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Want to relax your natural curls into a straighter style? Allow us to guide you.

Naturally coiled or curled hair is beautiful, but sometimes it’s nice to change things up.

One of the ways to do this without constant upkeep is with a relaxer – a cream or lotion designed to permanently straighten hair.

Many people leave this sort of thing to their stylists, but it’s entirely possible to do it yourself at home.

How relaxers work

Scientifically speaking, relaxers break the disulfide bonds that are found deep inside your hair fibers, reforming them while the hair is held straight; essentially, they work by reshaping your hair fibers directly.

This means they need to be pretty powerful, so it’s worth taking the time to use them properly.

How to use relaxers at home

First off, make sure you’ve done an allergy test, including testing the relaxers both on your skin and on a couple of strands of your hair. This is to make sure there aren’t any adverse effects.

You’ll also want to make sure your scalp is in good shape – and already irritated scalp can be subject to unpleasant burning if you’re not careful. If you have any scalp problems, deal with these first.

For instance, if you have dandruff, give yourself a couple of weeks on a good anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner.

You’ll then want to take another week without washing your hair, to ensure that there’s no irritated skin on your scalp.

This is because you’re more likely to experience an unpleasant burning sensation on irritated areas of your scalp.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to protect your skin: use the protector included with your relaxer, or petroleum jelly, around your hairline, parting, ears and the back of your neck to do this. Make sure every exposed area of skin is covered.

Because each product is different, it’s important to make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely – this isn’t the place for experimentation.

Wear gloves throughout the process and pay close attention to the amount of time you spend applying the product and leave it on your hair.

You will usually need to combine two products (the cream and the activator) within your relaxing kit to produce the final mixture needed to relax your hair.

When you get around to using the relaxer, work in sections. This gives you better control and allows for more even coverage.

When it comes time to wash the relaxer out, be thorough: rinse out as much as possible first, before using a neutralizing shampoo.

This bit is important – you don’t want to leave any of those chemicals on your scalp.

The neutralizing shampoo will change color (usually from pink to white) to indicate that all of the chemicals have been washed out of your hair. It will also return your hair to its natural pH.

Finally, a deep conditioner will help replace moisture that’s been lost during the process which will give you a head start back to healthy (and now straight) hair. Some relaxing kits include these, or you can purchase them separately.

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