Hair Question: Lye vs. No Lye Relaxer - The Difference + Pros and Cons

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


On Instagram, one of my followers asked me what the difference was between Lye and No Lye relaxers? Not only is this a great topic, but it's a common question that most relaxed ladies have! So I thought a blog post would be the best way to discuss the difference and open up a conversation about it :)

Lye relaxers - easier on the hair, harsher on the scalp

In lye relaxers, the active ingredient in breaking down the hair bonds is called sodium hydroxide (lye). Lye relaxers typically come premixed in a tub and ready to use. Professionals in salons typically use this type of relaxer. Lye relaxers tend to carry a higher pH and must be applied carefully to avoid irritation/burning to the scalp. Lye relaxers give off a low degree of hair bond breakage that preserves the natural strength and elasticity of the hair*.

No Lye Relaxers - easier on the scalp and harsher on the hair

In no lye relaxers, the active ingredient is guanidine hydroxide (no lye)*. No lye relaxers are packaged in box kits that need to be mixed in order to activate the formula.  No lye relaxers are typically classified as being extremely drying to the hair. After mixing the ingredients together, the chemical reaction within the relaxer creates calcium deposits which then develop on the hair shaft and decrease the hairs ability to absorb moisture. Using a chelating shampoo to remove the mineral deposits can easily resolve this issue.

Let's simplify this a bit further...

Lye Relaxers

Pros
- does not leave drying mineral deposits on the hair (hair feels softer and silkier)
- premixed and ready to use
- low degree of bond breakage = more strength and elasticity left in the hair
- good for several applications

Cons
- higher pH
- harsher on the scalp (can cause burning and scalp irritation) if used incorrectly

No Lye Relaxers

Pros
- lower pH
- less irritating on the scalp

Cons
- leaves drying mineral deposits on the hair
- good for only one application
- takes longer to process the hair (could lead to over-processed hair if left on for too long because of slow processing time)


I've always been an avid Lye relaxer user, predating my hair journey, as I used to get my hair done at the salon and they only used lye relaxers. Box relaxer wasn't even an option! Nor did I know the difference at the time. For the past 9 years I've been using the ORS Olive Oil Professional Lye Relaxer in Normal Strength and I love the results I get after using it - this is nothing new LOL! Don't think I'll switch anytime soon :)

What type of relaxer do you use? Lye or No Lye? Have you tried both? Which do you prefer?


*Source: The Science of Black Hair

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Hi, I'm Val aka Sunshyne!
I’m the owner of Hairlicious Inc. and Hairlista.com. Thank you for visiting.

For years I struggled to understand my relaxed hair. I created this blog to track my journey, set backs and progress!

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