Many women alter the natural texture of their hair by applying a cream lotion known as relaxer to permanently straighten their hair and I am no exception. So what is relaxer? It’s a chemical procedure that breaks down the bonds of the hair shaft to loosen the curl pattern. This can be a very harsh process on the hair and can often times leave your hair in a very damaged state. But there’s hope! With the rise of beauty bloggers and video bloggers there is quite a lot of information (and new terms) readily available to equip consumers with loads of information on how to protect our relaxed hair and maintain its health.
I’ve gathered many of these tip here, in one place and when used in tandem can give women the best hair of their life!
1. Pre-poo – if it’s the first time you’re hearing this it may sound a little gross (ha!) but it’s not at all. This is simply applying conditioner or oil to dry hair before shampooing. This protects the hair from all of the moisture the shampoo process is going to take out.
2. CoWash – These terms lol. Again, just as beneficial as the pre-poo comes the co-wash. Co-washing is also meant to protect the hair from losing too much moisture via the shampoo process by avoiding shampooing your hair altogether. It is the practice of washing your hair with conditioner only. No shampoo. Best recommended for that mid week wash or if your hair in in a severely damaged state and cannot afford to loose anymore moisture, this would be ideal until the hair is healthy again.
3. LOC method – there is still some debate on which comes first – the cream or the oil, but the LOC method unlike the previous two methods above, happen post the conditioner process and when your hair is dry and ready to be moisturized. Which goes first is up to you, but LOC stands for Leave in conditioner, Oil and Cream moisturizer. So using the LOC method you will apply the leave in conditioner first, an oil second and then a cream moisturiser third – in that order.
4. Protein- as I explained before the relaxing process alters the hair and strips it of necessary components. Protein is one such component. Relaxed hair is stripped of protein each and everytime it is relaxed. Fortunately, this can be added back into the hair by deep conditioning with quality protein deep conditioners or protein reconstuctors.
5. Rinses – nothing is left to chance. While this can be elaborated upon in great length I will say here that there are a number of things that can be added to your final rinse to infuse the water. These include tea rinses, apple cider vinegar or simply applying even MORE conditioner for a second rinse out. No wait time.
6. Massaging your scalp – often taken for granted but massaging the scalp (with an oil or without) has been found to stimulate growth much like a plough turning the field before sowing in preparation for harvest.
7. Castor oil – now there are number of rich oils out in the market but for the purpose of this post, I’m only going to focus on two. The first is castor oil for sealing. Castor oil is thick but promotes hair growth when massaged into the scalp. It’s excellent for sealing in moisture when applied on top of a leave in conditioner. A la the LOC method mentioned in point 3 above.
8. Coconut oil – Some oils sit on top of the hair shaft while others penetrate it. Castor oil is excellent as a sealant because it does the former. While coconut oil is great as a moisturizer because it does the latter. Coconut oil is great for penetrating the hair shaft.
9. Apple cider vinegar – if you’ve been reading my posts you’ll realize that I recommend Apple cider vinegar a lot on here. Lol. ACV for short is the perfect elixir to smooth frizzy ends. Just mix it into a deep conditioner.
10. Hot water – use in combination with shampoo to remove build up from hair products. Used as a final rinse can lead to frizzy hair so stick to using this just for the shampoo portion of washing your hair.
11. Cold water – unlike hot water, cold water seals the hair and prevents frizzing so wash with this second
12. The inversion method- massaging your scalp is but one way to get blood to flowing to your roots and nourish them. The inversion method is another. Simply bend upside down or lie on the edge of a bed with your head hanging over to increase blood flow to the scalp. That’s it.
13. Green house effect – turns out I’d been doing this long before I knew it had a name and maybe you have been too? Method: apply an oil or conditioner to the hair overnight. Tie hair with a plastic bag or apply shower cap and then a head tie for added heat while you sleep.
14. Deep conditioning – Essential for relaxed hair. Repeat after me, ” E-ssen-tial!”. Those “leave in for 5 minute conditioners” are better for co-washes and even then…hmmm. Deep conditioning puts that most needed quench back into relaxed hair. Combined with heat it’s even more powerful. Sit under a hooded dryer (15 minutes) or place a shower cap or plastic bag over your head (30 minutes) aka the “baggy method” (these terms, gotta love it!) to help open up the shaft and get the moisture right on in there.
15. Hair supplements – there are so many quality hair supplements out there now. Avoiding the brand names ones (only for the sake of not giving free advertising) simply taking biotin, vitamin c, zinc and niacin – can go a long way to aid relaxed hair in its fight in this overprossed hair world.
16. Relax hair every 3 months – forget what relaxer jars and hairstylist tell you about relaxing your hair every six to eight weeks. Hair needs a minimum of two inches of new growth to apply the relaxer onto safely, otherwise you’re simply processing hair that has been relaxed before. While hair grows at different rates for different people, most hair follicles can hit that two inch mark in three months. Doing otherwise could be the very reason you have to cut your hair so often and “start over”.
17. Trim ends regularly – personally, I dislike having thin ends (or what some call “lace curtain hair” because it’s so see through) or even frayed or damaged ends. Not only because it looks unhealthy but it can be compared to a parasite, feeding off of your thicker parts of hair and preventing lush growth. Trimmed hair grows healthier when dead ends are gone.
18. Trimming according to the moon – while this is debatable it is scientifically proven that the moon affects the ebb and flow of the tides as well as the best periods to sow and till the soil for a bountiful harvest. And if our bodies comprise of 50 to 65 % of water don’t you think it might affect us too? While the jury is still out, I for one believe in trimming my hair in tandem with the different phases of the moon – full moon, new moon, the equinoxes and/or soltices. There is a lot of information available on the internet to explore this further. One calendar I use in particular is the Morrocco Hair calendar which shows the best days by month to cut your hair for varying results.
19. Protective hairstyling – simply put, these are styles that protect the hair. These include, buns, cornrows, updos, crotchet braids, wigs and clip in extensions. The idea is to protect your hair from manipulation, the drying effects of the air, from rubbing on your clothes or car seat head rest etc. All of these can cause breaking. Quick fix for the car head rest though – tie a scarf around it to avoid friction from rubbing or resting your head against it.
20. Neutralising shampoo – relaxing your hair at home can be convenient and saves money, but never, ever, everrrr should you relax your hair and simply rinse off with regular shampoo. No! Relaxer must be neutralised. Stopped. Completely washed out from the hair. Color coded neutralizing shampoos in particular turn pink to show when relaxer is still in the hair. This is important because relaxer must be thoroughly washed out or otherwise the relaxer will continue processing long after your final rinse. Neutralizing relaxer stops this process.
21. Using quality products- your hair is at a disadvantage if you apply a relaxer and then don’t treat it with the best. Once your hair’s natural state has been chemically altered everything in your power must be done to take care of it. Relying on cheaper products is basically leaving your hair’s health up to chance. This is not the time to skimp. Relaxed hair needs a quality moisturizing shampoo, a clarifying shampoo, quality deep conditioners, reconstructions and protein treatments. It also needs quality moisturisers, leave in conditioners, oils and hot oil treatments. Don’t run out and buy the most expensive products either as different products work differently for different people. But certainly experiment and mix and match until you find what is right for you. I think relaxed hair shows what you do to it or not. The effort and investment you put in or don’t, shows in your relaxed hair.
22. Heat – as a child your mother could have looked at one of your friends and tell you off the bat that that person is not a friend, they don’t have your best interest at heart. It’s the same with heat. My mother told me this for years and I didn’t listen. Heat eats away at relaxed hair overtime. It further reduces the body of your natural hair as relaxer has also done. This straight-upon-straight method as in the case of using flat irons on relaxed hair can prove to be too much for your chemically altered hair. At all costs avoid flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers and any of its relatives!
23. Use wide tooth combs – the teeth of these combs are spaced and made to handle thick hair and pull less on the root.
24. Develop a hair care regimen – let me say again, your hair cannot keep a secret. What you do or fail to do to it, it will tell the world. Hair care regimens are a very personalized hair care practices based on your availability of time, resources and know how or will. At its simplest it would cover how often you would do the following based on daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly schedules. Things to consider: how often will you wash your hair, trim or relax it? How often will you use protein treatments, recomstuctors or protective styles and so on.
25. Headties and satin bonnets – one word that keeps reoccurring in this post is moisture. And every effort should be made to maintain it, to retain as much as possible. That’s why at night it’s best to cover your hair to protect it from losing moisture while you sleep and there are a number of ways to do this. Headties, satin scarfs, satin bonnets and silk pillows are but just a few.
26. Relaxers – well we started with this, so might as well close with the crux of it all. There are basically two types of relaxers on the market: Pre Mixed relaxers and Post Mixed relaxers. Both have various pros and cons, the simplest of which are these. Pre Mixed relaxers come with the ammonia already mixed in. These tend to be harsh on the scalp and gentler on the hair giving a shiny finish. Because they are pre mixed they tend to burn the scalp quite quickly and require professional assistance. With post mixed relaxers the amonia is separate and has to be mixed in. These are gentle on the scalp but damaging to the hair shaft. As they take a little longer to burn the scalp they can be done at home but can sometimes be left on too long making the hair dull – af!
As relaxer is a very harsh chemical with sometimes devastating permanent results, it’s perhaps best to go to a professional hairstylist/hairdresser to put them in. May your future be filled with great hair days!