Our natural black hair is kinky, tightly coiled, and is sometimes described as “difficult to maintain”. Though, opinions like that are changing as more and more women are opting to transition their hair to natural hairstyles. The rest of us apply different chemicals to our hair to tame those stubborn curls or “relax” them. Relaxers straighten out our kinks and make our hair soft and silkier. However, this process comes with a high price. Contrary to what people think, it costs a lot of time, money, and special care to maintain relaxed hair more than it costs for natural hair. Taking short cuts and quick fixes only leads to hair thinning, breakage, and damage. Here are a few tips on how to care for your relaxed tresses – how to keep them healthy, soft, and growing long.
Condition your hair. This cannot be over emphasized. No matter how much a relaxer claims to be “conditioning” or “moisturizing”, the active ingredients in a relaxer will always strip your hair of essential moisture. You have to restore that moisture back regularly. Condition your hair daily, weekly, and use a deep condition treatment – preferably under a heating cap – bi-weekly. Use good conditioners with natural oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil, virgin olive oil, and tea tree oil, not those packed with petroleum products and silicones which give an appearance of moisturised hair but don’t actually penetrate the hair and scalp. Better still, get these oils in their pure natural state and apply all over your hair and scalp.
Do it professionally. It’s amazing how many people have a friend or neighbour, with no professional training, who relaxes their hair at home. That’s a big mistake, except if you don’t care at all for your hair. Professional hairstylists – and I stress the word professional – are trained to apply these chemicals to your hair. It may be tough finding a great stylist you can trust. It could take a long while, but the effort will be worth it. They know how to honour the maximum application and processing time on the product pack, how to wash and rinse out your hair effectively, and can give valuable advice on how to care for your hair, which brings me to the next tip:
Do not over-process your hair. I’m amazed when I see some so-called hairstylists and customers wait out till the hair is “done” while relaxing, as though it’s a tray of chicken ribs in the oven. Manufacturers know what they were doing when they put a time cap on leaving relaxer on your scalp. If your hair is coarse, find the extra strength version of a product you like. Whatever you do, don’t stay longer than expected when relaxing your hair. You’re only inviting excessive damage.
Vary the time between re-touches. Some people say a four to six week period is okay to wait till the next re-touch. Now this is where you can be flexible. Based on your hair type and the styles you wear, your in-between-time can be anything from eight to ten weeks. If you wear protective styles like weaves or braids, you can extend the period between a touch up. This will give your hair and scalp time to rest and replenish lost moisture. Just watch that the new regrowth is not causing breakage.
Get regular trims. The ends of your hair are the most vulnerable to damage. Trimming the hair will not “shorten” the length of your hair. On the contrary it will make it grow longer and healthier by removing all the split ends so they don’t split further down to the shaft. So get those trims regularly – doing so bimonthly is a good idea.
Go easy on heat styling. Beyond relaxing, it’s the heat styling that perfects the silky straight look. Nevertheless, too much heat on the hair can cause heat damage that may be irreversible. Blow drying, curl tonging, flat ironing…the works – these processes can be hard on the hair, especially when done on wet hair. If you must blow dry or flat iron, do it less frequently, and let the hair air dry for about twenty to thirty minutes before you do so. For regular heat styling, roller setting is a good option as the heat is not so direct. You may also try other options like using flexi-rods or hair wrapping. Remember to tell your stylist to always set dryers to medium or low.
Hair Tip: Use raw natural shea butter as a moisturiser while blow drying or flat ironing the hair. It contains natural vitamins and is a great heat protectant. If you’re worried about the smell, you don’t have to be. Getting it raw is best, and there’s something about the application of heat that makes the smell fizzle away and leaves your hair shiny and healthy.
Suggested reading: Your Unique Hair Care Routine
About the Author
BlackBeauty is a writer, fun lover, hair and beauty buff, and an artist. She is a jack of all trades and master of all which can be seen in her awareness of a wide variety of topics. She is quite a luddite, but she can do email, and a bit of Facebook. You can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will reply.