Expert Advice

Compatible Chemicals... Or Else!

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 6:19 PM

All About Relaxers

To perform a successful relaxing service, you should understand the different types of formulas and why most are not compatible with other chemicals.

When asked about the difference, Angela Ellington, director of development at the L’Oréal Institute for Ethnic Hair and Skin Research in Chicago, writes, “Sodium, potassium and lithium hydroxides are all strong monovalent bases, which can chemically alter the hair.  Calcium hydroxide is a divalent base and guanidine carbonate is an organic salt which individually cannot sufficiently chemically alter hair. However, the latter two combined generate guanidine hydroxide, a strong organic base, which can chemically alter hair.”

How do you choose the right product for the job? Perform a professional analysis and consultation. This analysis should focus on key factors such as diameter, porosity, degree of curliness and prior chemical treatments. “In using Mizani relaxers, the calcium-based, ‘Sensitive Scalp Rhelaxer’ would be suggested for those clients who are sensitive to sodium hydroxide,” writes Ellington.

Specific formulas used (normal, super-strength, color-treated) should be based on hair type and condition.

Remember, thio products are not compatible with hydroxide-family products. According to Ellington, the mechanisms by which the two processes chemically alter hair are different and should not overlap. Although both mechanisms react with the cystine disulfide bonds, the hydroxide technology irreversibly converts the bonds to lanthionine bonds, which are stable against reducing agents such as thio-derivatives.

With thio products, the bonds are cleaved and reformed to the desired shape or curl pattern via reduction and oxidation; however, it is extremely important to choose the correct strength and adhere to the proper application process, as the curl formation is directly related to the initial reduction step.

In addition to sodium, Mizani uses guanidine hydroxide, which Ellington notes is guanidine carbonate mixed with calcium hydroxide. The mechanism for straightening is the same; however, guanidine hydroxide is a two-step process, which is generally used on clients who have previously experienced discomfort with sodium hydroxide relaxers. Both Mizani systems were formulated to focus on hair health and the integrity of the fiber, she says.

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