Can I Strip a Relaxer from My Hair?

There's a Reason It's Also Called a Perm

Nothing, not even a stylist, can strip a relaxer from the hair.
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Whether you've had relaxed hair for decades or you recently applied a chemical straightener after trying -- and not liking -- your natural texture, sometimes women want to get rid of a relaxer in a hurry. However, is there really a way to quickly get these chemicals out of your tresses without the dreaded cut? Let's separate the myths from the facts so that you can retain as much healthy hair as possible, while still being informed on how the whole process works.

Can I Strip a Relaxer from My Hair?

With the rise in natural hair's popularity, several myths abound about removing a relaxer from relaxed hair. Some you may have heard:

  • You can wash your hair with dish detergent to strip the relaxer from hair
  • A vinegar wash will strip a relaxer
  • A mayonnaise and egg concoction can do it

So what's the deal if you want to change your chemically straightened hair back to an Afro? Can you really do it overnight? How can you really remove a relaxer from your hair?

The Real Answer

There is no miracle product that can strip a relaxer from previously relaxed hair. A relaxer is permanent. That's why the term "perm" is so often used interchangeably with "relaxer." Now you can certainly wash your hair with detergent in an attempt to get the relaxer out, but you'll probably end up with dried-out, roughed-up cuticles that feel hard and brittle. Nothing like healthy natural hair at all.

This approach is definitely not recommended because you might damage your hair this way.

The only surefire way to remove a relaxer is to cut off the processed hair. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to getting rid of relaxed strands. When these chemicals are applied to your tresses, they break down the protein bonds in your hair in order to change the texture.

Once these bonds are broken, they don't repair themselves.

So, if you want a head of natural hair, there's no product that will give it to you overnight. If your mane is currently relaxed, there's no choice but to wait it out. Hair grows an average of 1/2 inch per month, so in six months, with proper care, you should see about three inches of growth; maybe less if you get regular trims to get rid of split and dry ends. That sounds like a long time when you want your relaxer gone right now, but returning to natural hair is often described as a journey and with good reason. Journeys take time and you tend to learn a lot along the way.

Whether you decide to transition short or long-term, or you take the bold step to big chop and get your natural tresses back all at once, as long as you don't continue to relax or touch-up your tresses, you'll eventually become natural again.

How Much Do I Cut to Get Rid of Relaxed Hair?

If you decide to cut away all chemically processed hair immediately, how much hair do you trim if you want to leave your natural texture intact? You'll have to think back to your last touch-up, keeping in mind the 1/2 inch per month average growth rate. If it's been four months since you last processed your mane, you probably have around two inches of new growth or natural hair.

Measuring out from your scalp, snip away anything past two inches. You may have to "dust" the ends to make sure you remove all processed hair. Your trusted stylist can do this for you, but some women like starting their natural journeys themselves and feel empowered by trimming their own hair.