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Straight Talk: Hair Straightening -- What are my options?


Sit Back and Relax
Chemical relaxers can be damaging to both hair and skin.
Chemical relaxers can be damaging to both hair and skin.
Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock

If you've seen Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair," then you know that chemical relaxers have been the hair straightening method of choice within the African-American community for years. But many people outside that community can and do use chemical relaxers. Basically, relaxers contain high-pH chemicals that break the chemical bonds that give your hair its shape.

It used to be that most relaxers were made with lye (otherwise known as sodium hydroxide), which got a bad rep for damaging hair and skin. Think about lye soap. So now there are a whole bunch of "no-lye" products out there. These no-lye relaxers contain chemicals like calcium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, guanidine carbonate and lithium hydroxide -- that claim to be all-natural and non-damaging. Unfortunately, you can't believe the hype. Really -- do those chemicals sound remotely natural?

Yes, it's true that these chemical relaxers can produce shiny, stick-straight hair. But no matter where those chemicals come from, they still work the same way -- and they can still be incredibly damaging to your hair and scalp. Come on, you know there's a reason the stylist is wearing those plastic gloves -- and it's not just for your protection.

 


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