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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Lye Relaxer?

Alex Tree
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Some pros of a lye relaxer are that it can straighten hair faster than a no-lye relaxer and it does not need to be mixed with an activator. No-lye relaxers can take more than 20 minutes, while lye relaxers can take as little as 10. In addition, it is ready to use instead of needing to be thoroughly mixed with other bottles of ingredients. Lye relaxers have cons, such as being capable of causing more damage in less time than no-lye relaxers. Any kind of relaxer should always be applied by a professional hair stylist to avoid burns and hair loss, but lye relaxers in particular are very dangerous when used by someone without experience.

A lye relaxer works more quickly to straighten hair than a no-lye relaxer. Some people note that it produces better results in addition to working faster. This is because it contains a stronger chemical than the no-lye alternative. Lye relaxers were the first type of hair relaxers, discovered around 1910 by a former slave working in a sewing machine repair shop. The discovery was an accident, but Garrett Augustus Morgan went on to create a line of beauty products.

Another pro of using a lye relaxer is that it does not need to be mixed with an activator, like no-lye relaxers. It is ready to use and can be used multiple times. The instructions on a no-lye relaxer usually state that any leftovers must be thrown away.

Both lye and no-lye relaxers are capable of producing disastrous results when not used properly. Severe hair damage, hair loss, and burns on the scalp are some potential side effects if a relaxer is left on a person’s head too long. A lye relaxer, however, is made with a stronger chemical that can cause these effects faster than a no-lye relaxer. Both kinds of relaxers are best left to professional use.

Due to the nature of a lye relaxer, it is generally advisable to find a professional to apply it. Such an application can be expensive, especially if a person has a lot of hair. In addition, a lye relaxer needs to be touched up as the person grows new hair, which can be equally as expensive because it is time consuming. Stylists must be careful not to apply the relaxer to already relaxed hair, because it can cause the older hair to break off due to excessive damage.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and BeautyAnswered contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.

Discussion Comments

By SarahGen — On Nov 01, 2013

@fify-- The downside of no-lye relaxers is that they leave mineral deposits in the hair. So after a while, it makes hair dull and you can see the grayish residue. Lye relaxers don't cause this because they work differently.

By fify — On Oct 31, 2013
@donasmrs-- I know that lye relaxers work better for some people but they don't work for everyone.

I think every individual needs to figure out the best type of relaxer for their hair on their own. Everyone's hair is different and has different needs. I, personally, get much better results with a no-lye relaxer. Lye relaxers are more damaging for me and cause a lot of shedding several weeks after the treatment.

It's probably a good idea to consult with an experienced hair stylist and ask for a recommendation. I don't want to advise anyone to use a lye relaxer or a no-lye relaxer because I can't predict the results you're going to get with either. It depends on the type of hair you have and how damaged it already is.

So I think that these recommendations online should be taken with a pinch of salt.

By donasmrs — On Oct 31, 2013

Lye relaxers are stronger than no-lye relaxers but for some reason, they're not very damaging to my hair. I used no-lye relaxers for a few years and had terribly damaged, dry hair. After switching to lye relaxers, I've noticed that my hair is not as dry and I don't have as many split ends as I used to. I think lye relaxers are much better for this reason.

Alex Tree

Alex Tree

Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and BeautyAnswered contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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