Coloring your hair can be an exciting change, but sometimes you may end up with unwanted hair color, or maybe you simply want to switch things up. So, if you’re wondering if relaxer removes hair dye, scroll down to find out.
Ideally, you should always relax your hair before coloring it, and not vice versa. This is to avoid stripping out the color.
However, using a relaxer might be an effective solution if you want to remove hair dye, especially if the dye is semi-permanent.
But remember, coloring and relaxing are chemical treatments, so you may further damage your hair.
What Is Hair Relaxer?
A relaxer is a hair-straightening product. It can be a lotion or cream that gets rid of curls by chemically “relaxing” hair.
Hair relaxer is used mainly by black people since they have natural, tight curls, though it also works to straighten any type of curly hair.
When used on black people’s hair, relaxer is also referred to as a straight perm. The main benefit of using a relaxer to straighten hair is that it makes hair easier to manage and style.
Unlike heat styling tools or electric straighteners, chemical relaxers permanently alter the structure of the hair.
There are two types of relaxers.
- Lye relaxer. The active ingredient in lye relaxer is usually a strong alkali, such as sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide. This formulation is more effective at breaking down the bonds in the hair.
- No-lye relaxer. If your relaxer doesn’t contain sodium hydroxide, it probably contains guanidine hydroxide, which is milder.
In addition, you can also choose between mild, regular, or super relaxers, which have varying strengths suitable for different hair textures.
How Do Relaxers Straighten Hair?
To understand how chemical relaxers work, it’s essential to first look at the structure of hair fibers.
Each strand is mostly made up of keratin, a fibrous protein that contains hydrogen and disulfide bonds that partly determine hair texture.
When hair is curly or tightly coiled, the follicles are oval-shaped and have a lot of chemical bonds and other stabilizing cross-links that prevent the hair shaft from straightening.
Like most bonds, applying heat can disrupt the hydrogen bonds in hair, but this is not permanent.
In contrast, alkaline disruption of the bonds in the hair shaft is permanent since it also breaks the stronger disulfide bonds.
Once the disulfide bonds are broken, the hair’s natural curl pattern will no longer reform.
Does Relaxer Remove Hair Dye?
Hair relaxers can remove semi-permanent and permanent hair dye in several ways:
It Has A High pH
As mentioned, curly hair contains strong disulfide bonds that need to be broken to straighten the hair.
These disulfide bonds are broken using strong alkali or high pH chemicals. Typically, a relaxer has an alkaline pH ranging from 9 to 12, which is very strong indeed.
The pH is so strong that it not only opens the cuticles but also causes the cuticle to swell excessively.
This allows the relaxer to penetrate the cortex and break the disulfide bonds. The lifting of the cuticle also allows dye molecules in the cortex to escape when hair is chemically relaxed.
It Contains Harsh Chemicals
Relaxer contains harsh chemicals needed to sufficiently break the disulfide bonds.
However, keep in mind that when permanent hair dye is applied, it binds to the hair shaft in the cortex.
As a result, when the harsh chemicals from the relaxer are applied, the bonds between your hair shaft and the dye molecules are broken, along with the disulfide bonds.
Once you rinse your hair, the dye molecules are stripped away, as they can easily pass through the open cuticle.
It Makes Hair More Porous
Hair relaxer, especially no-lye relaxer, damages the cuticle the longer it is left on during the relaxing process.
After applying relaxer, the hair cuticle becomes incapable of completely closing, increasing hair porosity.
Once your hair becomes porous, the color will likely fade. The other issue is that, since relaxers damage your strands, they become more vulnerable to the bleaching effect of excessive sun exposure.
This is why overly processed, chemically relaxed hair will lighten even your natural hair color.
Should You Use Relaxer To Remove Hair Dye?
It’s best to avoid using a relaxer on colored hair. That’s because colored hair is already vulnerable, and applying a chemical treatment will cause further damage.
The combination of color and chemical treatments is associated with the following hair problems:
- Dryness. Both hair dye and relaxer work by lifting the cuticle to perform their functions in the inner cortex. However, opening the cuticle allows moisture to escape, which leaves the hair dry and lackluster.
- Brittleness. Hair dye contains strong chemicals that strip away natural hair color. Similarly, relaxers contain harsh chemicals that permanently disrupt hair bonds. These products damage hair fibers, leaving them weak and promoting split ends.
- Breakage. When you use hair dye and relaxer, your strands become more vulnerable to manipulation, heat styling, and environmental stressors. This increases breakage.
If you’re planning to use a relaxer to remove hair dye, most hair experts recommend waiting at least a week. In addition, you should avoid using a relaxer on colored hair if it’s damaged, breaking, or thinning, as this can lead to hair loss.
That being all said, many people have used relaxers on colored hair with no problem.
For some, the purpose is not to strip away color but to make the hair more manageable, so it’s normal to touch up the color if it fades after applying a relaxer.
If you like the color-stripping effect of the relaxer, then you don’t have to renew your dye job.
How To Use Relaxer To Remove Hair Dye
These simple steps will help you remove unwanted hair dye from your locks using a relaxer:
- Buy a hair relaxing kit, preferably one containing a no-lye relaxer, since it’s less damaging to hair.
- Apply a petroleum-based product or base around the edges of your scalp and on your scalp. This barrier will prevent chemical burns.
- Follow the instructions on the hair relaxing kit package when mixing and applying.
- Leave the relaxer for 5 to 10 minutes, so it has enough time to lift the cuticle and allow the dye molecules to unbind.
- Rinse out the chemicals from your hair, apply neutralizer shampoo, and then rinse again.
- Apply the conditioner that comes with the kit.
- Blow-dry the hair and admire the results.
Tips For Removing Hair Dye With Relaxer
- Don’t shampoo your hair before applying a relaxer. This strips away the natural oils that prevent chemical damage to your scalp.
- After removing hair dye with a relaxer, be sure to use the right products formulated for color-treated and relaxed hair.
- Avoid putting too much heat on your hair as it needs time to recover from the chemical treatment.
- Leaving the relaxer for longer can help to strip the dye more effectively. However, it results in overprocessed and unhealthy hair. So, you should always rinse the relaxer out as soon as possible.
- Never skip the neutralizer, which stops the chemical process. If your hair is not neutralized, it quickly becomes weak, porous, and prone to breakage.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Dee has been following the Curly Girl Method for over four years and is our in-house Curly Girl expert. She has a keen interest in natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She has a photographic memory of most sulfate and silicone-free hair products available on the high street and she’s always happy to recommend you her favorites.