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Basic Facts About Hair Relaxing

What is Hair?

Hair is basically a fibrous protein known as alpha Keratin. It is elastic in texture and insoluable in water. It is resistant to chemical change. Each hair shaft grows from a single follicle in the scalp. Each follicle has a sebaceous gland which secretes sebum (natural skin oil), which provides some lubrication for scalp and hair. Sebum is the liquid which give hair a pH rating.

Keratin is composed of amino-acids joined into long interwoven molecules called polypeptide chains. Adjacent polypeptide chains contain several linkages and bonds. The cystine or disulfide bond is one type. Hydrogen bonds, which are very weak, are also present.

Cystine bonds are one of the many types of chemical bonds which are the foundation of hair and support the structure of the hair shaft. The cuticle is the framing structure that determines the shape and direction of the hair shaft.

The Cuticle

The cuticle is the outer protective layer composed of the same substance as fingernails and has overlapping scales from the scalp up. Although curly, wavy and kinky hair can appear to have twice as much cuticle as straight hair, both have the same amount of cuticle.

The Cortex

The cortex of the hair shaft is the layer that contains natural color, and aids in protecting the inner structure of the hair from potential harm by ultraviolet sun rays. This is where artificial color is deposited during color changes with developers (peroxides) that literally punch small microscopic holes in each layer of the cuticle which allows the color to reach the cortex. Since the cuticle layer is transparent, you see the color in the cortex.

What To Look For Prior To Relaxing

Check for dryness and brittleness. Do a simple strand test by holding a few strands of hair at the ends between your thumb and forefinger -- tug lightly. Check for areas of hair shaft where breakge may occur. If it breaks:

  • At the ends; breakage is probably caused by split ends. Clip these ends. In the middle; possibly it is weak, damaged and/or porous hair. This problem must be corrected by one or more conditioning treatments before relaxation. Vitale's Foundation Pre-Conditioner, Corrective Conditioner, or Intensive Conditioner are designed to correct these types of problems.

  • At the scalp; this is more serious and beyond your control to correct. This cause could be due to medications or body chemistry. Never attempt to relax when breakage is close to the scalp.

  • You should also check the scalp prior to relaxing. Look for cuts, scratches, redness, soreness, pimples, and other abrasions. These conditions must be cleared or protected bfore relaing or else your patron will experience extreme discomfort. If you client has pimples, psoriasis or acne around the face and forehead, chances are the same conditions are hidden in the scalp.

Why Some Hair Will Not Relax

Basically, this is due to the patron's body chemistry. If your patron is on certain medications or consumes large quantities of acid-laden foods or drinks such as lemon, lime, orange juice, carbonated soft drinks or is experiencing a nervous condition or in various stages of pregnancy, these and other conditions can lower normal body pH from 5.5 to approximately 3.5. This means that any scalp secretions, perspiration or sebum will be at the same lower pH. This, plus heavy hair dressings, coat the lower hair shaft causing a pre-neutralizing effect on the hair prior to contact with the relaxer. Combing a relaxer cream with a pH of 12 to 13 with sufficient scalp secretions at a pH of 3.5 to 4.0 may result in a pH of 8.5 or less. This pH is generally too low to relax hair.

How To Handle This Situation

If you konw the client has this problem, simply schedule for a shampoo two days prior to the relaxing treatment. Shampoo very gently without disturbing the scalp. When the client returns two days later, chances are, hair will relax. Although this treatment will not solve the problem, thre will not be enough build-up of natural body fluids to cause retardation of the relaxer.

Why Aren't Relaxers Called Straighteners?

When you read all the material and related instructions, you will find the manufacturer does not claim the product will straighten hair. The claim made is the product with relax hair. Hair relaxing and hair straightening are not the same. Hair relaxing will not straighten hair. It will merly soften it for straightening. You are the straightener by working the product according to manufacturers instructions.

Why Breakage Appears Sometimes On The Nape Of The Neck After Relaxing

Generally what happens is after you have rinsed the relaxer from the hair, you will lean the client back onto the bowl without first rinsing leftover from the neck of the bowl. Therefore, the relaxer re-contacts with the nape of the neck and overprocessing is possible. Be sure to rinse the relaxer from the neck of the bowl.

Two Causes Of Bald Spots On The Scalp After Relaxing:

  • An allergic reaction caused by a two-way chemical clash between the patron's body chemistry and the active ingredient in the relaxer, cause the hair to break or shed off at the scalp. This will usually leave a bald spot about the size of a quarter or a fifty-cent piece. This condition is temporary and the hari should grow back in a very short period of time.

  • A nervous condition that is being experienced by your patron and part of the cause should be due to medication or changing body chemistry. This condition combined with the active ingredient in the relaxer will manifest itself in this manner.

What Is The Cause Of Extreme Breakage Shortly After Relaxing?

If your hair was in good condition prior to relaxing, and then starts to break or shed after the relaxer treatment, this is probably due to improper neutralizing. (The shampoo was not left in the hair long enough to properly neutralize). The neutralizing shampoo must be in contact with th hair for at least 5 minutes regardless of how many soapings you give. It takes at least that long for the active ingredients in the neutralizer to penetrate all three layers of the hair shaft and bring the pH of the hair down to normal. If you rinse the neutralizing shampoo from the hair too soon, you may stop the action of the neutralizer while the pH of the chemical in the hair is still in a high alkaline state. This will cause breakage and shedding because some active ingredients from the relaxer are still in the inner-hair causing rapid deterioration.

Using Vitale's Revive Positive Conditioner prior to neutralization, helps eliminate all alkaline substances inside the hair shaft and thus prevent breakage problems due to poor neutralizing.

Can Plain Water Neutralize A Relaxer?

NO! Water may appear to neutralize the relaxer as you rinse all the relaxer off the scalp because any burning sensation ceases. The water also rinses away relaxer on the hair. However, it will not rinse away the relaxer that is in the hair. Only the active ingredients in the neutralizer can penetrate the hair shaft and stop the action of the active ingredient in the hair.

Why Do Patrons Sometimes Experience Irritation Around Facial Hairline?

This is usually due to the fact that prior to coming to the salon, your patron washed her face and extended the washing procedure into and past the hairline, allowing for the same sensitivity in the area tha would have been caused if the entire hair and scalp had been shampooed. During winter, coat collars can rub the back of the neck and also cause heightened sensitivity in this area. Also the use of creams and facial masks on the face and around the hairline.

AFAM Concept, Inc.
1736 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60616
(800) 262-2326 or (312) 939-6377