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Lade Salami: Lye Relaxers versus No-Lye Relaxers – Do You Know The Difference?



dreamstime_l_55000214In my conversations with friends and clients about the type of relaxers they use, it has become apparent to me that many ladies do not know the difference between Lye and No Lye relaxers. Many of us automatically but incorrectly assume that no-lye relaxers are the better or safer option. Both Lye and No Lye relaxers have characteristics which should be considered before you chose the one that is most suitable for your hair type.
Hopefully by the end of this post you will have gained a better understanding of both types of relaxers and be able to make a better informed decision.

Lye Relaxers

These are usually packaged in a jar or tub and are ready for use, i.e. there is no need to mix them with activators. They are sometimes called No-Base Relaxers.

Pros of Lye Relaxers
Lye relaxers are said to be better for hair fibers than no-lye relaxers. This is because they do not leave mineral deposits on the hair. Mineral deposits left on hair fibers can hinder its ability to absorb moisture.

All relaxers work by breaking down some of our hairs protein structure. Another advantage lye relaxers have over no-lye formulas is that the levels of protein breakage that occurs with lye relaxers will allow the hair to retain more of its natural strength and elasticity than no-lye formulas.

Cons of Lye Relaxers
Lye relaxers can be quite harsh on our scalp in comparison to no-lye relaxers. They tend to irritate or burn the scalp quicker that no-lye formulas. For this reason, lye relaxers may not be suitable for ladies with very sensitive scalps or scalps that burn easily.

dreamstime_beauty products cosmetics creamNo-Lye Relaxers

These usually come in a box kit that contains activators to be mixed in to activate the formula.

Pros of No-Lye Relaxers
No-lye relaxers are said to be “easier” on the scalp than lye relaxers.  This means that it is not as harsh on the scalp as lye formulas. If you have a very sensitive scalp which burns easily you may want to consider using a no-lye relaxer. Please note that all chemical relaxers (lye or no-lye formula) can cause severe scalp burns and hair loss if it is used incorrectly

Cons of No-Lye Relaxers
No-lye relaxers can leave our hair quite dry. This is because no-lye formulas leave some mineral residues on our hair fibers which decreases its ability to absorb moisture. Remember dry hair has a higher risk of breaking. To overcome this problem, a chelating shampoo should be used occasionally if you use a no-lye relaxer formula to relax your hair. Chelating shampoos work beneath the surface of the hair fibers to remove stubborn minerals left behind by no-lye relaxers, chlorine in swimming pools and hard water residue.

Another disadvantage of no-lye relaxers is that it takes longer to process the hair. This means that it is left in the hair for a longer period than lye relaxers. The longer the hair is exposed to harsh chemicals, the more weakened it will become.

How to Choose between Lye and No Lye Relaxers

Lye relaxers can be used by ladies whose;

  • scalp is quite resilient and does not get irritated or burn easily
  • hair is very coarse, thick and resistant

No-Lye relaxers can be used by ladies whose;

  • scalp is very sensitive and gets irritated or burns easily
  • hair is very fine, thin and processes easily

Having considered the information above it must be stressed that relaxers should only be applied by well qualified and trained hair care professionals. Please also remember that all relaxers whether lye or no-lye are harsh chemicals and can cause severe damage to scalp and hair if the product is abused or used incorrectly.

Photo Credits: Dreamstime

Lade is a hair care consultant, blogger and educator.  She gained a Diploma in Afro Hair Care from the London Hair Institute and is the founder of hair care website, Hairducation. Lade creates custom hair care plans for clients in Nigeria and internationally.  She also works with brands to educate ladies about healthy hair care practices.   Social Media Links Website/blog – Hairducation - Instagram -  @Hairducation - Facebook - Twitter - @rehairducation -


  1. Yemi

    November 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Dunno the difference, they all lie (lye) to me. Nothing beats a Shuku or Evelyn King or Patewo hair style.

    • kilipot

      November 7, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Oshey!! ?? Orìsábunmì. ??

  2. Tola

    November 7, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    With these information. I am on my way to going natural. I am beginning to see a point in the natural hair movement.

  3. 1 + The One

    November 7, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you for this, I found it really useful… Before now, I just pick the ‘no lye’ relaxer because I assume that ‘lye’ must be a bad thing a la ‘bromate free’ bread lol…
    Ignorance is a problem

  4. Flexe

    November 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Team Lye!!!

  5. AHausaChickInToronto

    November 7, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    I wish this information came a year early. This time last year I destroyed my hair by using a lye relaxer for my overly sensitive scalp. I had to Cut off all my hair and went natural (I’m still natural) but I’m not used to it :(……my relaxed hair was very long, healthy and very easy to style and manage *sobs*……My natural hair is soft thick and full but I’m going to relax it next summer because I honestly don’t know what to do with it and I hate wearing wigs and weaves.

  6. caphie

    November 8, 2016 at 2:47 am

    To think of all the money I’ve wasted on the no lye relaxer when I could have easily bought a lye one. Team lye from now on

  7. milli

    November 13, 2016 at 3:33 am

    what if your hair is a mixture of both styles. that is what if the hair doesnt process quickly and the scalp is sensitive? what then?

  8. Zibo Esther doubra

    November 13, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Pls I need your attention of my hair,how do I go about it.

  9. Kate

    November 20, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    But I have very resistant hair with an overly sensitive scalp 🙁

  10. Serene

    November 28, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you very much for this piece of vital information

  11. IB Boss

    August 28, 2019 at 8:32 pm


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