A question that has been asked to me was if there was a way you could achieve healthy, long hair while being relaxed with chemical straighteners (perms). My answer is most certainly YES!
This question has been one that has come up many times, especially with the surge of African-American women becoming natural or transitioning these days. One of the main reasons for the urge to go natural is to achieve “total” health of your hair, without chemicals that could potentially break the hair proteins down. Natural hair is normally thick, longer, and healthier than relaxed hair but that’s not to say that one cannot achieve the same results with relaxers.
Why Relax The Hair
Relaxers come in either cream form or in a lotion form. They help people with curl-textured or coily hair by “relaxing” the curl pattern into a straight, easier to maintain stand. There are the more professional based relaxers and then you have the home kit creams. Both tend to work effectively if done properly.
Many relax their hair because that is all that they know. In the black community, growing up, it was easier to relax than to deal with our unique texture. There were not many black people aware of how to properly care for our texture. If you had texture hair back then, society was known to be cruel on you. So since then, that was all that most knew. There is nothing wrong with relaxing when done correctly and with proper follow-up care.
Growing Healthy Hair With Relaxers
Since the hair is relaxed, or permanently straightened, it has now become easier to maintain. Relaxed hair is brittle nonetheless, due to the break-down of the natural proteins in the hair. Hair is dried out. So in order to grow long -healthier relaxed hair, you must be willing to put the time in to care for your hair as if it was a piece of delicate fabric.
When I was relaxed, my hair would not grow past shoulder-length like most with relaxers. On top of that, I would color, wet, and manipulate my hair in various ways just to show creativity, not knowing that I was not helping my hair at all.
I compiled a list that I have learned or have research to help you deal with getting past that hump with relaxed hair.
DO NOT DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- DO NOT OVER PROCESS – If you have already permed the hair, do not do that section again.
- DO NOT LEAVE HAIR – Do not leave relaxer on the hair longer than recommended on the instructions.
- DO NOT COLOR ON THE SAME DAY– No matter how many times you hear about it being safe because it is ammonia free, I recommend not doing so. Wait at least a two weeks for deciding to color. Remember color dries out the hair because it is a chemical as well. So think about it…double chemical processing in the same day (despite what the box says) is not a good idea if you are trying to grow your hair.
- DO NOT FREQUENTLY RELAX– Normally hairstylist would say to relax your hair every 6 to 8 weeks. Minimum six weeks. The reason for this is because you do not want to over process the already permed hair. I recall times that I would relax already relaxed hair because I did not know any better. All that was doing was breaking down hair and opening it up for easy breakage to occur. Listen to your hair. Watch your growth. If you can stretch a relaxer beyond eight weeks, then do so.
- DO NOT CONSTANTLY MANIPULATE HAIR– After relaxing (between relaxers), leave your hair alone. Do not constantly brush or comb hair. Put it in a style or leave it in a wrap.
- DO NOT USE HEAT EVERY DAY ON THE HAIR– Another self-learned lesson. Again, remember hair is already dried out from the perm. Do not try it out even more by frequent heat use.
- DO NOT WEAR WEAVES/BRAIDS RIGHT AWAY– I mean come on, this should be a no-no. Some stylist I have seen, do put sew-ins or glue into the hair directly after getting a relaxer. Why would you want to put that much stress on your hair when it is already in a vulnerable state for breakage? Same goes for braids, unless it is a loose French braid.
- DO NOT WEAR TIGHT PONYTAILS– Breakage happens. This pulls on the hair when put into a ponytail. Along with no tight ponytails, I must add, DO NOT use rubber bands, or those hair ties with the metal piece on them, these pull strands of hair right out the scalp.
- DO NOT SWITCH RELAXERS-Especially if it is unnecessarily. If you find that the relaxer you used was too strong, I suggest finding a sensitive version of that product. Do not keep switching around due to the price. Every relaxer is different, with different formulas.
- DO NOT COMB/BRUSH HAIR WHEN WET– Not a good idea at all as it will break due to it being wet AND brittle.
DO ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Moisturize hair daily.
- Watch how you shampoo your hair and how many times you shampoo.
- Deep condition hair often. Not just once a month. This helps combat the dryness of the hair.
- When selecting a conditioner, make sure it clearly states on the bottle that it is moisture rich.
- Use oils. This helps seal in the moisture. Make sure it is natural oil like coconut, jojoba, or even castor oil.
- Eat a healthy diet. Your diet plays a key role in obtaining a healthy mane. What you put inside is what you project outside.
- Drink plenty of water. This helps with moisture from the inside.
- Get trims often to help with split ends.
Simple rules to follow for gorgeous relaxed hair you can be proud of.
Ijanei Smith has been into healthy hair practices since the age of nine. Learning different techniques to gain optimal health to her own hair through trial and error, she aims to spread the knowledge with other African-American women who are struggling with their hair as well.
Her philosophy is “to know better is to do better,” and when it comes to ensuring she spreads her knowledge of growing or maintaining hair, there is no limit or trial she is not willing to try.
Learn more about me here: http://scaryhairobsession.blogspot.com