5 Signs a Relaxer Is Damaging Your Hair

Don't Let Style Get in the Way of Health

Many women love the look and ease of styling they equate with relaxed hair. Instead of fighting humidity with a press and curl, they enjoy straightened tresses that stay that way. While a well-maintained relaxer can provide versatility and easier maintenance, a badly done relaxer can cause irreparable damage. Unfortunately, some of the warning signs are accepted as par for the course. If you experience any of the following during or soon after a relaxer treatment, you may be suffering damage to your hair and/or scalp.

Home relaxer kits offer affordability and convenience, but also invite room for error. Even professional stylists can make mistakes when it comes to applying chemicals. The best way to prevent relaxer damage (and potential hair loss) is to visit a trusted pro who prizes your hair's and scalp's health above anything else. Otherwise, there's a risk that you'll experience any or all of these problems.

01
of 05
Burning is a bad sign when relaxing the hair
Stewart Cohen/Blend Images/Getty Images

Some women believe that "beauty is pain," but that doesn't have to be true. It definitely shouldn't apply to the burning sensation some women feel from relaxer chemicals. Don't think that the pain only happens when a relaxer is left on too long. Your scalp may be sensitive to a certain formulation, and leaving it on for even the minimum time period can cause severe pain.

Too many women wait for the burn, believing their hair will turn out straighter the longer the chemicals stay on. In many cases, bone straight hair is simply overprocessed. Ignoring time frame instructions is a recipe for potential and permanent disaster. As soon as you feel tingling from a relaxer application, rinse it out with plenty of water. Make sure it's lukewarm so that you don't experience even more burning. Better yet, don't wait for a relaxer to "tingle." Burning is not normal. More »

02
of 05

Sores on Scalp

Along with burning, you may experience sores on your scalp soon after getting a damaging relaxer. In some cases, the sores may ooze fluids and/or crust over. This is a serious sign of damage that could lead to infection and/or permanent hair loss.

Again, you might develop sores due to a reaction to the chemicals, no matter how long they're left on your head. You might be allergic or the relaxer may be low-quality (another reason to see a stylist as they have professional products at their disposal). Any relaxer that causes a break in the skin has gone too far.

03
of 05

Thin hair is sometimes unavoidable, but usually only in cases of genetics or natural aging. Some women are plagued by fine hair due to heredity, but others suffer from thinning hair from relaxer damage. Overprocessing is a major cause of hair thinning. Continuing to apply chemicals to already thin hair or damaged follicles may eventually lead to baldness. Instead of trying to relax hair as straight as possible, which often leads to limp tresses that don't hold a style well, cut the time you leave relaxers on. You'll have more body and volume, and lessen the chance of damage. More »

04
of 05

If it seems like your hair isn't growing, it's possible that it's breaking at the same rate (or faster than) it grows. Unless you have a trusted and experienced partner to help you apply a relaxer, it's difficult to do a good job on the back of your head. Overlapping is common and leads to breakage.

Identifying breakage isn't always easy since we normally shed hairs every day (anything between 50-100 is common). If you constantly find short hairs lying around after styling, this is probably breakage instead of shedding. Along with relaxing, you're likely to experience more breakage if you include heat styling in your care routine. More »

05
of 05

Relaxers are designed to break the disulfide bonds in the hair, so by their very nature, they cause damage. Because the hair shaft undergoes such a change, it's weaker than healthy, natural hair (all natural hair isn't healthy). It's not as easy to hold onto moisture, so dryness is often a result. Add the fact that relaxed women often stay away from water until their next shampoo and condition session, and it's clear that chemically straightened hair might not get all the moisture it needs.

This in turn leads to dryness. Oil sheens, sprays and lotions don't actually add moisture; they're designed to hold it in, but hair needs to be moist before adding products. Otherwise, they simply sit on top of the hair shaft and help to keep moisture at bay. More »

Health Trumps All

No matter what style you prefer, unhealthy hair can rob it of its beauty. Chemicals need to be applied properly to avoid serious damage, particularly the type that can't be reversed. If you suffer any of these issues, consider visiting a professional (if you don't already) or taking a break from relaxing for a while.