In the first part of this post we were just getting into the assessment behind the use of a relaxer versus regular heat. We examined the bond structure of the hair strand and how each is altered based on heat or chemical use. Building on that, the story then gets a little sticky.
When we add minimal heat as mentioned before we are solely affecting the hydrogen bonds of the hair. This means you can essentially wear your hair straight and go right back to curly if you choose to do so as long as you are taking all the proper precautions by using heat protectant*.
Sometimes high heat can adversely affect the proteins that form the bonds in our hair causing the hair structure to be permanently altered, this is known as heat damage that leaves originally curly hair straight or wavy.
Some women choose to use heat as their main source of altering the bonds of the hair so that the hair is straighter and straighter with every heat application. We like to affectionately call this process heat training with a smile. Others however may look at it as intentionally damaging your hair for the sake of having straight hair (side eye and knitted brow).
It’s worth a mention that if you are natural and wear your hair straightened all the time, you are in fact heat training your hair anyway.
In contrast when you relax your hair, you are making the choice to permanently alter the bonds of the hair to ensure that it remains straight. Relaxers in this way are similar to heat training because they are both controlled methods of altering the structure of your hair and in doing so you have created a mane that is easier for you to handle.
Now applying the term damage to either scenario is definitely too strong a word with some very negative connotations because both relaxed and heat trained hair can in fact be very healthy and women have achieved their goals even after altering the structure of their hair.
Truly damaged hair is defined as hair that has lost it’s structural integrity, tensile strength, elasticity, is unnaturally porous, dull, limp and brittle. Quite a mouthful huh? Just like our ladies on the weight loss journeys if there is no balance there is no success, so we still have to be mindful in either scenario to prevent true damage.
For naturals excessive heat can cause your hair to break without the proper precautions like using a heat protectants. You also ought to be getting regular protein treatments and adding moisture back into the strands often. But even with heat protectants, flat ironing and blow drying too often will lead to damaged hair. So nope, no reprieve for you ladies who think it’s ok to ‘touch up’ your hair with heat multiple times per week.
In the same way using a relaxer excessively or incorrectly can lead to dull thin breaking hair, not to mention scalp damage. We’ve all seen those disturbing pictures of women with chemical burns from relaxer right? It is important to use relaxers with the utmost of care stretching for 12+ weeks to ensure that there is plenty of new growth and so little chance of overlapping with previously processed hair. Deep treating your hair alternately with protein and moisture is also the gold standard for length retention.
So which is better, relaxer or regular heat use?
The answer is: It’s your choice but err on the side of natural hair. Bear in mind the limitations of your hair texture. If you have fine hair may not be able to handle either relaxer or regular heat without breakage in which case remaining ‘unaltered natural’ may be the only option open to you.
Why this conclusion?
If you enjoy wearing curly hair as well as straightened hair then clearly, remaining natural is the best way to go, let’s face it curly dos like braid outs look helluva better on natural hair anyway!
If on the other hand you never wear your natural hair curly, from a purely tensile strength point of view, it probably makes little difference if you decide to flat iron* periodically or go for a texlax. The problem with chemicals however is that there is a much narrower margin of error and once hair has crossed into the over-processed side, there is little you can do to prevent breakage.
I distinctly remember a thread on a forum a few years ago of a woman who had been texlaxing for years. One time, after following her usual routine to touch up, her roots got bone straight! As expected, a setback and a major haircut soon followed. You see now why I say that you should err on the side of natural hair?
Further to that, from an observational point of view, you only have to browse through youtube or blogs to see scores of women who have grown long and clearly healthy hair both via relaxers and natural with heat use. Yet the number of naturals heavily outweigh the relaxed. Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying!
There you have it folks do you agree or disagree?