Photo: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
When hair has too much oomph or a shape you don't like, sometimes the only way to get it under control is to use a chemical product. Texturizers and relaxers are the two main choices. What is best for you depends on the look you want and what your hair is like, as well as the exact chemicals in the texturizer or relaxer you use.
When you look at the ingredients in a relaxer or texturizer, you'll see that the chemicals in these products are often the same. Most commonly, they contain sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or ammonium thioglycolate. These chemicals work by breaking the bonds in your hair so that the strand can change shape. If you're thinking that texturizers are better than relaxers because the chemicals are different and therefore somehow safer, you're likely wrong.
Even though you might see the exact same chemicals listed on texturizer and relaxer packages, relaxers and texturizers aren't always the same in terms of how concentrated the chemicals are. Texturizers often have lower chemical concentrations. They're formulated this way specifically because you're trying to break fewer bonds in the hair and get a nice wave instead of bone-straight locks. Also, texturizers are not left on the hair as long as relaxers are. From this standpoint, texturizers can be a little better than relaxers, because they leave more elasticity in your hair and result in somewhat less damage. As chemical agents, however, texturizers still are not "natural." They still remove flexibility from the strand and damage it, so even though relaxed hair might be weaker than texturized hair, you can't view texturizers as completely hair-safe.
Chemical formulation put to bed, whether a texturizer or relaxer is better usually comes down to your specific hair type. For instance, if you've got waves in your hair instead of tight curls, a mild texturizer might be all you need to remove the wave and get a straight mane; it makes little sense to use a stronger, more damaging product if you can avoid it. If you've got more corkscrew curls than Goldilocks, though, a mild texturizer might not be strong enough to give you the sleek results you're looking for. In this case, the hands-down choice likely would be the relaxer.
In deciding which hair-straightening product is best, maintenance also matters. A relaxer might take out tight curls, for instance, but when your hair starts to grow out, the difference between your relaxed hair and the new growth can be undesirably dramatic. You might not be able to get away with more time between touch-ups the further you go from your original hair. For this reason, sometimes a texturizer is better than using a relaxer to go super-straight. This depends on your beauty routine and habits, which are determined to a large degree by your overall lifestyle.