What Is the Difference Between Hydroxide & No-Lye Relaxers?


The way you decide to wear your hair is more than just a personal reflection, it's also a commitment because most hairstyles can't just be changed on a whim. One of the more permanent ways to wear your hair is to opt for a relaxer. For the most part, relaxers are used by African-American women to straighten their naturally coarse/tightly curled texture, but not all relaxers are the same. More than a few differences exist between hydroxide and no-lye relaxers, but the outcome is the same.

Hydroxide Relaxers

Also known as metal relaxers, hydroxide relaxers include iconic metals such as lithium, sodium and potassium. When combined with hydrogen and oxygen, ionic compounds are formed, known as relaxers. While not solely used to straighten hair, calcium can also be added to hydroxide relaxers. Once the relaxer is formed, it contains these active ingredients: lithium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide. While a relaxer is on your hair, lanthionization occurs, which alters your natural curl pattern permanently by elongating the cortex.

About No-Lye Relaxers

A no-lye relaxer uses some of the same chemicals as a hydroxide relaxer, but not all. No-lye relaxers contain guanidine hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. As a result of these active ingredients and the absence of sodium hydroxide, no-lye relaxers are considerably milder to the hair, making them ideal for those with thinner hair or a sensitive scalp. Additionally, this type of relaxer is best for those who want to permanently relax their hair for the first time.

Hydroxide Relaxers Effect on Hair

Hydroxide relaxers are also known as lye relaxers because they contain sodium hydroxide, which is a stronger chemical and best used on those who don't have an overly sensitive scalp or extremely thin hair. Candidates for this relaxer include those who have extremely thick and coarse hair because a hydroxide relaxer is guaranteed to get it completely straight from root to tip. It also straightens the hair more quickly than no-lye relaxers and should not be left on long to avoid any severe hair loss. While hydroxide relaxers make hair straighter and require less frequent touch-ups due to the presence of stronger chemicals, they should never be applied by anyone other than a professional.

No-Lye Relaxers' Effect on Hair

In recent years, many women have chosen no-lye relaxers over hydroxide relaxers because the long-term effects are less damaging and severe to your hair, although the hair doesn't get quite as straight. No-lye relaxers are also good if you only want to straighten certain areas of your hair, such as the roots. The mild nature of these relaxers makes them great to use on young girls' hair and on the manes of those who seek a more semipermanent outcome. No-lye relaxers do cause calcium buildup, but this can easily be removed through a thorough washing and conditioning.

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