If you have curly hair that you’ve been chemically straightening for a long time, you might be wondering if using hair relaxers can cause hair loss.
Like most other processes, the answer usually depends on the original condition of your hair, whether it’s been dyed or bleached, and how many other processes you’ve already done.
Before we answer the question about hair loss, here are some important facts about hair that you need to know:
What is Hair Made of?
Hair is made of a hard, fibrous protein called keratin. Hair strands are formed from stem cells at the base of hair follicles located on the surface of the skin’s epidermal layer.
Breaking Bonds – How Do Hair Relaxers Work to Straighten Hair?
Hair is held together by hydrogen and disulfide bonds. The disulfide bonds are among the strongest naturally occurring bonds in the world.
These bonds must be “broken” or altered, to change the texture of a hair strand. When you relax or straighten your hair, you’re breaking those bonds and resetting them in a permanently straight configuration.
The chemicals in hair relaxers (usually sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, and sodium thioglycolate) generate extremely high heat, which breaks apart the disulfide bonds. Once the bonds are broken, there’s no turning back; the only way to get rid of the straightened hair is by cutting it off.
Do Chemical Relaxers Cause Hair Loss?
The answer is – Sometimes.
Even when used prudently, chemical hair relaxers can make hair brittle, dry, and prone to breakage. And let’s face it, most people who decide to straighten their hair in the first place are probably already dealing with hair that’s curly and dry.
So, if you’re starting out with unhealthy hair and then performing chemical processes on it, there’s a chance that some type of hair loss could occur.
The Risks of Permanent Hair Loss
The chemicals used to straighten hair are potent, and they are usually applied very close to the roots. If they touch the scalp and remain there too long, they can cause chemical burns.
In the most extreme cases, infection and scarring may occur, and the hair follicles could suffer damage that leads to hair loss and permanent bald spots.
The Risks of Temporary Hair Loss
Even if your hair isn’t falling out from the follicle after using a chemical relaxer, the strands could still break along their length if they’re damaged and weak. When you bleach or color your hair, or if it’s naturally tightly coiled, it’s already compromised.
And if you’ve done any other chemical processes on it, such as perms or previous straightening or relaxing treatments, the chances of hair loss increase exponentially.
On the other hand, if your hair is healthy and has never been chemically straightened, you may benefit from relaxing it. You’ll enjoy your look and finally be able to achieve certain styling goals that were impossible before.
Whether you choose to use a hair relaxer or not, make sure to keep your hair and scalp as healthy as possible before performing any chemical processes. You’ll increase the chances of having a successful outcome and minimize the chances of having permanent or temporary hair loss.