Lye vs No-Lye Relaxer

Ask A Stylist

Stylist explains chemical makeup of each type of relaxer 

By Sophia Emmanuel, Stylist

Q. What is the real difference between no-lye relaxers and lye relaxers?

A. Lye relaxers are made up of sodium hydroxide. No-lye relaxers are made up of guanidine, lithium, or potassium hydroxide. These are the chemical compounds formulated in relaxers to straighten hair.


One of the biggest ways to tell the difference between a no-lye and a lye relaxer is the physical preparation.

(No-lye relaxer pictured)


No-lye relaxers

A no-lye relaxer that is made up of guanidine hydroxide includes two steps:

Step 1 – It uses the crème called calcium hydroxide.

Step 2 – It uses the liquid activator called guanidine.


When mixed, these two formulas form guanidine hydroxide. These relaxers are sold in beauty supplies and local drug stores, and are the most popular no-lye relaxers on the market. No-lye relaxers also come in another formula known as a “no-mix relaxer,” and are made up of lithium and potassium hydroxide instead.


The active ingredient in a no-lye relaxer tends to be less irritating on the scalp, and formulated for people with sensitive scalps. Although no-lye relaxers are less irritating than lye relaxers on the scalp, they can cause serious damage to your hair when used improperly by yourself or an untrained stylist.


No-lye relaxers tend to leave calcium deposits up on the hair shaft. Calcium deposits make it difficult for moisture to penetrate into your hair. When your hair doesn’t receive proper moisture, it will appear dry, brittle and break off very easily.

You or your stylist must take extra steps when using a no-lye relaxer formula to prevent these mineral deposits from being left on the hair shaft. One way to do so is to use a chelator. Not only do they help remove calcium build up, but they also allow the hair to receive moisture. You can also try using Kera Care Demineralizing Treatment. It is formulated to remove calcium, and other mineral deposits from the hair, and should be used after a no-lye relaxer is completed.

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Photo credit: Styles by Sophia

Because no-lye relaxers are formulated different from lye relaxers, they take longer to process and don’t break the hair down as straight as a lye relaxer. Many stylists and people who do their relaxers at home tend to leave the no-lye relaxer on the hair too long. This can cause your hair to be over processed, dry and lifeless. If you use a no-lye relaxer and find that your hair doesn’t straighten as well as it should, you may want to change the strength. Use a no-lye relaxer formulated with different strengths, so you don’t have to leave the relaxer on longer than it should stay on the hair.


No-lye relaxers work better for your hair when it’s used right after mixing the two steps. Never use a no-lye relaxer after it has been mixed and left to sit. Always follow manufacture’s instructions. And, throw away any unused mixed no-lye relaxer.


Taking these steps will allow you to have fewer problems with your hair when using a no-lye relaxer.

  • Use a chelator or KeraCare Demineralizing wipes to remove calcium deposits.
  • Keep your hair extremely moisturized.
  • Always protect previous relaxed hair by applying either oil or conditioner to the hair shaft. Doing so creates a barrier and protects the hair.

Lye relaxers

Lye relaxers are chemically formulated with sodium hydroxide, and tend to be more irritating on the scalp. Lye relaxers never have to be mixed. They come in two types, “no base” formula, and base formulas.

Because lye relaxers break down the hair straighter, silky, softer hair will result after completion. Lye relaxers don’t leave calcium build up on the hair, and allow your hair to receive moisture easier than a no-lye relaxer.


As a professional hairstylist, I prefer to use lye relaxers. Unlike what was shown in the Pepsi can scene in the movie, “Good Hair,” today’s relaxers don’t use nearly as much sodium hydroxide as they had in the past. Today’s relaxers have other ingredients and botanicals meant to soften and condition the hair. Some of these ingredients include shea butter, mineral oil, cocoa butter, honey and aloe vera. When used correctly relaxers actually soften the hair and allow the hair to readily receive conditioners and moisturizers.

An off-the-scalp technique should always be used during application to avoid any burning. Any discomfort felt should be minimal. Use a no-base relaxer formula, which will straighten your hair without interfering with its integrity. This process also is less irritating on your scalp. Your hair will have body, shine and be very easy to manage.


Ask your stylist to use a relaxer that puts conditioners into your hair. Affirm Fiber Guard, and Mizani Classic are great relaxers because they condition as they straighten. They have a conditioning step that has to take place after the relaxer is completely rinsed out, and before neutralizing to put back any moisture that was lost from the relaxer process.

Usually this conditioner sits on the hair for 5 to 10 minutes. The best time to apply these moisture conditioners are right after the relaxer is rinsed out because the hair cuticle is open. An open hair cuticle receives moisture easily. After the conditioner is rinsed, the hair should be neutralized. The neutralizer helps the cuticle to close and locks in moisture from the conditioner.
Sophia Emmanuel, who has been a licensed cosmetologist for twelve years, is a stylist a salon in New York, N.Y. Her business is Crown Worthy Inc, formerly Signature Styles by Sophia

Other Great Lye Relaxers Are:

  • Design Essentials Honey Nectar Time Release Relaxer is also an great choice for lye relaxers.
  • Affirm Creme Relaxer Control Formula


Copyright 2009 © My Salon Scoop, LLC

This article has been updated since its original release in 2009.


Brazilian Blowout Smoothing Treatment

Please be advised that what you are about to read is my opinion as a hair stylist. This information is based on the results the product has on my clients hair. 




Repair Past Damage

And Protect Against Future Damage.

We proudly offer Brazilian Blowout, the only professional smoothing treatment that improves the overall health of hair while providing smooth, frizz free radiant results for 8 to 12 weeks.

1. How does Brazilian Blowout work?

Through the use of innovative and breakthrough bonding technologies, these treatments actually improve the health and condition of the hair by creating a protective protein layer around the hair shaft to eliminate frizz and smooth the cuticle.


2. Will Brazilian Blowout leave my hair limp, and unable to curl?

No.  Your stylist controls how straight the hair will be by the amount of passes she makes with the flatiron, and the temperature of the flatiron.  There are two formulas for Brazilian Blowout. The Zero formula is designed for finer textures of hair and the Original formula is designed for courser hair. A consultation is best to choose the right formula for your hair type.

According to the Brazilian blowout website “Brazilian Blowout Zero has been shown to be most effective with clients that have thinner hair or less challenging waves and/or curls.  0% Formaldehyde released before, during or after the treatment.”  Please be advised that the Original Brazilian Blowout Solution for course hair has Formaldehyde.


3. What is the risk of Formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout Original Solution?

The formaldehyde is released when heat is applied to the hair.  The fumes from the treatment are controlled by the amount of product that is applied to the hair. A very small amount of the solution is needed. We use an air purifier to remove fumes and clean the air.


4. How soon can I shampoo my hair after the Brazilian Blowout?

No down time! The minute you leave the salon, you can wash and air dry your hair, workout, put your hair in a ponytail or clip and it will be smooth, frizz-free and radiant!


5. How long does a Brazilian Blowout last?

On African American hair the Brazilian Blowout can last 8 to 11 weeks.
It depends on your hair type and how fast your hair grows.


6. Does it really work on African American hair?

Yes. This treatment is perfect for anyone who is considering growing out a relaxer, in the process of transitioning, wants to relax their curl without the harshness of a relaxer on their curls. Has a sensitive scalp but wants that smoothness and manageability of a relaxer.


7. Brazilian Blowout help my hair grow?

No product can make your hair grow.  Your hair grows, and sheds by different growth stages called anagen, telogen and catagen.


8. Can I wear my hair curly and straight?

Yes. Depending on your hair type you can wear your hair curly or straight with the Brazilian Blowout.  As long as you don’t have any other issues that affect your curls prior to the Brazilian Blowout you will have the flexibility to do both.


 9. How much does a service cost?

The treatment cost $350 and up. The products to maintain the service at home are included with this price.


10. What can I do at home to maintain my Brazilian Blowout?

Use the Acai Brazilian Blowout products to ensure long lasting results.  This treatment will cut your blow-dry and styling time in half at home.


11.  Does the Brazilian have to grow out my hair similar to a relaxer?

No. The treatment rinses out of your hair in 8 to 11 weeks. At that time you can decide to do another Brazilian or stop and your hair will not be affected. You will know when your hair needs a new treatment because it will begin to be unmanageable.


12. Why does the treatment cost so much?

The Brazilian blowout is an expensive service because it is time consuming. On African American hair it can take as long as 3 hours from beginning to end.  The Brazilian blowout product is an expensive product for the hairstylist or salon owner to purchase.


Smooth Cure

Schedule online now



Your hair needs a SMOOTH CURE.

Do you want soft, smooth, frizz-free hair without a chemical process?

If your answers is yes! You should try Joico’s Smooth Cure.


Smooth Cure sulfate-free formulas deliver up to 72 hours of dramatically soft, smooth, manageable hair because of Joico’s formaldehyde- free Kerashield ComplexTM of Keratin, Brazil Nut Oil and Tucuma Butter. These ingredients work in sync to safely moisturize and strengthen relaxed or natural hair. If you have fine or coarse hair that is dry and unmanageable smooth cure can tame it without harsh, harmful chemicals.

Who can benefit?

- Relaxed clients that blow dry and flatiron their hair often.

- Relaxed clients that want to stretch their relaxer touch up 1-2 weeks.

- Natural clients that want to flat iron their hair safely, and have their straighter style last longer.

- Transitioning from relaxed to natural and want smooth, manageable hair.

How to use Smooth Cure?

There are 4 easy steps for using Smooth Cure.

Shampoo twice with the smooth cure sulfate-free shampoo. Please rinse your hair thoroughly. If there is a slight coating left on the hair after you rinse the shampoo thoroughly don’t fret because the coating you feel is the smoothing and conditioning properties of the shampoo.
Condition hair with the smooth cure sulfate- free conditioner. Please be advised that this conditioner works well without heat. If you have excessively dry, damaged hair that is relaxed, natural or transitioning you may need to use a heat cap, hooded dryer or steamer to enhance the benefits of the conditioner. 15 minutes under a heat source is enough.
Towel dry your hair slightly. Add a small amount of smooth cure leave in rescue treatment through your hair. Please be advised that less is more with this leave in conditioner.
Spray Smooth Cure Thermal Style Protectant into hair lightly.
Blow dry and flat iron your hair as usual.

How often can Smooth Cure be used?

Smooth Cure can be used as often as you shampoo your hair. For healthy hair and scalp you should be shampooing once a week.

How much does this treatment cost in the salon?

- Relaxed Hair : $ 65.00 plus sales tax.

- Natural Hair : $ 85.00 plus sales tax.

* Prices increase depending on length, density and how long it takes to detangle your hair.

What is the retail price for Smooth Cure system?

We have a package of all 4 products. The package retails for $49.00 plus sales tax.

The package includes:

1 Smooth Cure Sulfate – free Shampoo

1 Smooth Cure Sulfate – free Conditioner

1 Smooth Cure Leave in Rescue Treatment

1 Smooth Cure Thermal Protectant Spray


Moisture Recovery

Revitalize extremely dry hair with Joico’s Moisture Recovery Line.

Moisture Recovery provides hydration, and smoothness to extremely dry tresses. This is the ultimate solution to restoring moisture without weighing down your hair. Moisture Recovery quenches hairs thirst with Joico’s bio-diverse Hydramine Sea Complex. Hydramine Sea Complex is a mixture of amino acids, botanicals from the sea and nourishing butters and oils. These ingredients can transform the most parched hair into softness. The Moisture Recovery line has a shampoo, conditioner and a 5 minute treatment balm.

In the salon this treatment cost:

- $60.00 and up for relaxed hair (includes blow dry and flat iron style, or roller set).

- $75.00 and up for natural hair (includes blow dry and flat iron style).

- All clients sit under our steamer for deep penetration of the Moisture Recovery Treatment Balm.

Moisture Recovery Shampoo is formulated with surfactants that cleanse the hair without stripping it of natural oils. This shampoo is packaged with the Moisture Recovery Conditioner for $20.00 plus sales tax.

The Moisture Recovery Conditioner is great for restoring moisture quickly but efficiently. This one minute conditioner will instantly detangle your hair. It will leave your hair soft and smooth, and easier to style. This conditioner is sold as a package with the shampoo for $20.00 plus sales tax.

This Treatment Balm is a top seller. Sophia loves this product because the moisture restored to hair is long lasting and for some textures of hair can penetrate without a heat source in just 5 minutes. It provides excellent slip and makes detangling hair more comfortable. It restores breakage and helps rejuvenate dry hair during winter. Some natural hair clients may need to sit under a steamer or other hood source if their hair is extremely dry. This balm should be used every other time you shampoo your hair because of the intense moisturizing properties. As with all products you need to learn your hair and use your own judgment. This Treatment Balm retails for $19.00 plus sales tax.

Split End Repair

Loose The Damage Not The Length With New Brazilian Blowout™ Split End Repair.


Split End Repair is a professional in salon treatment that instantly stregthens, repairs, seals and protects ends for 4 weeks in just 10 minutes.

Benefits of Brazilian Blowout™ Split End Repair:

- Reconstructs and repairs weak, broken strands.
- Seals split ends.
- Protects againist heat styling and future damage.
- Preserves the shape of precision cuts between appointments

How does the treatment repair split ends?

Utilizing a proprietary Thermo-Marine Bonding System™, this treatment fills in and binds broken hair fibers together, instantly mending split ends while a Brazilian Super Nutrient Complex prevents future breakage by protecting ends against daily styling and environmental damage.

What are the ingrediants in Brazilian Blowout™ Split End Repair?

The complete ingredient list for the finished product is as follows:
Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Amodimethicone,
Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Extract, Hypnea Musciformis Extract, Gellidiela Acerosa Extract,
Urea, Glycerin, Bixa Orellana Seed Extract, C13-C14 Isoparaffin, Myrciaria Dubia Fruit
Extract, C11-15 Pareth-7, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-75 Lanolin, Sorbitol,
Hydroxyethylcellulose, Citric Acid, Amyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl
Cinnamate, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal,
Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Butylphenyl Methylpropional,
Linalool, Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin,
Fragrance (Parfum).

What to Expect:

Beginning with slightly damp, shampooed hair, the stylist will lightly dust the solution onto the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the hair.Product will be combed through the ends to ensure each strand is coated with reparative nutrients to mend and seal where the cuticle is split or broken.Next, the stylist will blow dry the hair as smooth as possible using a round boar bristle brush.
Finally, the stylist will flat iron the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the hair to lock in the product and seal the ends.
Once the flat iron step is finished, the treatment is complete. There is no down time! You may wash your hair, exercise, put your hair in a clip, ponytail or bun without worry!

How much does the service cost in the salon?

$90.00 for natural hair and $75.00 for relaxed hair.