Lye vs. No-Lye Relaxers | Picking What’s Best

lye versus no-lye relaxers fancyflairlady

In the first few months of my hair journey, I had to look into the differences between a Lye vs. No-Lye Relaxer and make a decision on which option was best for my hair.  And I did that.  I chose to use a No-Lye relaxer, Affirm Fiberguard Sensitive Scalp Relaxer to be exact.  I have been self-relaxing and using this same relaxer consistently throughout out my hair journey.  As my hair grows and my goals change, I’ve decided to look back into the pros and cons of these two relaxers and see where I end up today, with the current state of my hair. 

Lye vs. No-Lye Relaxers

No-Lye Relaxers

  1. The PROs: I choose to use No-Lye Relaxers when I started my hair journey because:
    1. It is gentler on the Scalp – It is less alkaline and has a lower pH than Lye Relaxers, which makes it less abrasive and is not as irritating to the scalp, which means there is less likelihood of getting chemical burns.
    2. I can adjust the strength to my liking because it requires mixing the activator into just prior to relaxing; and
    3. No-Lye relaxers are recommended for those who:
      1. relax their hair at home,
      2. have fine hair, and/or
      3. have sensitive scalp.
  2. The CONs: I’ve used this type of relaxer with success for several years now despite the downsides to using a No-Lye Relaxer.
    1. It’s active ingredient is Calcium Hydroxide, which leaves mineral deposits on the hair causing dryness.  But I was alright with that because I committed to using a Chelating shampoo, which removes mineral build up from the hair diminishing the drying effect of this type of relaxer.  I make sure to use product that contain ceramides for added help in avoiding dryness.
I have fine to normal hair, I self-relax, and I don’t want to burn my scalp. Every thing about No-Lye Relaxers screamed that it was meant for me.  And so that’s what I used with no issue for years.

…So, why am I thinking about switching?

Well, I think that this constant battle with mineral deposits could be a possible reason for my constant battle with breakage at my ends.  I have been seeing progress by bombarding my ends with almost constant moisture through cowashing, deep conditioning, and other moisturizing products to help to avoid the breakage.  But I’ve been researching and it seems that those who use Lye relaxers don’t struggle with dryness as much as No-Lye users.  Lye Relaxers are “conditioning” to your hair (I use quotes because all relaxers are harsh chemicals that break the hair down, but it is “conditioning” when compared to the no-lye version), but there are disadvantages to be aware of.

Lye Relaxers

  1. The PROs: 
    1. Lye relaxers are “good” or “conditioning” to the hair because they rinse cleanly from the hair without leaving behind minerals to block moisture absorption.  Therefore, the results from a Lye Relaxer tend to be shinier and more moisturized.
      1. My thoughts: This is the main reason I started considering the switch.  I’m looking for more moisturized hair.
  2. The CONs: My issues of concern about using a Lye Relaxer: The Chemical Burns!
    1. Like I mentioned before, Lye relaxers have a much higher pH (12-14) and are irritating to the scalp, which means chemical burns are very possible when not applied properly.
    2. Due to the increased potential for damage to the scalp, you should never leave it on for more than 20-25 minutes, which means I would either need to speed up my application time significantly or (ideally) seek a professional to do it for me.
      1. My thoughts: I’m not a professional, but I have been self-relaxing for years now.  Immediately upon starting my hair journey, using a lye relaxer wasn’t a good idea.  But now that I have some experience under my belt, and I am more grounded in the relaxer application process I’m going to give it a try.
    3. The shortened application time may also mean that my hair may end up being less processed/straight.  Even though my hair isn’t bone straight, I am not looking to have texlaxed hair either because I don’t want to struggle with getting consistent texlax results.  I like the certainty of no curl pattern — I just want my hair the way it is.
      1. My thoughts: Even though there is a likelihood of my hair being “less straight” when compared to how no-lye relaxers process the hair, I’m not quite concerned because I am already using a No-Lye relaxer system (Affirm Fiberguard) that is infamous for not giving bone straight results.  My hope is that I will still get a similar level of straightness/texture by using a Lye relaxer as long as I don’t use the Fiberguard system.

I may have to retreat back to using a No-Lye relaxer, but I need to at least try it an see if (1) my scalp can handle it and (2) if my hair’s moisture levels increase.  Now that I’ve made my decision to at least try using a Lye relaxer with my next touch-up, I need your help on which one to choose.  I have been researching Lye Relaxer brands and my top choices are: Affirm Regular, Design Essentials Regular, or ORS Lye Regular.   If you have any suggestions or insight on these relaxers I would love to hear your comments down below!

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13 Comments


  1. No lye leaves my hair dry. I prefer Lye because it gives me the same result everytime.


    1. Oh I didn’t realize you used a lye relaxer, Tomes! When I looked around at the other hair bloggers who self-relax it seemed most of us used no-lye. It makes me feel better that you’ve been using it with so much success. Thanks!


  2. Can’t you mix oil in the lye relaxer so that the application time is the same to what you normally have when using the no-lye?


    1. Hey Naturally Kinky Me! Thanks for the suggestion, but honestly I would not know how much oil to add for my hair. And when it comes to relaxers, I’d rather use it as instructed. That’s also why the idea of texlaxing never appealed to me.


  3. My hair is the opposite. Lye relaxers make my hair dry especially at the roots. No lye relaxers don’t dry my hair out. I use a chelating shampoo and my hair is good.


    1. Oh really? I hope that isn’t the case for me. I’m sitting here thinking that my hair could be more moisturized. I’d hate to see it get drier. But I will keep an eye out for that. thanks, Velda!


  4. I think once you have quality products that will give the best moisture effects then you should not have a problem using lye relaxers. I have been using lye for years and in partictular optimum for the past 15 years. The moisture issues i had was not relaxer related but a lack of knowledge then how to properly take care of my hair. I have still seen persons use no lye and still have dry hair issues just the same. Is the relaxer to be at fault or what you use after to restore your hair ? If the relaxer is not properly washed from the hair then you will have issues. I had an experience once after relaxing at a salon i could still smell the relaxer on my hair. Who do i blame, the relaxer or the person doing the process?


    1. I like the Optimum relaxer, but I didn’t know they made a lye version.


  5. I have been using ORS Lye relaxer for years. I think it is the best.I use normal because my hair is not tightly coiled so maybe you want to use plus if you want to make sure it gets really straight? It do get softer with lye i think. when i was using no lye, the hair ended up being stiffer. but this was years ago, maybe the formula has changed as well.


    1. Hey Anna, I’m not interested in trying a stronger version (I always use normal). My hair strands are normal to fine and anything more than a normal strength relaxer would be pushing it for me. If I don’t burn and I can get to 15-20 minutes then I’m pretty sure that I’ll be fine with the straightness. Thanks though!


  6. Hi please let me know if you’ve used the lye relaxer and what as your experience & results?
    Thankyou


  7. I have very coarse hair. Even a day after touch up looks like nothing was done to my hair. I guess I should be using lye relaxer. Any suggestions on which brand. I crave for properly relaxed straight hair

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