How Long Do Relaxers Last

How Long Do Relaxers Last

Hair relaxers are hair care products used in many salons or at home for straightening and making hair flexible for curls and styling. Hair relaxers work by straightening the hair and penetrating the cuticle and cortex layers to make the natural curl pattern less tight and open for styling. Using or applying hair relaxers can require a significant time commitment out of your day which should make you carefully plan and consider when you want to apply it to your hair.

Here’s the information you need on just how long your hair relaxer will last.

How Long Do Relaxers Last

On average, a regular no-lye, chemical hair relaxer lasts six to eight weeks total. However, they can be stretched out to ten to twelve weeks, which allows for the hair to breathe and have enough new growth to have a touch-up done. It is a relatively irreversible treatment after you get it, though it still somewhat counts as temporary because of the new hair growth that will occur after some time.

Unlike Keratin treatments which wash out after several months, chemical relaxers are permanent until new hair grows over. Since using hair relaxers chemically alters your hair’s natural texture or “curl pattern,” there is no going back to your original hair texture.

However, you may have to visit the salon or purchase an at-home relaxer kit for touch-ups or retouching periodically when new hair grows.  More often than not, women who get relaxers in their hair have tightly coiled, curly, or frizzy hair that they’d like to easily style and in turn, would like their hair to be straighter.

What are Hair Relaxers and How do they Work

A hair relaxer is a lotion or cream that chemically alters the cuticles and cortexes of the curls to form straighter and flowy hair. Relaxers straighten the hair by using chemicals that break the disulfide bonds of the cortex, which is the underlying layer of the cuticle, and structurally reform them into a straight pattern. The cortex is a bunch of intertwining strands of protein and the hair relaxers primarily work on this layer.

The types of chemicals used in relaxers vary, including ammonium thioglycolate, sodium hydroxide, guanidine hydroxide, and sodium thioglycolate. The type of hair relaxer one uses depends on the hair type.

Which Hair Relaxers Should You Use

As previously stated, the hair relaxer you choose depends on your hair type. The strength of the relaxer depends on the number of active chemicals within the cream. Normal hair needs a regular strength relaxer. Those with thick and coarse hair are usually advised to use super strength relaxers.

Although super strength relaxers are prevalent and common to use, the increased amount of active chemicals can make the hair brittle and cause breakage. In this case, the regular strength relaxer is the best option and for the most part, it can effectively take care of both thick and normal hair.

The best hair relaxers are those that contain ammonium thioglycolate, which is the least damaging chemical in use for relaxing since it corrodes the hair follicles the least. It is always better to check the active ingredients in any relaxer you want to use before applying it. If ammonium thioglycolate cannot be found or is not being used, guanidine hydroxide is the next best option, though it is slightly stronger with its chemicals.

How Long Do Relaxers Last on Color-Treated Hair

Color-treated and relaxed hair usually last between six to eight weeks. However, if the hair is previously damaged from multiple coloring treatments, the exposure to chemicals from the relaxer can worsen the hair’s condition. The problem stems from the fact that lifting color may contain ammonia and peroxide, which can cause breakage. Instead, sticking to safer, semi-permanent, and temporary colors is best, such as colors that are meant to hide gray hairs or darken the hair tone.

Additionally, hennas should be avoided, since they are even more likely to make hair lose moisture than other color treatments. If however, you have already planned to color your hair before getting a relaxer treatment, it’s recommended you color the hair a minimum of two to four weeks prior to relaxing.

Do not color your hair right after you get a relaxer, since you need to let the hair breathe, and rushing into another treatment can over process, over lighten, and make hair more vulnerable. The formulation of the hair dye should not be too strong. Dyes should not contain ammonia or bleach and stay away from ultra-light blondes and peroxide-heavy brands, as well.

How to Relax Hair Using Hair Relaxers

The process of applying hair relaxers to your hair is a ritual within itself. The scalp is covered with a very light coat of petroleum jelly, which provides a barrier so that the cream does not penetrate the hair all at once and causes chemical burns. For those that have never had a relaxer treatment before, it’s wise to apply the lotion only to the ends first and then work the product up to the roots, which in turn, smooths out the hair strands.

Because of body heat, the roots respond at a faster rate and therefore take less time, whereas the ends of the hair take much longer.  One thing to make sure of, whether you’re at the salon or home, is to never relax the hair to the point of being as straight as a pencil. If fully straightened, the hair will take on a flat and lifeless volume and texture.

Also, hair that is over-relaxed thins out over time. Rather than making it as straight as a bone, relax the hair to a semi-straight level and leave a hint of texture behind, which will give the hair bounce and volume. This relaxing process must be done quickly and carefully.

Each relaxer has a different processing time, so be sure to follow each specific time frame. After being rinsed with warm water to remove the cream, a conditioner is applied in order to raise the pH level in the hair. Afterward, a neutralized shampoo is applied several times and thoroughly scrubbed through the hair. Shampooing deactivates the alkalization of the chemical process. This is followed up with a moisturizing treatment which rehydrates the hair.

How Long Should Relaxer be Left in the Hair Before Washing

Before rinsing, relaxers should be left in for ten to fifteen minutes. If the relaxer is left in for longer, it can cause severe damage. The first feeling of burning sensation or mint tingling in the scalp indicates that the relaxer has been left in for too long and you should immediately rinse the product out of your hair.

It is essential to carefully watch over the hair during the application process since the active chemicals can have severe consequences. Chemical sores can develop and/or the hair follicles can be burned so extremely that it may permanently damage the scalp and leave bald spots in the affected area where hair can never grow again.

Importance of Hair Relaxers

Despite obvious downsides to relaxing your hair, such as brittleness, breakage, and permanent chemical damage, there are in fact upsides to using relaxers that keep the hair treatment popular. For one, hair relaxers do a lot to prevent tangling and knotting.

Additionally, relaxers make hair easier to style since it is not necessary to pre-straighten with a hair iron every day. Perhaps one of the most favorable benefits is that hair relaxers make the hair practically repellent to weather. Whether it be rain, wind, or high humidity, relaxed hair will stay straight no matter what.

How to Care for Relaxed Hair

There are several steps you can take to properly care for your relaxed hair until your next appointment with your stylist or hair retouch at home. Protein treatments are a great option. Since the relaxing process breaks down protein bonds in the strands, giving the hair a protein treatment after the relaxing process helps to rebuild the hair strands.

Deep conditioning once a week is also a great method. An important thing to remember is to only relax when necessary and not simply when a small amount of new growth comes in. For your own hair’s sake, it’s always good to wait for the recommended amount of time between touch-ups.

Though we’ve already stressed other methods of repairing and rehydrating, having a good daily moisturizer for your freshly straightened hair is also a good idea. Not only will daily moisturization keep the hair from becoming brittle, but it will also keep the hair feeling smooth and tamed.

How Long Does Relaxers Last After Opening and Mixing

After opening and mixing, the relaxer cannot last for an inordinate amount of time or saved for later use. Once the relaxer base and activation product are mixed, they have to be used within a ten to twelve-hour timeframe, after which, any extra relaxer must be disposed of. The expired hair relaxer is no longer “active” or stable and will therefore not be effective on the hair at all. However, hair relaxer can never go bad if the components are not mixed.

How Long Does Relaxed Hair Last Before it Needs to be Retouched 

After getting a relaxer treatment, you should have between seven to ten weeks before you may need to relax or retouch the hair again. When getting touch-ups, either the stylist or yourself should confine the new relaxer to new growth on top of the hair that had previously been relaxed. Applying relaxer onto the older and already treated hair should definitely be avoided since it will only overexpose older hair to more chemicals. Failing to avoid any overlap can result in heavy damage to the hair.


So it’s clear that hair relaxer’s long-lasting results have both benefits and consequences. However, as a very common treatment that does not show signs of slowing in popularity, it is reasonable to say that there are important precautions and decisions to be made in order to have the best outcome for your hair, such as understanding how your hair type not only correlates to the type of relaxer to use, but also determines how long your relaxer will last, and the proper care steps needed to keep your hair on track for another healthy touch-up.

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