was not braiding or including the front of my hair in the weaves and braids. Also, NO HEAT ON HAIR. After a perm, get some carrot oil cream and put it on your edges then wrap the hair with a bandana to make it flat, leave for 15 minutes, it will be straight. Don't use heat. Only once in a while if you're going out

  6. Hey Lush ! i really enjoy ur blog
    Please what brand of no lye relaxer is good for a very sensitive scalp?
    Plus My front has gone kinda bald due to constant use of bonding glue how or what can I use to bring it back to life ?

  7. OMG u just told me wot has been going wrong with my hair. I switched to no lye relaxer some years back because of the harshness of lye relaxer on my scalp but my hair has not been great since then. I will definitely tell my mum cause she has been complaining about this for years also. Thanks.

  8. When I used to get relaxers I only you no lye. Has anyone ever had a chemical burn??? It feels like you scalp is on FIRE. I can't possible believe either option (lye or no lye) is gentle on scalp. For sensitive scalps I would advice for no chemical on the scalp and just straighten with heat if you have to have straight hair.

    1. A buffer reduces Lye's potency to burn. Thus, a good buffer may be Shea butter, Ghee (India Butter), Coconut,Sesame Safflower Oil or Glycerin Oil (which combines several of these)?
      Vegetable Oils blend in Faster, but Lard or Crisco can blended too. One animal Oil I do like is Mink Oil.

      Play and Tinker! Melt a marshmallow in and you need less Souffl├ęs or crusty gel that crust or wear off anyway.
      Hair loves the sugar and marshmallow is natural one!

      There's cooking Crock/ hand Blender, then the Cosmetic one! It saves $, product, and time learning to make Soap, Shampoo, relaxer, and
      texturizer- months worth.

      Using Google, DIY Glycerin or Lye recipes are easy internet.

      My child is mixed
      and sensitive skin, so I'm grateful to grow up learning this routines. Has my hair's thick appearance, but not its coarse texture.
      Latinas love Keratin and Argan Oil which sre noticed for Softening root and treating split hair.

      To her I'm a Scientist, but in this economy, I wont buy pricey causes of Allergic reaction. God blessd!

  9. Kesh King Ayurvedic Hair Oil, Shampoo & Capules is purely based on safe & harmless ayurvedic theory and Specifically used for deep nourishment of hair roots & scalp, checks loss of hair, stops premature of hair, Alopecia, Baldness, prevents from dandruff, sleeplessness & headache.try it for better result.for more information you may visit

  10. I can only suggest you first use a (sulfate free) flattening shampoo and conditioner (sulfates dry out your hair) then after you condition it, pat your hair dry with a towel and use a pump of argan oil. It’ll smooth the frizz down and make your hair look nice and soft. It’s not oily or heavy, or at least the one I have isn’t, mine is by the Pro naturals brand which is only sold online. It doubles as a heat protectant too so your hair won't burn when you have it relaxed.

  11. Pls I just purchased the Sunny Isle Jamaican black castor oil relaxer kit and I was told that it only softens the natural hair. Is this true cos I still want to have virgin natural hair. Reply asap



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