Alternatives to Relaxers for Black Hair

Alternatives to Relaxers for Black Hair: Get Smooth Natural Hair



8 MIN READ | February 17, 2024

Relaxers contain harsh chemicals such as lye and sodium hydroxide, which can cause scalp irritation, hair loss, and chemical burns.  Also, long-term use of these chemical relaxers can increase the risk of certain endocrine disruption. 

To avoid potential scalp and follicle damaging risk, alternatives should be considered.

Alternatives to relaxers for black hair include texturizing, heat styling, flat ironing, chemical-free straightening, and protective styles for curly black hair. Relaxers are a chemical treatment of hair that breaks the natural protein bond of hair to straighten it up. Long use of relaxers can make the hair fragile and damage the natural texture as well. That’s why gentler alternatives are required to protect the hair texture. 

In today’s article, four separate sections are discussed including the natural alternatives, medical alternatives, equipmental alternatives and some protective styles that will help to control the hair damage and to straighten the hair. Based on the individual preferences and hair type, you can choose your alternative options.

A) Natural Alternatives to Relaxers  

Hair straightening with natural methods never forces your curls to obey but rather invites them to loose waves or a softer straightening. Consider it as accepting the natural state of your hair while reducing frizz and getting more manageable strands. Applying apple cider vinegar rinse, flaxseed gel, and bending roller are some of the natural alternatives that can save your hair from losing its integrity. 

In addition, these methods usually include nourishing ingredients such as coconut oil or honey, resulting in hydrated and healthy hair, different from the dryness and breakage caused by relaxers. 

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Use Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse for Black Hair

Apple cider vinegar rinses are commonly presented as natural hair straighteners, but it’s important to understand what they can really achieve. Apple cider vinegar rinses act mainly through physical and cosmetic effects, which don’t alter the normal structure of hair. The gentle acidity aids in bringing the scalp pH into balance, potentially easing frizz and bringing about a smoother look. 

However, the effect of this smoothing doesn’t bear the character of straightening itself. Curls may seem loose or less frizzy after detangling, but basic curl patterns are left intact. Thus, It can improve curl manageability and shine but doesn’t provide a permanent straightening. In the end, put your health first and embrace the stunning natural curls of your hair, except for risking it with chemical relaxers.

Flaxseed Gel 

Flaxseed gel can give the appearance of straighter and smoother hair rather than making the hair permanently straight like chemical relaxers. This natural gel coats the hair shaft with its mucilage, a gel-like substance acting as a temporary adhesive. This helps the cuticle of the hair to lie flat, resulting in a lesser amount of frizz and less flyaway, hence making your natural curl appear looser and straighter. 

Flaxseed gel coats the hair surface and makes them healthier, stronger strands with added gloss and bounce. This gel is also rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which provide more nutrition to your hair without the risk of chemical damage. However, straightening is a temporary and gentle solution. For all those who want a healthier option to get silkier and more controllable curls, flaxseed gel is a safe and nourishing option to support your default texture.

Bending Roller 

Bending rollers don’t directly straighten hair by changing its structure, but they can make hair visually straighter. By this process of rolling and wrapping the dry hair around these rollers, you can stretch and lengthen the curl pattern. Thus, it creates smoother, looser waves or even straight sections depending on how big and which type of rollers you use. 

Bending rollers rely on manual manipulation to make them much gentler on your hair. This method of straightening isn’t permanent. You can go back to your natural curls anytime by simply washing the hair. Additionally, bending rollers offer versatility; you can try out various sizes and ways to achieve diverse looks that range from bouncy waves to neat pin-straight sections.

B) Improving the Natural Textures

Black hair is significantly versatile and beautiful in its natural form. There is a unique texture for everyone, from tight coils to loose waves. However, the trend has been established where the Eurocentric beauty standards have the desire for straight hair. Therefore, many people have chemically straightened their hair with damaging consequences.

There has been a rising demand in recent years to accept natural textures. This movement encompasses more than just hair but also self-acceptance and celebrating the beauty of black culture. However, a few alternatives are still healthy to try out with your natural hair without damaging it with chemical softening. 

Wash and Go with Proper Shampoo

The approach is designed to be used on curly hair alone, where you clean, moisturize your hair, and embrace the natural texture. Shampoos and rich conditioners that are made for coils and waves should be applied on a curl pattern. The most important thing is to identify the right products that match your hair’s porosity and curl type for the best results.

Sulfate-free shampoos are best to use over curly hair. Also, prioritize hydrating the hair with coconut oil and aloe vera. With this method, manipulation is reduced while also showcasing your natural hair in all its glory, thereby minimizing the chances of damage or breakage.

Bantu knots and Twist-outs

Bantu knots and Twist-outs

Bantu knots and twist-outs are not going to give you a completely straight hair look in the short term, but they can make your curls a little bit looser. These techniques will help you to protect and make your natural hair more beautiful.

Both methods start with twisting wet hair sections, and thus, the curl pattern stretches and lengthens when it dries. This will give you a loser, wavy look compared to your natural curl definition. Also, the twisting action lifts up the cuticle layer of the hair strand. That’s why Bantu knots and twist-outs can decrease the frizziness and create a more straight-looking style.

C) Medical Alternatives 

Some medical alternatives are also available to straighten the black hair. Also, it reduces the risk of damaging scalp and uprooting of follicles. But these treatments won’t last more than 6 to 9 months. Matter of fact, most safe alternative options are temporary and require reimplementation. 

Keratin Treatment

Keratin Treatment for hair

Relaxers chemically break hair bonds to perform permanent straightening, whereas keratin treatments put keratin protein, a natural component of hair, into the hair shaft to perform the straightening process. By this, the edges of the hair are magnified, and the ends are smoothened. Keratin treatment helps make the hair straighter, smoother, and not frizzy. This treatment effect doesn’t include changing hair’s inner structure. Thus, it’s a non-chemical procedure which will last between 2 to 6 months.

On the other hand, relaxers belong to permanent chemical solutions where you have to take the risk of damaging your hair. Moreover, keratin treatments can restore protein loss, thus adding sheen and strength as well as eliminating the frizz. Thus, non-permanent straightening is a better choice for individuals who need healthy and smooth hair without irritating chemicals.


Texturizers take a less aggressive approach than any chemical relaxer that breaks the inner structure of the hair. Texturizer is one kind of flash relaxer that uses milder chemicals to loosen the curl pattern temporarily. It reduces the risk of damaging hair in less severe straightening than relaxers. This looser grip translates into soft, manageable waves or light straightening, depending on your natural curl pattern.

Texturized hair does not permanently change your hair structure. Hence, the effect diminishes within a few months, allowing your natural curls to return gradually. Therefore, its temporary nature makes it less damaging to heat than the extensive processing necessary for permanent straightening.

Furthermore, texturizers usually have conditioning elements, which means that your hair will become softer and even get some shine. Emphasizing the fact that it is not a complete replacement for accepting the natural wave texture, texturizers represent a healthier alternative to harsh relaxers.

D) Equipmental Alternatives

Although embracing your real hair texture is commendable, there are moments when we want the other look. Heat styling can surely give you temporary straightening or looser waves for the hair. However, taking care of hair shouldn’t be compromised; otherwise, the hair follicle will be damaged. Here’s a breakdown of some common heat styling methods for curly hair, along with cautionary notes. It will help to straighten the hairs and protect them from further damage. 

Blow Drying with a Diffuser

A diffuser attachment with a dryer aids in distributing the hot air uniformly. Thus, it eliminates hot spots that can cause damage and frizzing of curls. This technique will define your natural curl pattern with less frizz. Also, using some coconut oil for 5 to 10 minutes before taking a shower can help you make your hair less curly. 

Caution: Apply low heat settings and always use a heat protectant spray before blow drying. Also, don’t use the oil for a longer period, and don’t forget to use sulfate-free shampoo to wash the oil. 

Flat Ironing

The rotating metal plates of flat iron concentrate heat to straighten the curly black hairs. It’s one of the most effective ways to straighten hair. But it can also be the hardest way on the hair, which can possibly cause split ends and heat damage if used over time. 

Hair Curl Type


Recommended Time 

2A (Wavy)

Light/Frizz Reduction

5-7 seconds

2B (Wavy/Loose Curls)

Moderate Straightening

7-10 seconds

2C (Tight Wavy/Loose Curls)

More Defined Straightening

10-12 seconds

3A (Loose Corkscrew Curls)

Moderate Straightening

12-15 seconds

3B (Tighter Corkscrew Curls)

Light Straightening/Frizz Reduction

5-8 seconds

3C (Tight Coils)

Not Recommended

Table: Recommended time for using Flat Iron based on hair curl type

Caution: Use the lowest possible heat setting, and don’t forget to put on a heat protectant before using flat iron.

Silk Pressing

Silk pressing is a series of methods where the hair can be straightened. It involves shampooing, conditioning, blow drying with a diffuser, and heating a heated comb like a flat iron to straighten the hair. Silk pressing is one of the popular methods that provides a better outcome in hair straightening. 

This method not only focuses on neatening the hair but also adds shine and smoothness. Also, this method is easier to implement than other straightening methods. Silk pressing takes, on average, 3 to 5 hours to perform this task. 

Caution: Don’t forget to use sulfate-free shampoo, and mild conditioners while cleaning your hair. Also, using the heat protectant is a must while applying the flat iron. 

Use Protective Styles for Making Your Black Hair Stain

Protective styling, like braids and twists, doesn’t directly straighten hair but provides a better alternative to chemical relaxers by reducing manipulation and heat exposure. Protective styles can help you retain moisture, prevent breakage, and grow healthy hair. Additionally, protective styles come with endless options for originality and showcasing your natural curls, allowing you to explore various and flexible appearances. 


Braid styles such as Box Braids, Cornrows, and Senegalese Twists are some of the gorgeous-looking styles for curly hair. These styles can combine your hair with hair extensions. These styles are able to interlock the hair to create amazing designs while holding bundling and frizz at bay. Braids give hair the opportunity to relax, keep moisture, and get stronger. In contrast with relaxers, they don’t affect the structure of your hair; therefore, after removal, you’ll get healthier curls.


The most popular weave is sew-in weave, in which you can use extensions to weave into your cornrows, giving total coverage and length without chemical processing. Weaves are ideal for your natural hair as they protect it from harsh weather and styling. Also, it allows you to have an infinite number of looks.

Remember, correct installation and maintenance are vital for healthy hair underneath. Besides, these methods require expert hands to implement properly. Also, don’t force while making the knots, braids, and weaves; otherwise, it can damage the scalp by weakening the follicle. 


Headwraps are fashionable and common functional options for every curled queen. Headscarves offer an easy yet effective way to safeguard your hair. They protect your hair from the sun, wind, and dust, preventing tangles and breakage. Chitenges are available in a wide range of bright colors and designs; they enable a person to demonstrate his or her uniqueness as well as keep his or her hair safe.

People Also Ask

What Are The Most Effective Alternatives To Relaxers For Black Hair?

The most effective alternatives to relaxers for black hair include using temporary solutions like apple vinegar rinse and texturizer and using protective styles such as braids, twists, and Bantu knots. These styles seal in moisture, reduce manipulation, encourage healthy growth, and provide unlimited possibilities. Weaves and headwraps have full coverage and versatility without harmful chemicals. Embrace your natural curls and wave goodbye to relaxers – healthy, stunning hair is waiting for you!

What Are The Benefits Of Using Alternatives To Relaxers?

The benefits of using alternatives to relaxers start with protecting the scalp from permanent damage and minimizing follicle breakage and dryness of the hair. These pampering alternatives can make stronger, more resilient hairs over time. Also, relaxer alternatives will reduce scalp irritation and help you embrace your natural texture with confidence. Embrace the versatility, too, by applying protective styles that offer endless possibilities for expression, letting you rock unique looks while your hair thrives underneath. It’s a win-win for healthy, beautiful curls!

How Do I Choose The Right Alternative For My Hair?

To choose the right alternative depends on the particular curl type, fine or thick coils, and the individual’s desired styles. Consider how much protection and straightness you want. Braids and twists give both shelter and looser waves, whereas weaves are full coverage and potential length. Again, for temporary alternatives, texturizer and keratin treatment are worth giving a shot. Also, headwraps are versatile but provide less straightening. 


So, in the end, it’s better to ditch the damaging chemicals and embrace your natural beauty with a plethora of alternatives to relaxers! From the intricate artistry of braids and twists to the gentle coaxing of natural methods, there’s a perfect match for your unique hair and desired look. Remember, healthy hair is the foundation of every style. Consult a trusted stylist, experiment with confidence, and discover the joy of showcasing your unique crown. Also, don’t try any harsh chemicals that can damage the skull or hair follicles.


Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.

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