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In 1910, Black American inventor, Garrett Augustus Morgan, while working at a sewing machine repair shop and attempting to invent a new lubricating liquid for the machine needle, wiped the liquid off his hands on a wool cloth. He returned the next day to discover that the woolly texture of the cloth had smoothened out.

Unsure of what had taken place, he went ahead to experiment on an Airedale dog. Airedales have curly textured hair and to his amazement, the dog’s hair straightened in reaction to the lubricating liquid.

What’s in A Relaxer?

  • Sodium hydroxide (Lye)
  • Calcium hydroxide
  • Lithium hydroxide
  • Guanidine carbonate
  • Guanidine hydroxide
  • Thioglycolic acid

Now, of all the damaging chemicals listed above, sodium hydroxide (due to its powerful alkaline nature) happens to be the strongest type of chemical employed in the manufacture of some relaxers.

Yes, you read that right, ‘some relaxers’. The reason is there’s another chemical that is now being used in place of sodium hydroxide, it’s known as guanidine hydroxide and it is the active ingredient in those relaxers that are tagged ‘No Lye’ relaxers. Guanidine is actually believed to be less damaging than sodium since its pH value is lower than that of sodium and so, manufacturers give off the notion that ‘No Lye’ relaxers are safer to use. This is a lie because both classes of relaxers pose potential damage to black hair textures.

Dangers of Relaxers

  1. Penetrates the cortex to loosen the hair’s natural curl pattern.
  2. Eliminates hair’s strength and elasticity.
  3. Strips hair of natural oils.
  4. Leaves hair weak and extremely susceptible to breakage and further damage.

If you must relax,

  1. Be sure to deep condition weekly. Use moisturisers and leave in conditioners on a regular in order to cushion the drying effects of relaxers.
  2. Avoid heat from hair straighteners and blow dryers so the hair doesn’t get drier than it already is.

All in all, how you choose to wear your hair (be it natural or relaxed) doesn’t define your person but how you care for it certainly does.


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This article was first published on 15th April 2016


Ezinne is the hair engineer behind Afriziny, the platform that promotes black natural African hair. To get more on afro, connect with Afriziny via the social media handles below or send an email to

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