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Phytorelaxer: the lie of no lye relaxers

Neecholle needs knowledge: I have natural African-American textured hair, which I would like to grow longer by keeping my hair natural, healthy and moisturized. How safe, effective, and natural is the PhytoSpecific PhytoRelaxer?

The Right Brain responds:

Before we answer your question about Phytorelaxer, we’ll explain about hair and how it’s relaxed for our readers who may not understand the process.

Chemical bonds in hair

The shape of hair is partly controlled by chemical bridges, called disulfide bonds, that connect protein fibrils together. Because these bonds are so strong, a powerful chemical reaction is required to break them apart before the hair can be straightened. This reaction requires a very high pH. For those of you who fell asleep during chemistry class, pH is a measure of how acidic or basic a substance it. The pH scale runs from 1 to 14. Chemicals with a very low pH value (around 1 to 3) are very acidic and can be damaging to hair and skin. Chemicals with very high pH (10 to 14) are very basic and can also be damaging.

Relaxers have high pH

Relaxers must have a very high pH (11 or above) in order to work. Unfortunately, this pH can also weaken your hair and damage your scalp. Historically, relaxers used a chemical called sodium hydroxide (also known as “lye”) to create such a high pH. Over time, chemists found similar chemicals like calcium hydroxide, lithium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, and guanidine carbonate which basically do the same thing. Relaxers based on these chemicals are called “no lye” because they don’t contain sodium hydroxide. But they still expose your hair and scalp to very high, potentially damaging pH.

How Phytorelaxer works

Phytospecific’s Phytorelaxer is a no-lye type. It’s based on guanidine carbonate and its pH is between 11 and 12. Here’s what Phytospecifc’s website says about the product:

“Phytorelaxer is effective yet different because it permanently relaxes hair without harsh chemicals or irritation usually associated with chemical relaxers. The active ingredients in the straightening cream are a complex of egg and soy extracts. These ingredients are from 100% botanical sources and are hypoallergenic.”

This is a very misleading statement for two reasons. First, the pH of this product is very high, almost as high as lye relaxers, so it is using harsh chemicals. Second, the straightening cream may contain natural ingredients but egg and soy are not what make this product work. This cream is only one of the products in the relaxer kit. You also have to use the high pH guanidine carbonate Inductor product, or the hair won’t be permanently straightened.

So, to answer your question: is this a safe product? It’s as safe as other no-lye relaxers. Is it effective? Yes, it’s active ingredient really works. Is it natural? No, but Phytospecific leads you to think that based on what they say about the product. In our opinion, that’s misleading to consumers. They have a very good product, they shouldn’t have to distort the truth to get people to buy it.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Phytorelaxer is a good, but somewhat expensive, alternative if you’re looking for a milder relaxer. But don’t fall for their hype about natural egg and soy extracts permanently straightening your hair because that is just NOT TRUE.

If you want to try it for yourself, you can buy Phytorelaxer here. And if any of our community would like to share their thoughts on no-lye relaxers, we’d love to hear your comments.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Lianne June 28, 2014, 9:55 am

    Good to know and thanks for exposing the truth!

  • Lynn May 19, 2016, 7:03 pm

    This was a very informative article. I have used Phytorelaxer twice thus far, purchased at the expensive price of $65, but I don’t feel much of a difference in the texture of my hair when I use this relaxer than when I use less expensive relaxers. Are there other mild relaxers that contain guanidine carbonate?

  • Sabrina Moffitt June 6, 2016, 2:12 pm

    Hello is the phytospecific in the same category as relaxer? Since phytospecific has a calcium sulfate can you use other think products?

  • Tonya Lee Wise July 20, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Very informative. I have been very happy using “Smooth & Healthy Treatment” from Surface as a relaxer alternative for my clients. It uses good old fashioned ammonia with a bit of odor during processing. The result is shiny soft smooth hair !!!

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