I’ve been a naturalista for about five years now, and though I love my look, I sometimes wonder if I should go back to the creamy crack (hi, chemical relaxers). So when a friend suggested I look into a hair texturizer instead, I had a brief WTF moment—aren’t texturizers chemical treatments, or are they just another buzzy word for styling products like hairspray or dry shampoo?
That’s why I immediately chatted up a few hair experts to figure it all out, and, as it turns out, texturizers are actually pretty similar to relaxers, despite how different they sound. And to help you avoid the 50 stages of confusion I went through, I went ahead and found out everything you could ever want to know about texturizers, including how they work on natural hair, how long they last, and whether or not they’re safe.
What is a texturizer?
A texturizer is a chemical process that smoothes and de-frizzes your hair while maintaining some of your natural curls, unlike a relaxer, which straightens your hair (more on that in a sec). “A texturizer is like a flash relaxer,” says Courtney Foster, hairstylist and founder of Courtney Foster Beauty. Basically, while relaxing solutions are usually left on your hair for 15-25 minutes, texturizers are left on for as little as five minutes. “The purpose of a texturizer is to slightly loosen your curl pattern instead of making it completely straight,” she says. And because it’s not left on your hair as long as a relaxer is, it’s not quite as damaging.
BTW: Texturizers aren’t perms, meaning they won’t add “texture” to, say, straight hair. According to Stacey Ciceron, natural hair expert and Oribe brand ambassador, “the biggest misconception with texturizers is that they’ll give you loose curls, but they actually just loosen the natural pattern you already have,” she says. “Some people apply texturizers to loosen their curls, and some people texturize to make their curls or coils easier to work with.”
Just don’t expect your coils to be transformed in one appointment, since the results vary from person to person. “You can’t predict the perfect outcome of a texturizer, so there’s a chance you’ll be left with a variety of different textures,” says Foster. General rule of thumb? Make sure you’re (A) going to a professional hairstylist who knows what they’re doing, and (B) start with a consultation before you get your treatment so you have a better idea of what to expect.
Are texturizers better than relaxers?
Despite the fact that some people look at texturizers as a more “natural” alternative to relaxers, there are actually no chemical differences between the two treatments. “They are both processing creams made with either sodium hydroxide—aka lye—or calcium—aka no-lye—that restructure the bonds in your hair,” says Foster.
That means if you’re like me and hoping that you’d still be considered a naturalist post-texturizer, you’ll be v disappointed (and, well, wrong). As soon as a texturizer sits on your hair, it restructures the amino bonds within each strand, meaning it’s no longer considered natural. “The makeup for a texturizer is a relaxer,” says Foster, so it will change your hair’s natural texture.
Remember: Even though a relaxer will straighten your hair and a texturizer will loosen your curl pattern, both treatments are permanent. “The only way to get rid of it is to grow the hair out or cut the treated strands,” says Ciceron. I.e., going for the big chop.
Do texturizers damage your hair?
Even if your hair is healthy and strong AF, there’s always a risk that your strands will get damaged when a stylist applies chemicals. That said, “texturizers generally aren’t left on the hair long enough to create significant damage unless the hair is also color-treated,” says Ciceron. And, according to Amoy Pitters, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Amoy Couture Salon in New York, if your texturizer is “done the right way,” meaning you get a deep-conditioning treatment, and your stylist uses the right mix of products for your hair, and your ends are trimmed, “you’ll probably be fine.”
As with any chemical treatment, though, you can expect your hair to feel dry and thirsty as hell after your texturizer appointment, so you’ll need to give your curls plenty of TLC in-between salon appointments with hydrating conditioners and leave-ins. These are some of my personal faves you should have on deck:
Do natural texturizers work?
Here’s the thing: Even though you can probably find a texturizer at your local Target or drugstore that says its natural, you’re likely still getting a chemical-based formula. That’s because any treatment that permanently straightens or relaxes your hair requires chemicals—no exceptions. Still, if you’re looking for sleeker hair with minimal damage, texturizers aren’t your only option.
“If a client comes in and wants their hair smoother without totally losing their curl pattern, I recommend a Brazilian blowout rather than a texturizer, which doesn’t break down the hair bonds,” says Pitters. At the end of the day, though, only you—and ideally a trusted stylist—can decide what treatment and formula is best for your hair. So, when in doubt, do your research and ask tons of Qs before you commit to anything, k?
How long do texturizers last?
One more time for the folks in the back: Texturizers are permanent. If you no longer want to commit to a texturizer, you’ll have to cut off the treated hair or wait for new hair to grow in. BTW: If you like the results, you’ll need to touch up your texturizer every eight to ten weeks at the hair salon. In those two-plus months, you should have some new growth that will need to be treated for your hair textures to match up. “Some people want to do it every three months, but it depends on their texture of hair,” says Pitters. “You don’t want to have two different curl patterns.”
What’s the bottom line?
A texturizer is a relatively quick way to achieve frizz-free curls, with a pretty chill upkeep since touchups are only needed every two to three months. The only issue: Texturizers are still chemical treatments that can cause breakage if they aren’t applied correctly or cared for after. Since it’s a permanent process, the only way to get rid of texturized hair is to start fresh and chop it all off. Personally, I’m not ready to relive the big chop again, so I’ll continue to wear my natural hair in protective styles until further notice.