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Should You Use a Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Relaxed Hair?

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Relaxed hair seems to be quite a trendy buzzword in the hair enthusiast community as of late. But what is it, really? How does it become relaxed in the first place, and why is it so important to use sulfate-free products for its care? Questions, questions, and more questions. 

In truth, all of these questions are often born from people mistaking the process of hair relaxing with what is known as hair re-bonding, and we are here to clear up this misunderstanding once and for all. We will help you understand exactly what chemical processes your hair undergoes when it gets relaxed and what kind of products you should choose to keep it healthy, sturdy, and glamorous post-procedure.

Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  1. Hair Relaxing vs. Hair Re-bonding
  2. Types of Hair Relaxing
  3. How to Take Care of Relaxed Hair
  4. Picking the Best Shampoo for Relaxed Hair

Hair Relaxing vs. Hair Re-bonding

Hair Relaxing 

Hair relaxing implies softening tight curls without straightening them completely. The chemicals used with this method are lye-based and have a high pH level. When left on the hair for too long, they might cause scalp irritation, so make sure you let a trusted professional do your hair relaxing process. Worth noting is that there are alternatives to lye-based chemicals, such as guanidine hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, etc.

Since getting relaxed hair does not completely straighte curly hair, rather acting as a temporary change in your look, it is less expensive than hair re-bonding and does not take a long time, but it does require styling and a lot of care. Once again, this procedure can have serious side effects if not performed correctly, so make sure to do your research beforehand and go only to a licensed hair professional in your area. 

Hair Re-bonding

Unlike hair relaxing, this procedure is a permanent straightening technique tracing its origins to Japanese culture. The chemicals used with this method break the hair bonds, which are later ‘remade’ with a heated flat iron for the straightening part.

However, don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations. Despite the harsh chemicals that are being used and its ‘permanent’ reputation, this is not a one-and-done kind of hair-do. It typically lasts for up to 7 months, similar to a well-cared-for perm. It is a low-maintenance hair-do in the sense that there is no need for styling after getting it done, but it does need proper care to avoid damaging the hair. 

Types of Hair Relaxing

The chemicals used in the process of hair relaxing are divided into two categories:

  • Lye Relaxers, where the active ingredient is sodium hydroxide, having a pH level of up to 14. Normal, untreated hair has a pH of about 4, so it must be applied carefully to avoid burning and irritation. But the good part is that lye-based relaxers do their work very quickly, so there is no need for the chemicals to sit on your hair for too long.
  • Non-lye Relaxers, where the active ingredient is usually guanidine hydroxide, which has a lower pH, therefore the chance of scalp irritation being lower as well. However, the disadvantage of non-lye relaxers is in their highly drying nature, producing mineral deposits that block the hair’s ability to absorb moisture. 

How to Take Care of Relaxed Hair

Now that we have established that your hair is relaxed and not completely straightened, let’s get into how to make the hair live out to its maximum potential. Relaxed hair, while not completely altered, still has a modified structure, so you need to give it the attention it needs. Here are our tried and true methods for relaxed hair self-care:

Cut Back on Washing, but Condition Consistently

Pay attention to your hair washing frequency. Washing relaxed hair too often eventually dries it out, stripping it of its natural oils and not allowing it to heal. Therefore, we recommend that you cut back on your washing schedule, only doing it about 2 times per week. 

On the other hand, make sure that you use a moisturize-focused conditioner after every wash, coupled with an oil-based hair treatment once a week to add that extra bit of moisture to your damaged hair. This ensures a low risk of breakages and split ends, and a lot of added strength to your softened hair. 

Get a Regular Trim, and Talk to Your Stylist

Speaking of split ends, in the considerable span of time that the effects of the procedure can last for, keep getting regular trims, because they are the key to fixing split ends and promoting natural hair growth. More than that, this is the perfect opportunity for you to keep in touch with your stylist. 

Since they are in charge of your hair relaxing procedure, they will, naturally, hold all the answers to keeping your hair healthy and beautiful. They will know the specifics of how to care for it, what kind of products and washing methods to try, and they might even give you a few tips and tricks on how to best maintain its longevity until you come back to the salon for your next trim. 

Use Silk Hair Wraps

Give your hair a bit of pampering and only sleep with it protected by a silk hair cap or scarf. If you tend to toss and turn in your sleep, you can opt for a silk pillowcase instead so that the hair wrap won't fall off. Too expensive? Get one of your old silk scarves that is wide enough to cover your pillow, and say goodbye to sleeping in fear of the dreaded morning frizz. 

How to Choose the Best Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Relaxed Hair

So now you have every little detail down to take care of your relaxed hair, but there’s still a missing puzzle piece – how to choose the best shampoos for relaxed hair. With so many products on the market, all of them making larger-than-life promises, no wonder it’s so hard to make a concrete decision about what type of shampoo and conditioner to get for your new relaxed hair-do! But don’t worry, we’re here to give you the exact pointers on choosing the best shampoo for relaxed hair to keep your mane in the best shape it can be. 

No More Sulfates

We can’t stress this enough: go sulfate-free! We all know by now that the secret to cleaning your hair is to wash it with a lot of foam, but here is the trick: that foam is actually produced by chemical cleaning agents known as sulfates. 

While they are great at their job (perhaps a little too great), if you have chemically-treated relaxed hair, you want to stay as far away as possible from shampoos containing sulfates, as they will strip your hair of its natural oils, making it brittle and incredibly dry. Instead, try a sulfate and paraben-free moisturizing shampoo for relaxed hair that is focused on providing what your relaxed hair needs – moisture through organic nourishment.

Trust in Organic Oils

Organic oils, or the lifeblood of our hair. Shampoos with natural coconut, argan, or castor oils are great for relaxed hair because, after being attacked by harsh chemicals, the oil secretion is barely enough to heal the hair and stop it from getting dried out. This is why nourishing conditioners go hand in with nourishing shampoos – the added moisture will grant your hair the nutrients it needs gently and seamlessly, working together with your scalp rather than against it.  

Argan oil shampoo + conditioner


Use a Clarifying Shampoo

While these are not meant to be used very often, doing a clarifying shampoo wash at least once a month is a good idea. Clarifying shampoos, such as ones with apple cider vinegar extract serve to remove the buildup left from gels, oils, serums and other products. They are also great when your scalp becomes flaky and peels off, resembling dandruff. 

ACV shampoo + conditioner


And now you know! After all the hard work you’ve done in learning how to care for it, we think it's high time you started following your hair's example and get a little bit of relaxation yourself. Trust us, you deserve it. 

Marius Capra

Charismatic copywriter, intrepid linguist, and advertising aficionado. To make a long story short, writing has always been both my greatest passion, and the one thing that would always bring me comfort - whether it was in the form of short stories, poetry, or academic writing. I love to write because I live to express myself as authentically as I can, and I am a firm believer in the fact that words can always do you justice… if you choose the right ones of course.

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