If you have naturally wavy, curly, or coily hair, I’m sure that, at one point, you’ve considered having your hair permanently or temporarily straightened. Admit it. No matter how much you love your curls, taking care of them can be time-consuming, and some products even cost a lot. So with all the struggles that come with having kinky hair, you don’t have to feel ashamed about taking an interest in wanting your hair to be sleek and silky straight.
If I guessed right, I’m sure you’re familiar with at least one or two of the many hair-straightening treatments available for you and many of your fellow curly-headed cuties to try. Assuming that you’ve already heard the terms hair relaxers or hair relaxing before you got to this article, I’m sure you’ve already had a few questions about hair relaxing, like if it’s okay for you to wash your hair before receiving this treatment or not.
In this informative article, we’ll put most of the facts you’ll need to know before scheduling an appointment to have your hair straightened through hair relaxing, whether at home or the salon. To be more specific, this article will be more focused on answering the question, “can I wash my hair before relaxing it?” and “what will happen if I do so?” So if you’re curious about the answers to these questions, scroll down now to know more!
What is Hair Relaxing?
A hair relaxer, by definition, is a type of lotion or cream used by individuals with tight curls or excessively curly hair to make their hair easier to straighten and manage by chemically “relaxing” their natural curls. Hair relaxing, on the other hand, is a hair treatment that involves using hair relaxers to straighten an individual’s hair.
Now, I bet you’re wondering how hair relaxing’s different from other hair straightening treatments, such as the most commonly known one, hair rebonding. Let’s look at the differences and similarities between the two.
Hair Relaxing vs. Hair Rebonding
While both relaxing and rebonding involve using chemicals to straighten one’s hair, the two treatments differ in how it straightens hair, how much it costs, and their results. Let’s compare the two:
Hair relaxing treatments use chemicals that break down and reconstruct the hair’s components to straighten the hair. Usually, hair-relaxing does not completely straighten the hair of the individuals receiving the treatment. What it does is relax very stiff or kinky curls. Most individuals who undergo hair relaxing treatments still need to straighten their hair, that is, if they want it to be completely straight.
This treatment commonly uses lye-based chemicals. Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, is an alkaline substance with a high pH level compared to acids. This alkaline substance can straighten hair instantly but might irritate the scalp if left on for too long. However, curly-heads can opt for non-lye relaxers, such as guanidine hydroxide, if they want to relax their hair but don’t want an irritated scalp.
Hair relaxing treatments by a professional usually cost around 100 to 600 USD.
Hair rebonding treatments use chemicals that change the hair’s natural texture altogether. It breaks the natural bonds within the hair follicles only to rebuild them into a different shape, making hair look straighter than naturally straight hair.
This treatment commonly uses a chemical called formaldehyde, a naturally occurring organic compound that is pungent and colorless. Formaldehyde crosslinks the new design of the hair into a straight alignment after water breaks the hydrogen bonds in the hair.
Hair rebonding treatments by a professional usually cost around 250 to 1,000 USD.
Can you relax your hair after washing it?
Since the chemicals used in hair rebonding need water to break the hydrogen bonds in the hair before it crosslinks the new hair design—it’s safe to say that hair rebonding products work better on freshly washed hair. But does the same apply to hair relaxing? It does not.
So to answer the question, “can you relax your hair after washing it?”: no, you can and should not. Trust me when I say washing or even dampening your hair before a hair-relaxing treatment would not be something you want to do.
When you wash your hair, you wash it with water. I mean, duh! You already knew that. But did you know that when your hair’s exposed to water, whether through hair washes or simply humidity, the hydrogen bonds in your hair become broken? But why does it matter if your hair’s hydrogen bonds break?
According to Anabel Kingsley, “The protein structures of the hair shaft are held together by chemical bonds called disulfide and hydrogen bonds.”. So essentially, hydrogen bonds keep your hair strands from breaking or splitting apart.
Since hair relaxers use chemicals to break down the hair’s components to reconstruct it, if you’ve already broken the hydrogen bonds in your hair from a recent hair wash, chances are you’ll experience breakage.
Another reason is our hair and scalp produce natural oils that protect them from harmful chemicals. By washing your hair, you wash away these natural oils, opening the pores in your scalp, which can lead to the chemicals in hair relaxers being able to burn your scalp and hair.
So if you don’t want to end up with damaged hair or scalp, you should give your hair and scalp enough time to rest—produce new, stronger bonds and protective natural oils—before undergoing a hair-relaxing treatment. It doesn’t matter how harm-free the products you use or the hair-washing routine you follow are. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
How is hair relaxing done?
Now that you know the difference between hair relaxing and hair rebonding and why you can’t wash your hair before relaxing it, here’s a step-by-step process for doing a hair relaxing treatment.
Step 1: Gather the necessary tools and materials
Before starting any process, you should always prepare all the tools and materials needed. Gathering or preparing your tools and materials can prevent pauses in the process.
Here are the tools and materials you’ll need for a hair-relaxing treatment process:
- Relaxer of your choice
- Hair dye brush
- Hair comb
- Hair clips
- Hair salon cape
Step 2: Prep your hair and scalp
Preparing your scalp and hair for a hair-relaxing treatment is the most time-consuming part of the process. You’ll have to avoid washing your hair for seven to ten days before applying any hair relaxer, but you’ll still have to ensure your hair is clean.
Many people believe that having dirty hair will prevent relaxer burns, but this is all a myth. It is better to wash your hair with clarifying shampoo a week before relaxing your hair.
Step 3: Do a patch test and a strand test.
We do patch tests to ensure our skin won’t react badly to the products we’ll apply to our skin. We do strand tests to make sure that our hair reacts as expected and that the processes won’t cause permanent damage to the hair.
Additionally, doing a patch and strand test is crucial if the hairdresser is unsure of the dyes or chemicals the client can be allergic to and doesn’t know what other products have been in the client’s hair in the past.
Step 4: Cover your skin and clothes
Since relaxers contain chemicals that can irritate your skin and damage your clothes, it’s best to wear protective gear, like a hairdresser’s cape and gloves, before undergoing the treatment.
Getting hair relaxers on your skin could lead to burning, blisters, and sometimes even bleeding.
You may also apply a protective cream to your hairline, scalp, and around your ears to minimize the relaxer’s direct contact with your skin.
Step 5: Comb and part your hair
To ensure that the hair relaxer’s applied evenly to the hair, combing the hair to remove any tangles is essential. After detangling the hair, it’s also a good idea to part it into evenly divided sections.
Step 6: Apply the relaxer of your choice
Each relaxer is different. So for this step, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid incorrect use of the relaxer and damaging your hair.
Step 7: Rinse your hair
It’s crucial to rinse off the relaxer as soon as it reaches the given time it should be in your hair. You can find the given time in the manufacturer’s instructions. Leaving the relaxer on for too long or too short in your hair can result in unwanted outcomes.
After rinsing the relaxer off with just water for at least 5 minutes, apply a good amount of conditioner evenly to your hair.
After rinsing your hair with water, your cuticles will be much more open. That’s why you should condition your hair before washing it with shampoo because then the conditioner will be able to penetrate your hair more, making it more effective.
Step 8: Wash your hair with a neutralizing shampoo
Once you’ve rinsed off the conditioner in your hair, wash it immediately with a neutralizing shampoo.
A neutralizing shampoo differs from regular shampoo in that, instead of just stripping away the dirt in your hair, it stops any lingering chemical reactions still present in your hair.
Step 9: Practice good hair care and maintenance
Once you’ve rinsed off everything—the hair relaxer, the conditioner, the neutralizing shampoo—you can finally let your hair dry and rest.
Try your best to refrain from using heated styling tools, like hairdryers, since you already got a bit of hair damage from the treatment.
To keep your relaxed hair looking good, you should get a touch-up every 8-10 weeks because that’s when you’ll notice new hair growth, and then you’ll be able to relax the unrelaxed areas.
Hair relaxing and any other hair treatment has their pros and cons. That’s why you should always do enough research on each treatment before getting or undergoing one.
If you feel like hair relaxing isn’t for you, there’s no need to fret! There are other alternative hair-straightening treatments. And at the end of the day, every hair type and texture is beautiful, so don’t ever think you need straight hair.
Hopefully, this article gave you the information you need about hair-relaxing. Now that you know what might happen if you relax your hair after washing it—don’t even think about washing your hair before a hair-relaxing treatment anymore! See you in my next article!