Apply a Hair Relaxer

Hair relaxer, otherwise known as hair straightener, is used on hair that is naturally curly or wavy in order to attain a straighter, sleeker look. Caution should be used when relaxing hair, because of the chemicals that are used. Follow the steps below to learn how to apply a hair relaxer.


  1. Select a Hair Relaxer.
    • The strength you use is determined by the texture of your hair. For instance, if you have coarse hair you would use a "super" strength hair relaxer.
  2. Put on a cape or towel.
    • Since a hair relaxer is made up of chemicals, it is important to protect clothing in case the chemicals splash. Use a hair dresser's cape or towel wrapped around your shoulders.
  3. Start parting the hair in sections.
    • Work with dry hair and divide the hair into 4 quadrants: front left, front right, back left, back right.
  4. Use a rat-tail comb and make 1/8th-inch (3 mm) sections.
  5. Put on gloves to protect hands from the hair relaxer chemicals.
  6. Mix the hair straightener product.
    • Typically, hair relaxer comes as a cream or paste and there will be chemicals that will be mixed together to complete the relaxer chemical process. This achieves the desired straightened effect.
  7. Apply the relaxer to 1/8-inch (3mm) sections.
    • You will need to use a color brush or a 1-inch (2.5 cm) paint brush to apply the relaxer to the sections. Saturate the hair with the relaxer. Apply the relaxer to all 4 sections until the hair is completely coated.
  8. Use your fingers or the back of a comb to work out the curls.
    • Begin at the section you started with when applying the relaxer. Divide the hair, again, into small sections. An eighth of an inch (3 mm) is fine. Using your fingers, begin to pull the hair to stretch out the curl. You can use the back of a comb for this as well, just run the flat spine of the comb along the hair. Repeat this in all 4 quadrants and twice to each quadrant.
  9. Leave the relaxer on the hair according to manufacturer's directions.
  10. Rinse the hair in hot water.
    • Hot water opens the hair cuticle, which allows you to rinse the relaxer thoroughly from the hair. Rinse for at least 5 minutes depending on the length of the hair.
  11. Shampoo the hair with neutralizing shampoo, if required.
    • The manufacturer's directions may indicate that you shampoo immediately after rinsing out the relaxer. Each hair relaxer manufacturer has different processes when it comes to this step.
  12. Use a moisturizing conditioner on the hair to help with damaged ends.
    • Hair relaxer chemicals are harsh so they can alter the structure of the hair. Damage to the hair is to be expected.
  13. Dry and style the hair as desired.


  • Use a good neutralizing shampoo and conditioner after your hair relaxer treatment. This will help build the hair shaft back up.
  • Application of the relaxer should only take 20 minutes or less for a retouch.
  • Expect the process to take at least 1 hour. More time will be needed for longer hair.


  • Make sure to read the instructions thoroughly. Each hair relaxer manufacturer has a specific process to follow.
  • Never apply hair relaxer to hair that has been lightened. The chemical reactions between the relaxer and the bleach in a hair lightening product could result in hair loss due to burning.

Things You'll Need

  • Rat-tail comb
  • Plastic gloves
  • Hair relaxer
  • Applicator brush
  • Neutralizing shampoo and moisturizing conditioner
  • Base cream
  • Towels or cape to protect clothing
  • Four plastic clamps

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