Relaxers Vs. Texture Releasers: Are The Hair Treatments Really That Different?

One of the joys of living in the 21st century is there are so many ways to switch up your hair. Thanks to social media, we can stay abreast of all the hair trends that will define summer 2023, with even a few hair treatments coming into popularity. Recently, there's been a resurgence of people desiring the look of straight hair for longer and turning to straight perms and other smoothening treatments. Perms that have a straightening effect are known as "relaxers" because they loosen the curl to permanently straighten the hair. The treatment has been around for many decades and is usually more common among those with coarser hair textures.

Recently, though, there has been some confusion as a new treatment has come into popularity as well. There has been an influx of people on TikTok opting for texture releases and documenting their results. So, naturally, people are mixing up the two treatments and assuming they are the same. However, relaxers and texture releases are nothing alike, and they serve different purposes depending on your hair type and what you are trying to achieve. Here's what you need to know.

What is a hair relaxer?

A relaxer is a long-term option for anyone who wants to wear straight hair with less effort. Aveda's global artistic director Tippi Shorter explained to Teen Vogue that "someone who's getting a relaxer can expect a total change in their hair structure — which can be either good or bad depending on what you want. It takes your curly strands and permanently straightens them." This happens because the chemicals in relaxers break down the bonds in the hair, leaving curly hair straight and frizz free, according to Naturally Curly. For best results, a touch-up is needed every six to eight weeks.

So, who is a good candidate for a hair relaxer? The short answer is anyone with curly hair who wants it to be easier to manage and doesn't want to wear their curls anymore, according to Shorter. It is a great alternative for people who want to wear their hair straight, even on humid days. While relaxers cannot be reversed, it is possible to cut or grow out the treatment over time. Maintenance, especially in the form of extra moisture through deep-conditioning treatments, is crucial for the health of relaxed hair. The chemical straightening process is known to dry out the hair cuticle, according to Head & Shoulders. Those with color-treated hair should proceed with caution since lighting and relaxing your strands on the same day or even around the same time can be extremely damaging.

What is a texture release?

Texture releases are a less permanent alternative to relaxers. As hairstylist Martika Cogdell explained to PopSugar, "a texture release is essentially a smoothing system that has been specifically formulated for Afro hair types to achieve a more defined, elongated curl pattern." She added that what makes this treatment different is that it loosens the curl patterns without the need for chemicals.

With a texture release, the hairstylist uses heat-activated amino acids to temporarily straighten the hair versus permanently breaking down the bonds of the hair shaft. According to Cogdell, this process lasts no more than 12 weeks at a time. She suggests texture releases for people with finer hair textures since relaxers tend to make the hair look much thinner. It is best to get both treatments done by professionals versus doing it at home yourself to avoid damaging your hair and to get the best results aesthetically speaking.