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FAQ - Choosing The Right Relaxer Strength
Q: I've gone back and forth between regular and super relaxers. Do you think super is harmful? Do you believe regular can get the hair just as straight? Is getting the hair straight more a matter of technique (smoothing) or the relaxer strength? I look forward to your thoughts and expertise on this subject.
A. This is a great question!
For a detailed description of which relaxer to choose, including whether to use lye or no lye relaxer, check out this 20 minute audio interview we did with Dr. Ali Syed of Avlon Industries (makers of Keracare products).
It is definitely worth listening to the entire interview but he specificially addresses relaxer strength at about 16:57 minute mark!
Please note - You must be a member to listen to the audio interview!
Is Super Harmful?
Super is harmful when it is used on the wrong texture of hair. As Dr. Syed says, super is really designed for thick, coarse, resistant hair. Hair that has a medium texture should use normal or regular strength relaxer. And hair that is thin, fine, maturing or color-treated should use a mild relaxer.
He also states in the interview snippet that relaxer strength is more of an indication of how quickly the relaxer processes the hair.
Super works a lot faster than normal and normal works faster than mild. My hair is resistant so it takes a long time for a relaxer to straighten my hair right off the bat. So, I need a relaxer that works quickly to minimize the damage to my hair and scalp. I need it to "get in and get out".
I could use a mild or normal relaxer but it will act slower, which 1) would increase the time my hair is exposed to the chemical, which may cause more harm than good and 2) may not process my hair by the time I start "tingling", leaving me with under processed hair. So, super is the best choice for me.
If you have medium hair that is less resistant, a super relaxer might work too fast and over process the hair. So, a normal relaxer would provide you with just the right amount of processing your texture needs. This also goes for thin or maturing hair. A mild relaxer will process your hair in the correct amount of time with minimal damage.
So, to answer your question, the relaxer strength is the most important aspect of relaxing. Smoothing is done to check how the relaxer is progressing and as a final step to straighten the hair. But, as someone who has been under processed in the past, the hair can be smoothed straight and still not be correctly processed.
The Importance of Performing a Strand Test
I think you absolute best bet is to perform a strand test with both a regular and super strength relaxer on two separate sections of the hair. Trust me, it is absolutely worth the expense of buying two small relaxer kits and doing a strand test. It will allow you to walk into any salon or perform home relaxer treatments with confidence and peace of mind!
How to Perform a Strand Test
I hope this helps!