A Few Reasons Your Hair Relaxer Might Be Causing Breakage And Shedding


I have relaxed hair that is medium length. I relax my hair about every 7 weeks. A few days after washing my hair, it is always dry, brittle and lifeless. I also notice that when I get my hair relaxed and I comb my hair when it is wet, a lot of hair comes out. Do you know what I can do to stop my hair from shedding/falling out and being dry?

To be frank we do not talk about relaxers a lot, even though we do have articles addressing relaxers. We do however receive enough questions about the effects of relaxers to make it a very relevant topic. Many of us still wear relaxers and the question above is one of the common questions we get asked. We have women who just cannot figure out what could possibly be the cause of some of the hair loss shedding and other issues they have when they relax. The thing is we might just have the answer:

Lets start out with a little history

Hair relaxing became very popular in the 80’s, after people realized the jheri curl couldn’t give them versatility and was too greasy. No lye relaxers were formulated due to the complaints of burning from women who were getting relaxer services. No lye relaxers were presented as gentler/milder form of relaxer without the lye.

Women happily grabbed boxes of relaxer and applied their chemicals at home to save money, and for convenience. When they’re hair became dry and brittle, and began to shed they couldn’t understand why their hair did not look like the models on the boxes.

And now a little science

There was actually a pretty good reason for this, and this can get a bit sciency so bear with me, you see the no lye relaxers come in two forms calcium hydroxide and lithium hydroxide. (CaOH is the chemical formula for calcium hydroxide.) The OH at the end of this compound is actually the base or lye component. The calcium causes deposits on the hair, causing it to become dry and brittle.

Because hair consists of three layers and relaxer penetrates to the second layer of the hair to break polypeptide (protein) bonds. The cuticle (first layer of the hair) remains open if relaxer is just rinsed and neutralized after processing. This process can cause splitting, shedding, and breakage.

In order for relaxed hair to remain healthy avoidance of relaxers containing Calcium Hydroxide should be avoided at all costs. Not only does the Calcium result in dryness, but the neutralizer in the box is not sufficient to remove traces of relaxer from the hair. Which leads to hair loss and large amounts of shedding especially around the hairline and temples.

After a relaxer the cuticle or first layer of the hair is opened and neutralizer removes traces of relaxer from the hair. What the hair needs is a stabilizer or a conditioner with a low pH to return the hair back to its optimal acidic pH balance and seal the cuticle and rearrange the polypeptide bonds which were broken during application of the relaxer.

After 3-5 mins hair can be neutralized thoroughly. Application of a moisturizing or deep conditioner and rinsing and styling will complete the process. In order to prevent over-lapping, meaning the relaxer touching the ends of the hair which leads to over -processing and dryness you can apply a conditioner to the ends of your hair so that relaxer will not have direct contact with previously relaxed hair.

If you are relying on a professional cosmetologist ensure that the towel which was used to drape you before the procedure is changed afterwards. Enjoy healthy relaxed hair!

Check out sonyabeonit as she gives her daughter a relaxer:

Originally posted 2014-06-18 20:00:20.

About Cindy

Known to many as, “Ms. Cindy,” Cindy Tawiah is the creator and owner of the Diva By Cindy hair care system and its philanthropic efforts, The Diva Project. Inspired by a chemistry teacher, at the age of sixteen, Cindy began experimenting with making beauty products. Her love of chemistry never left her, and in 2007, Cindy created the Diva By Cindy hair care product line.

About Cindy

Known to many as, “Ms. Cindy,” Cindy Tawiah is the creator and owner of the Diva By Cindy hair care system and its philanthropic efforts, The Diva Project. Inspired by a chemistry teacher, at the age of sixteen, Cindy began experimenting with making beauty products. Her love of chemistry never left her, and in 2007, Cindy created the Diva By Cindy hair care product line.


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  1. Leonie Witter Strachan
    Leonie Witter Strachan

    I regularly relax my hair, whenever I get my regrowth done, as soon as get home I gently wash my hair again then apply a deep conditioning treatment like Osmo deep conditioning masque, then wrap my head with clingfilm for about 15mins. Then on on with some Moroccan oil and let it dry naturally. Seems to keep my breakage to a minimum

  2. Sherrie Tamara
    Sherrie Tamara

    I’m relaxed again after 3 1/2 of being natural. I found out if I keep my routine the same as when I was natural then breakage stays at a minimum. I mostly air at home.

  3. Ni-Ni Henderson
    Ni-Ni Henderson

    I guess it just varies from person to person because I’ve never had breakage or shedding. I suggested a product to someone who has been natural her whole life and it stopped those issues for her because hers was excessive!

  4. Kelly Jamila
    Kelly Jamila

    I get slight breakage and shedding on my relaxed hair. . then again I’m only human =_=;

  5. Shea L.

    I agree with Ni-Ni. I definitely think the breakage depends on the person, the product, and their hair care routine. Not all relaxers work the same on everyone’s hair, and everyone doesn’t always take very good care of their hair.

    XoXo Shea L. ☞☞☞ kissmychocolate.com

  6. Ca
    Ca'metra Willis

    OK, every 7 wks is way too often. Stretch between relaxers. I go up to 4 or 5 months, with MBL hair. and adopt a no heat healthy hair regime and a healthy diet.

      1. LaShawn Jackson

        they recommend eight weeks but the average persons hair does not grow fast enough to have atleast 3 full inches of new growth in 8 wks. I relax my APL hair every 6 months and follow up with a protein treatment, this has grown my hair out tremendously.

  7. Sherry Miles
    Sherry Miles

    All hair sheds. It matters if it sheds excessively. Breakage? It can be remedied with proper care and diet. I had no issues with it relaxed. I have no issues with it natural.

  8. Dionne Smith
    Dionne Smith

    The night before my relaxer I put conditioner on my ends. My stylist does not leave relaxer on til its bone straight. I use moisturizer shampoo n conditioner and sit under dryer with conditioner. I also apply a leave in….no dryness or breakage here

  9. Toyin

    i have BSL relaxed hair , and i too do not experience shedding on my relaxer day….i do however think relaxing after 7 week is too soon and for me waiting 4-5 is too long lol
    i tend to relax every 12 weeks but hey! you do you!

  10. LaShawn Jackson

    The mistake that a lot of ladies are making is relaxing the hair way too often. 7 week does not allow enough time for sufficient new growth to avoid overlapping the chemical onto previously relaxed hair. Stretching your relaxer 6 months or more gives your hair more time to grow and maintain its health.

  11. Vedejah Scroggins
    Vedejah Scroggins

    Relaxers work for some people my moms hair can handle it mine can’t she also can’t go natural I can you have to do what’s best for you personally there are some people with relaxers that don’t need them and need to stop there are some people trying to go natural and need to stop lol

  12. Grabiella Lucas
    Grabiella Lucas

    The truth is relaxers damage ALL types of hair. It’s bad for every type of hair! The difference is that some scalp can take it better then others. And there’s no such thing as “I can’t go(return) natural” you were BORN natural so that the biggest BS I’ve ever heard people say

    1. Blaque Chyna
      Blaque Chyna

      As you said relaxers damage hair so therefore when some go back to natural…its damaged Nd not the same. I haven’t had a relaxer in 15 years but I hate the result now. I went from 3c/4a to a hot mess!

    2. Grabiella Lucas
      Grabiella Lucas

      You’re hair changes every +/-7 years it’s never the same as when you were younger. And it also depends on how you treat your hair. You can’t be wearing wigs and weaves all time, not using the proper products have a poor dieet and expect your natural black hair to be great. (Not saying you do, but most people with damaged natural black hair is because of those things). When I decide to return natural I’ve been relaxing 10 years before that. My hair was dry and brittle for about 6 months. So I made research on my hair type changed my dieet, use natural hair products, Started exercising and my hair is looking and feeling better then ever.

    3. Grabiella Lucas
      Grabiella Lucas

      You see Im not saying people should al return natural. What I’m ttying to say is that to much people have stupid excuses te explain why they still wanna relax their hair. I mean if you wanna relax and live that life that’s you. But don’t come with stupid excuses like “I can’t go natural” or “my hair to nappy” and other bs like that.

    4. Jamila Kelly
      Jamila Kelly

      what if it’s not “bs”? o.O; yOu’re assuMing everyone has the same type of hair when you say that their excuses are “bs”. Maybe they did their research too or maybe all the facts about your hair or “black hair” might not fit them either ^^;
      my mom is DoMinican and my dad is black. I can guarantee my hair is not what you would expect and my moms either so when people come up with reasons or “excuses” why they do what they do first off don’t let it bother you so much and second just remember that when you yourself say things like “I change my diet I exercise” that those are reasons or “excuses” too 😛

    5. Grabiella Lucas
      Grabiella Lucas

      Why did you think I’m assuming that everyone has the same type of hair? Ofcourse I know that everyone has a different type of hair. And yes those are some bs excuses. How can someone not return natural? Where they born with a perm? Or a wig? Or a weave? So it is bs. Most people are just to lazy, have the wrong expactations, don’t any research, has no patience or are just to ashamed of how their natural hair looks. Other just don’t like their own natural hair. And I really don’t care if people wanna keep relaxing their hair. If they wanna keep damaging their scalp and hair that them do whatever you want or have to. But atleast but true about it and don’t use stupid excuses like I can’t go natural. Everyone can!

    6. Vedejah Scroggins
      Vedejah Scroggins

      My mother cannot go natural because every natural expensive hair care product and even the cheap old school stuff won’t work for her plus straightening and pressing her hair literally fried it we tried for three weeks and it burned it every time and we had to keep cutting out the burned hair it’s better for her to perm I don’t know what’s up with her hair and scalp but it just won’t work and if she does nothing to it but grease it and comb it like I do it comes out in her combs and brushes it’s better for her because her hair doesn’t break and she’d like mine does she doesn’t have to hard flat iron or press it for some it actually is better to perm it it’s not that she doesn’t like her hair natural it itself doesn’t like to be natural and her head was literally white from all the dandruff even after we moisturized it and greased her scalp plus her edges got really bad around her ears after about two months she just gave it because nothing worked there are some people who just can’t do the natural thing

  13. Joycelyn Cannon
    Joycelyn Cannon

    Ive been natural for 2.5 years and love it! I was tired of the constant breakage, shedding and maintenence of relaxed hair. I just knew that after I big chopped whatever my hair texture was I was gonna embrace and love it and gather knowledge on how to care for it. It worked! My hair is the longest and healthiest it’s ever been 🙂

  14. Charlene Cha LaBranche
    Charlene Cha LaBranche

    Everybody natural isn’t always soft and curly! So yes natural hair on everybody isn’t always nice.
    But relaxers are harsh products some ppl hair take it good others don’t.
    Even w a perm you should treat your with natural stuff like avocado oils, deep conditioning treatments

  15. Jacci Moore
    Jacci Moore

    I know you should never wash you’re hair then go to the salon to get a perm, like I did long ago, terrible.

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