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What's The Difference: Relaxer VS. Perm

William Brown

William Brown


William is a professional hair stylist with over 10 years of experience. He is passionate about creating personalized, trendy looks for his clients and specializes in hair treatments and updos. He is now a certified hair adviser for Mic Hair Company. His articles are always filled with advice, pro tips, and latest hair research results.

Fashion Blog

Fri May 13 2022

Have you ever noticed that women get to change their hairstyles every time the seasons change, too? It's only natural that women love to do their hairstyles. But are chemical treatments okay for your hair? What is the difference between a hair relaxer vs. a perm?

Relaxer VS. Perm?

Every time your natural hair wears out thin, you'll get the feeling that you need to do something about it. Of course, no one wants to go bald, so you will choose whether to have your natural hair relaxed or permed to make it still look healthy.

This is a common mistake. Having your natural hair relaxed or permed can lead to severe hair damage and breakage, and we don't want that. It cannot be undone once you have your hair relaxed or permed. You will need to let your natural hair grow again. However, doing this can result in unwanted curls on the roots of your hair.

Hair Relaxers

What is a Hair Relaxer?

A hair relaxer is a lotion or cream that is used to permanently straighten curly or coily hair. It has chemicals that relax the natural texture by weakening the hair structure. A hair relaxer is a chemical treatment for thoroughly straightening your hair. There's no other treatment like this that would give you silky, straight hair.

A hair relaxer is quite similar to perming. It's no surprise that some individuals confuse which is which between the two.

Types of Hair Relaxers

There are 3 basic types of hair relaxers: no-lye, lye, and thio. The categories are based on the chemicals found in each type of cream.

No-Lye Relaxer

With a no-lye hair relaxer, the chemicals included don't actually destroy your natural hair's protein bond. Instead, it breaks the bonds. If this type of hair relaxer is used, your natural oils may be reduced in the process, unlike the other type of hair relaxer.

No-lye hair relaxer does have calcium hydroxide, which can instantly cause dry hair and even dry scalp. This type of hair relaxer can eventually lead to hair breakage and damage.

Lye Relaxer

A lye hair relaxer is the most preferred. It functions quickly as it comprises sodium hydroxide, which makes this hair relaxer an alkali. The drawback is that this hair relaxer can be washed away from your natural hair; in the same manner, it alters your hair structure.

If you know that you have sensitive hair and scalp, it is in your best interest to consider a no-lye hair relaxer. But it would help if you remembered to use a decalcifying shampoo in order to have a successful hair relaxer treatment. Also, the decalcifying shampoo will be able to remove the buildup of calcium altogether.

Thio Relaxer

Thio relaxer uses ATG or ammonium thioglycolate. This chemical is also used for permanent waves. But when used as a relaxer, it has a higher pH level and concentration.

This one has the mildest formula, so people with fine, color-treated, or damaged hair can use it.

Hair Perm

What is a Hair Perm?

The term “perm” is actually short for permanent wave. Like a hair relaxer, the perm is also a chemical treatment applied to your natural hair to change or alter the original structure of your hair. Unlike hair relaxers, a perm makes your hair wavy, kinky, or curly. If your hair is naturally curly, you can also have it permed to enhance the curls or create neat waves.

There’s also the reverse perm that straightens the hair instead of curling it.

Types of Hair Perm

The neutralizer is then used to make up for the bindings that have already been broken. There are two types of perms in this case.

Alkaline Perm

An alkaline perm may be your best option for those of you who have stubborn natural hair, particularly tough gray natural hair. It also helps people who already have natural hair that is not springy, who may have straight hair or even thin hair.

Acid Perm

Acid perm is a milder sort of perm that should be utilized if your natural hair is ruined or unhealthy in the first place. You could also use it if your hair is dyed or if you already have natural hair that is prone to breakage.

Relaxer VS. Perm Pros and Cons

Hair Relaxer Pros and Cons


- You will be able to achieve smooth, straight hair. Just be aware that you will not have such curls for an extended time.

- Straight hair makes things simpler to style than if you had natural curls.

- It will only rarely induce frizz.


- Knowing that you will no longer be able to style your curly hair can be challenging at times.

- In order to avoid damage, you must devote a significant amount of time and effort to hair maintenance.

- Because you would be utilizing extremely damaging substances to produce the alteration in texture, you may experience hair thinning, damage, and stalled growth as a result of this procedure.

- Hair loss is a common side effect of this treatment. For this reason, it is not recommended to experiment and do DIY at home unless you are well-versed in the procedure beforehand.

- You'll lose all the natural oils in your hair due to using this product.

Hair Perm Pros and Cons


- Compared to other straighteners, the perm is less harmful to your skin. In this scenario, the substances remain on the natural hair for a shorter span of time than those of other relaxers.

- It enables you to maintain the same curl structure in your hair in a more relaxed state. This is typically used to generate natural curls even while creating beach waves in the hair.

- After texturizing your natural hair, it is much easier to straighten your hair once it has been styled.

- Curls will make it possible for you to go from having curly hair to having straight hair. In the case of the usage of styling goods and tools

- Your curly hair is easy to handle and style because it is thin and straight. The necessity of untangling your hair will no longer be necessary.


- It isn't easy to achieve consistent results once you have long curly hair, which is highly different from when you have short hair. Your curly hair should be short to medium in length to work the optimum.

- Because it alters the nature of your hair totally, you must avoid using treatment if you ever seek to change your hairstyle to lasting locks or braids.

- Because of the chemicals utilized, it is not a natural process. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is hair perming damaging to the hair?

Perms can make your hair look beautiful, but yes, they can also damage it. This treatment works by going into your hair follicles and breaking the hair bonds.

When these bonds break, it not only changes the shape of your hair, but also weakens the strands and makes them prone to split ends and breakage.

2. Can you use a hair relaxer at home?

Hair relaxing is easier than a permanent wave. It can be done at home as long as you’re careful, use the right product, and follow the instructions carefully.

Do your research before using a relaxer on your own.

Remember that even if it’s deemed safe, you’re still dealing with chemicals; one wrong move can damage your hair or scalp.

3. Hair relaxer vs hair perm: which is better?

It depends on what kind of hair you have and what kind of hair you want. If you want smooth, straight hair, a relaxer is better for you. But if you want to have curls or textured waves, go for a perm.

Both treatments can alter your hair structure and both give equally amazing results, especially when done properly. However, both can also damage your hair a little.

And when it comes to longevity, a perm can last up to 6 months, while the effects of a relaxer only last from 6 to 12 weeks. 

>>> Read more: 4 Best Blue Toner for Orange Hair <<< 


With the perfect hair treatment, the outcome will always be stunning and best suited for you. You need to wear your new hairstyle with confidence. You need to keep in mind that there are things you cannot do with your hair right after treatment, as it is far more fragile.


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