This article will be dedicated to relaxer burn. I was prompted to write about this after getting three emails last week from women complaining about the same problem – burnt scalps from relaxers. There was a time that I believed that a relaxer wasn’t ‘done’ until it was tingling / burning! How wrong I was! I distinctly remember times when hairstylists would ask me to sit until I could bear it no longer. Little wonder my hair broke so much back then.
Relaxer burn is a chemical burn that results when the relaxer crème burns your scalp. This often leads to blisters or scabs where the scalp is burnt. The hair often sticks to the scabs and breaks as you try to pry it away.
When relaxers are done correctly, your scalp should not tingle or burn. A hairstylist should not have you sit and wait for the relaxer to tingle or start burning before rinsing and neutralising it.
So what causes relaxer burn? The most common cause of relaxer burn is leaving the crème on the hair for too long. This happens very often, even with women who get their hair relaxed at hair salons. The crème should be washed off as soon as its work is done. There is no need to wait longer because this just leads not only to burns, but to over processed hair as well. Follow the time that the manufacturer suggests, do not exceed it.
If you find that when the manufacturer’s time is followed, your hair is still under processed – it may be a good idea to seek a stronger relaxer formulation. If on the other hand the relaxer begins to burn, you should try the ‘mild’ version or the version formulated for sensitive scalps. These relaxers normally have an oil added to the formulation to slow down the chemical relaxing process.
You need to avoid scratches to the scalp in the days leading up to your relaxer. This is done by not washing your hair three or more days before your relaxer. You also need to make sure you do not scratch your scalp. While getting a relaxer make sure not to scratch the scalp with a comb. This usually happens when smoothing the relaxer. Nicks and scratches to the scalp can leave your skin exposed to the relaxer, causing burning.
So what can be done to eliminate scalp burn due to relaxers?
- Base your scalp with oil or Vaseline before you get a relaxer. Base your whole scalp including forehead, nape and ears. If you are susceptible to burning, base your scalp the day before your relaxer and again just before you apply the relaxer. If you go to a salon for your relaxers, insist the hairstylist bases the whole scalp.
- While relaxing do not smooth the relaxer crème onto the hair with the teeth of your comb. Use the back of the comb to make sure you do not scratch your scalp.
- Stay away from vigorous exercise a few days before your relaxer because sweat will open the pores in your scalp which can lead to burning.
- Follow the directions of the manufacturer on how long to keep the relaxer on the hair. If your hair is under processed in this time consider using a stronger strength relaxer next time. If you burn quickly consider using the ‘mild’ relaxer.
- Make sure you apply the relaxer to only the new growth, not to hair that has previously been relaxed.
- If your scalp has any sores or irritation, do not relax the hair. Wait until these irritations have healed.
- Gently detangle your hair before getting a relaxer. This ensures that your hair is easy to part while applying relaxer. It also makes it less painful for you, especially if you get a relaxer at a salon.
So you already have a relaxer burn (this article came too late!!), what do you do now? If you begin to feel a tingle immediately rinse off the relaxer with cool water and proceed to wash with neutralising shampoo. Rinsing with water and neutralising will minimise the burn. The longer you sit and squirm, the worse the burns get!
Apply something that soothes burns onto the area. Aloe vera gel has been used for burns since time immemorial and is great for scalp burns. If you have any burn meds or antibacterial cream you can use that too.
Some scalps are just sensitive and react badly to relaxers no matter what precautions are taken. In such cases it’s just better to not relax the hair at all.
Does your scalp burn when you relax your hair?