Lye vs. No-Lye Hair Relaxers – Risks & Side Effects Explained!

If you have curly hair, there may come a time when you want to straighten your hair or rather, relax the hair. Well, some of you may be in a state of confusion over the many products manufacturers have to offer. It’s to be expected as there are so many options.

Everyone wants silky hair, but not everyone knows the difference between the relaxer brands. Do you buy a no-lye relaxer or one that has lye in it?  What’s the difference? Simply put, the difference is the chemicals that are used in the formula.

All relaxers have some chemicals in them if they are to alter the hair’s original bond or form. Not all relaxers are the same, and one brand may not work as well for you as it does another person.

Never put a relaxer on freshly-dyed hair or apply a lye relaxer on top of a no-lye relaxer. You can’t even put a no-lye relaxer on a lye-relaxer. If anyone offers to do this, leave the chair because they don’t know what they are doing.

Table of Contents:

What is the Difference between No Lye and Lye Relaxer?

The switch between a no-lye relaxer and a lye relaxer should not be done all at once. You can, however, apply a different brand of relaxer to your new growth if that’s what you want to do. Nonetheless, it’s not a good idea to do this all the time.

When you find a good product, stick with that brand until it stops working for you. Also, you will also need to condition the hair routinely to prevent doing damage to the hair. Now, let’s talk about the different kinds of relaxers to find out why it’s not a good idea.

What is Lye-relaxer?

The active or main ingredient in a lye relaxer is sodium hydroxide. What this means is lye relaxers help to condition the hair because they rinse cleaner than a no-lye product. They also do not leave moisture-blocking agents behind.

Lye relaxers break the bond between the strands and the chemicals quicker, leaving you with silky hair. The faster the chemicals work, the better this is for you. It means you don’t have to leave the perm or relaxer in for a long time.

  • Important: Always use the neutralizing shampoo when relaxing the hair.

On the negative side, a lye relaxer will burn the scalp or cause the hair to stick to the scalp if left in too long or if the scalp is irritated. The pH level is a lot higher in lye relaxers, and if it’s not done right, it can be painful. The best suggestion is to follow the directions. If the instructions say 20 minutes, it’s best not to go beyond that time.

Again, if this is your first time and you don’t have a clue about applying a relaxer, let someone else do it who knows how. However, if you insist on doing it yourself, apply it quickly and rinse out thoroughly.

At the same time, you should not cheat yourself on time. You will end up with some straight hair and some curly hair which equals to a botched relaxer job. Who needs that? You want consistency.

What is No-Lye Relaxer?

Opposite of the lye relaxer, a no-lye relaxer has calcium hydroxide in it or otherwise known as guanidine hydroxide. While it’s true the pH levels are lower is a lye relaxer, no-lye relaxers sometimes dry the hair out mainly because of the calcium content and buildup.

Use a mild no-lye relaxer for a sensitive scalp. The chances of getting burned are less when you use a no-lye relaxer. If you buy a store brand, likely it will be a no-lye formula, so look for it before you purchase one. If not, you’ll be learning how to repair scalp damage from a relaxer.

With this said, this kind of perm can still burn the scalp, but it does reduce your chances. Most kits require you to mix the chemicals. This way, you’re in control of the mixture and its strength. Still, you want to watch your time the relaxer stays in the hair as it will dry your hair out.

If you have product buildup, remove the calcium with a clarifying shampoo at least once during the month. They provide a deep cleaning so to add moisture, follow up with a conditioning treatment. Since a clarifying shampoo will dry the hair out, products containing ceramides will help prevent brittle from occurring.

What Are the Harmful Effects of Relaxers?

At least 51% of African-American women who use dark hair dye discovered they have a high probability of having breast cancer. What may surprise many of you is white women who use relaxers have a 74% risk and increase of developing cancer. Now that you know, what will you do?

What do you think the odds are for women, white or African-American, who use both products? Oh yeah… if you guess they are higher, you’re right. The risks are not worth taking and get this: they don’t just stop with breast cancer.

What would you do if you found out dark hair dye and relaxers (chemically based) were linked to fatal multiple myeloma? The study further reveals there’s another escalated risk of having Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL or lymphoma) and bladder cancer. Take a wild guess at who dies more often?

If you answered black women, you are right again. Check the 2016 report done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will tell you that of the 100,000 cases reported yearly, roughly 122 of those women don’t make it, and they happen to be non-whites.

Healing the scalp after using a relaxer

Hair Relaxers and Cancer

Is there a link between breast cancer, dark hair dye and the chemicals in relaxers? It appears white women and Black and African-American women consistently use chemically based relaxers, or dark black or brown hair dye has an increased risk of having breast cancer. That’s what researchers find.

Epidemiologist Tamarra James-Todd told Reuters Health she is concerned with the too frequent use of dark colors in hair dye and relaxers. She feels that moderation is of the essence in cases like these and women should think more about wearing their natural hair.

People should remember just because something is available and others are using it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. The golden rule is what works for Sally Mae may not work for Billie Jean. Tamarra is a noted professional within the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health systems, located in Boston. However, she was not directly involved in this investigation.

Now, what’s interesting is the study returned an epochal increase in breast cancer or more to the point, the risk of breast cancer among the African-American population.  The inquiry involved 4,285 women who used chemicals contained in (dark) hair dye and relaxers.

Long-Term Effects of Hair Relaxers

Do you want to know the long-term effects of hair relaxers? Well, let’s consider the facts about sodium hydroxide. This is the chemical manufacturers put in perms or relaxers. It’s what makes the hair straighten or relax. By the way, relaxers or perms are not approved by the FDA.

What a lot of you may not realize is this stuff is so powerful it can burn a hole right through your flesh. This is no joking matter. If it does it to a chicken, it will undoubtedly harm a human. At the same token, just breathing the fumes will harm your lungs.

Just think of the stylists who do this day in and day out. Most in-home salons don’t use air purifiers or advanced ventilation techniques installed, so their health is at stake. The evidence is shown in the publication submitted by the Annals of Epidemiology on the long-term effects of relaxers.

If your parents started using perms and relaxers in your hair at a young age, you probably got your period as early as ten years old. Later on, perhaps you had or will develop fibroid on your uterus. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does for a lot of women. So what does it do to the brain?

What are the health implications of relaxers?

Effects of Relaxers on the Brain

The fact of the matter is there is very little difference between a lye-relaxer and a non-lye relaxer meaning they both have harmful chemicals in them.  Those chemicals go deep to penetrate the cerebral cortex and relax the hair’s natural form and curl.

The root of the hair is where it gets its natural curls as well as its elasticity and strength. You can’t reverse this process once it’s done and the hair is straightened. Now, when this happens, the hair becomes weak and susceptible to further damage and breakage. In short, relaxers hurt, not help.

So, if your hair is already damaged, it’s best not to put in a relaxer or perm. Knowing relaxing the hair can harm you, it is strongly suggested that you do not put it in a child’s hair. Use another form to straighten the hair instead of adding chemicals that can affect the brain.

Other possible side effects of using relaxers are skin burns, deep ulcerations, asthma, dry and weak strands, dermatitis and permanent scarring not to mention the dangers of blindness and neurological symptoms. Unfortunately, stylists are at risk of developing miscarriages and cancer.


Of the studies completed, few are done to conclude the effects of lye vs. no-lye relaxers. However, experience teaches us that both are harmful. More information is needed, so women are aware of the side effects mainly to stylists and to children.

Sodium hydroxide is the primary culprit when it comes to relaxers and should be avoided at all costs. Use a natural solution to make the hair straight to prevent scalp burn, dermatitis, dry hair, and even neurological damage. Sodium hydroxide is used in Drano!

That alone should be enough to make a person think twice about lye and no-lye relaxers. Some people think because they are using a no-lye relaxer, they are safe, but this is just not true. You will still have some side effects. Come on now, when the FDA doesn’t approve a product… how can you?

They only get involved when there has been a conglomerate of complaints. That’s why it’s imperative everyone who uses perms and relaxers know the consequences.

Copyright 2018 by DryScalpGone.