Tips for Maintaining and Taking Care of Relaxed Hair
Many people, especially women, find that using perms make their hair easier to manage and to style. Chemically straightened or ‘relaxed’ hair often needs a lot more attention and care than most natural hair types, due to the amount of chemicals used to take the natural curliness out of it. If not properly maintained, you could face problems such as breakage, split ends and hair loss. However, taking care of relaxed hair doesn’t have to be a hassle or strain. These tips are to help you with looking after and maintaining your straightened tresses.
Frequently trim your hair
Regularly checking for split ends and trimming them is a good idea for any hair type, especially for relaxed hair. The end of the hair are the oldest parts of the shaft, and can often become damaged due to rough handling, styling or humidity. Damaged or split ends can creep up the hair shaft and cause weakness and eventually breakage. It is recommended to lightly trim the ends of your hair (this is sometimes called ‘dusting’) roughly every four to six weeks. This will help to reduce hair breakage, which causes shortening, and eventual loss of hair.
Advice about Dyes
Hair dyes, once used carefully and following instructions, can be used in relaxed hair with minimal to no damage. Semi-permanent dyes are not as harmful as permanent ones, and most hairstylists recommend these more. It is best to wait at least two weeks after chemically relaxing your hair before applying dye, unless the hair dye instructions specifically say that it can safely be applied the same day as relaxing. Only do touch ups when necessary, and be careful not to overprocess (that is, have too many chemicals in your hair at once) your tresses.
Always do a spot test for hair dyes; that is, put a drop of the dye liquid on a patch of your skin, (most dyes suggest on the upper arm) and leave it for the next 24 to 48 hours. If there is an allergic reaction, it is strongly recommended to not proceed with the dyeing process.
Avoid stressful hairstyles
Relaxed hair is fragile, and hairstyles like tight ponytails, buns and braids can cause breakage. Ever noticed a lot of hair being combed out after wearing a tight ponytail or braids? That could be a sign that the hairstyle is too stressful on your hair. It is not recommended to wear extremely fine or tight cornrows or braids. Also, when wearing a ponytail or bun, it is never a good idea to wear the hair scrunchie taut. There are many great accessories that do not cause stress to your hair such as jaw clips, barrettes, banana clips and pony combs.
Avoid using heat styling tools
Heated styling tools such as flat irons, curling irons and powerful blow dryers can cause damage to relaxed hair, if used every day, or for long periods of time. Flat irons and curling irons cause more damage than a blow dryer, as these tools actually touch the hair for periods of time.
Avoid overusing these, and when you do, use products like heat protectors (these are liquids that can be combed through or sprayed into the hair, and will act as a coating to prevent heat-related damage), and put the tool on a low setting if possible. Avoid leaving the iron in a part for too long, as this can literally ‘fry’ your hair!
As for blow dryers, a great alternative is letting your hair air dry. However, if that isn’t possible, you can still use a blow dryer, but have it at a medium heat setting. If it is a hand held one, remember to constantly move it to different areas of your head. If it is a ‘bonnet’ style one, also have it at a medium setting, and set to a timer.
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Re-relax your new hair growth (and take care of your roots!)
Even though your hair is chemically straightened, new hair growth that comes from the roots will have a natural, curly texture. This is your natural hair growing through the roots from your scalp. As it grows longer, the roots tend to become entangled easily, which can lead to knots (ouch!) Rough combing of new growth can result in hair loss and breakage.
Comb thoroughly through your hair frequently, to avoid your roots from becoming matted, especially if new growth is beginning to appear. This can help to prevent tangles and knots.
It is recommended to have your hair re-straightened (or touched up) at least every six to eight weeks; once every three months is considered ideal.
Relaxed hair is naturally dry, so it’s important to moisturize daily, even if it’s only dipping your fingers in water and then running them through your hair. It’s a good idea to comb a moisturizer thoroughly through your hair every few days, starting from the roots then combing down. Also, when going to bed, wear a head scarf or cap to keep the moisture in at night (these scarves are also a good way to keep a hairstyle looking fresh!)
There are many products on the market that can be used for this, and moisturizers include hair polishes, oils and leave-in conditioners. Brands such as Carol’s Daughter, Pantene, Africa’s Best, Motions, Soft Sheen Carson, Aphogee, Wen by Chaz Dean and Dr. Miracle’s among others all specialize in creating products suitable for relaxed hair care.
Wash and condition your hair frequently
It is recommended to wash relaxed hair at least once to twice every two weeks. While it is not necessary (or practical) to wash your tresses every day, it should still be done frequently. When washing, use shampoos that are lenient on processed hair types, as well as shampoo. Straightened hair is at its weakest when wet, so try to avoid combing, or use a wide toothed comb, and treat your hair gently. Hot Oil treatments and deep conditions (this is when you apply conditioner to your hair, put a shower cap over it and let it sit for an hour) are also beneficial, and should be done occasionally.
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