Hello and welome!
This is the first of 2 posts on guide to healthy relaxed hair. The guide contains tips to achieve and maintain healthy, relaxed hair. I will be alternating posts between hair health, hair care, and styling. I have also posted a few items on each page section (see wash, regiment, etc.) as I will cover them in details in upcoming posts.
1. Reduce chemical processing
Chemical (relaxers, colour treatments, perms, etc.) overprocessing is the major cause of damage to hair, primarily textured hair. It occurs when hair is subjected to frequent chemical treatments. The chemicals, alters the protein structure of hair, making it prone to dryness and breakage. Some side effects are limb hair, thinning edges, and in severe cases, baldness.
Consider the following to avoid overprocessing:
It simply means to extend (stretch) the period between relaxer treatment. The rule of thumb is to stretch for at least 8 weeks, as the new growth is clearly visible which reduces the chance of overprocessing.
Texlaxing is a process where the relaxer is left in hair for a shorter time to deliberately underprocess it. The result is textured hair that is thicker and stronger than fully processed hair.
See a professional
Opt for a professional hair stylist instead of in-home service, as they are trained for this. They also carry products that will properly wash out the chemicals in large quantity and they will give you a protein/deep conditioning treatment after the relaxer. Please see a professional, if you experience relaxer burn (yikes!).
If you are confident in your ability to self-relax, thumbs up! Ensure to follow the process with a protein treatment to restore the protein that was lost during relaxing.
Other things to keep in mind
There is no such thing as a chemical treatment that is good for hair. Beware of false advertising! A relaxer alters the protein structure of hair by breaking stronger bonds and forming weaker ones. The result is a transformation from thick, coarse hair to thin, straight hair.
Avoid back-to-back treatment (such as relaxing, then colour/braid shortly after). When it comes to colour, keep in mind that the more you move away from your natural shade, the stronger the chemical required and hence, the severity of the damage.
There is a difference between relaxing and a perm, as they give the user opposite results.
Perm is the short form for permanent waves (e.g: Jheri curls), it makes straight hair curly/wavy. Relaxer straightens curly/coily hair by ‘relaxing’ the curly structure of the hair.
2. Reduce the heat
Heat is another common source of damage, particularly to textured hair. Excessive heat usage strips moisture from hair, making it prone to breakage. Heat from hot tools (blow dryer, curling/flat iron, hot comb, etc.) should be limited to 1-3 times a month and should be kept on low to medium settings. Also, ensure to apply a heat protectant before using hot tools, it shields (to some degree) the hair from significant heat damage. Note that the only way to prevent heat damage is to avoid it completely; air–dry or use the cool setting on your dryer for maximum moisture retention.
3. Wash your hair regularly
Healthy hair starts at the scalp. The scalp must be kept clean to provide the right environment for growth. Regular wash (at least once a week) eliminates flakes, buildup and chances of unwanted guests such as bacteria (huh?). Hair must also be washed using the right techniques and products to retain moisture and avoid breakage.
I admit that I was a culprit of irregular hair wash, primarily because I wanted to maintain the relaxed look and once water touches my hair, it will revert to an undesired state. This is not true, as the relaxed style can still be maintained several weeks after relaxing with regular wash & style using the right products and tools.The picture below is my hair 4 weeks after relaxer with at least 2 washes per week.
Note the following for a stress-free wash:
- Hair is most prone to breakage when wet, be very gentle
- Apply shampoo to the scalp only; the suds will clean the rest of the hair as it travels down the hair shaft. Do not apply it to the strands, it further strips moisture from the hair
- Do not pile the hair on top of your head, it will tangle! Wash long hair away from the body
- Do not comb after shampoo; it will feel a bit matted and this is expected as a shampoo removes buildup AND moisture from hair. Resist the urge to detangle until you apply a conditioner
- Detangle with a wide teeth (seamless) comb
- Dry hair with a cotton fabric (a cotton t-shirt will do), not a towel. The fabric in towels irritate hair cuticles
The wash process is a key stage in achieving healthy hair, which is why I have dedicated a page to the wash process. All related posts will be linked to the page.
Note that there is a difference between hair growth and length retention. Hair growth deals with the rate at which hair grows out of the scalp, while length retention is the ability to retain the growth. Hair grows (avg. 6 in /yr.) – this is why you have new growth that requires a touch up; if hair does not grow, there will be no need for continuous relaxing. Hence the statement, “Black hair does not grow” is misleading and false. The problem is not growth; it is the ability to retain growth – length retention. Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair, explains this concept in detail in her YouTube video.
Book: The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis
Which of the above guide do you follow?