Tips for Achieving Healthy Relaxed African American Hair
Relaxer Hair Services
What Services Do You Get When You Relax Your Hair?
My History with Relaxed Hair
Keeping up with relaxed African American hair requires the utmost diligence and care. For us African American ladies, we have to be mindful about the many things we use to treat our hair such as products, heat and even how we shampoo and condition our lovely locks. I had my hair relaxed when I was only thirteen years old. Over the many years, I have discovered a variety of ways to keep my hair healthy primarily through trial and error.
Getting My Hair "Done"
We either love going to the beauty salon or we hate it. Either way, over many years, I have learned a great deal about what should be involved when you get your hair done. When I was naïve in my first several years of going to the salon, I always trusted every word of the hair stylist and always had my hair relaxed, shampooed, cut, blown dry and then styled every 6 to 7 weeks.
It was no wonder my hair wasn’t growing or was splitting at the ends so easily. When I reached my twenties, I started to do more research and take advice from a variety of sources.
When it came to getting my hair done, it was time to start eliminating some of the processes and making sure the chemicals were fully washed out. Today, I now only get a relaxer, have it shampooed to wash out the product and leave the salon with wet hair. I do everything else myself and my hair healthier this way.
Many stylists will cut corners and only shampoo a client’s hair twice after a relaxer. Make sure your stylist shampoos your hair at least three times with a neutralizing shampoo. Or, you can do what I do and leave with it wet and wash it a few more times at home just to be sure. It seems like more work, but down the road you’ll never have to worry about your hair being over-processed from relaxer sitting in your hair long after your touch-up which can cause hair to break or fall out.
Shampooing At Home
With my new process after my re-touch, I obviously do not have my hair styled at the salon either. Upon returning home from the salon with my wet hair, I jump in the shower and shampoo with Isoplus Neutralizing Shampoo. It’s a cheap shampoo that does the job. Over the years of using it, I have always been confident that the entire product from the relaxer is long gone down the drain.
Isoplus Neutralizing Shampoo
Deep Conditioning at Home
Deep conditioning the hair after a relaxer is extremely important. Your hair is in a weak state and is need of re-balancing its moisture level. Follow up with a high quality deep conditioner like Elasta Soy Ultra Hydration Deep Condition or Biolage Matrix Conditioning Balm. I like to use them interchangeably so that my hair does not get used to the same conditioner. If you’re short on time, wear a shower cap with the conditioner on your hair and tend to your other shower duties. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the deep conditioner will have done its job and your hair will be ready for a thorough rinse. If you have time or at least once a month, apply a deep conditioner to your hair and sit under a dome dryer for about 15 fifteen minutes.
Elasta Soy Ultra Hydration Deep Conditioner
The “Wash n’ Go” Bun
Now that your hair is squeaky clean and silky from a shampoo and deep conditioner, what do you do? Several years ago, I would have thought I still had at least two more hours of tending to my hair, as the next step would be to wet set it with rollers and sit under the dome dryer for who knows how long. It always felt like forever! I also knew that if I cheated and used a blow dryer, I’d damage my hair from the hot heat no matter what type of hand-held dryer I used.
These days, I do the “wash n’ go” bun. After applying a leave-in conditioner spray like Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave-in Conditioner and moisturizing oils like African Royal Hot Six Oil, follow these steps…
- Brush the hair gently back and grab it in a ponytail with one hand.
- With the other hand, simply twist the pony tail and wrap it around the base.
- From here, the bun can be pinned down with bobby pins or clipped with a large claw clip.
Styling My Hair
How to Do a French Twist
More on Wet Updos
If I need to look more presentable, I can keep my bangs out and curl them separately with the curling iron. Need to be classier than a simple bun in a hurry? In addition to styling the bangs, sweep your hair into a French twist instead. See the video on the right. Keep in mind with African American hair, you won’t need the hairspray.
Whichever bun or twist style you use, having your hair in these styles allows it to straighten as the hair dries, saving you a lot of time while putting less stress on your precious locks. At the end of the day when it’s time for bed, wrap your hair or wear rollers to sleep. The next day or the following day, it will be dry enough to wear it as you please.
When to Cut
An instructor from a local beauty school explained to me to never cut my hair right after it had been relaxed. She says the cuticles in hair that was just relaxed are expanded. When cut, the ends can fray. It’s best to wait at least few days and then return to someone you trust to cut your hair when it is dry and completely straight so that the hair is cut evenly.
In addition to changing when to cut my hair I also made alterations to how much should be cut. In my early days, my stylist was cutting a full inch or more at each relaxer visit. Over time, I learned that my hair was not getting longer because too much was being cut off at each visit. Now I only have no more than ¼ of an inch trimmed off every 8 to 12 weeks. Selecting a separate professional to cut my hair made a huge difference. If keeping your hair long and having someone who listens to you is important, I highly advise finding someone who solely cuts your hair but does not relax it.
Other Hair Care Tips
- Stylists will tell you it is safe to color or bleach your relaxed hair as long as you deep condition it weekly. This may depend on the strength of your hair but in my experience this advice only left my hair breaking and short. Because relaxers are so harsh on hair, I cannot stress enough to avoid putting any other chemicals in your locks like colors or dyes. If you absolutely must, stick with a tinted conditioner.
- With rainy weather approaching, wear your hair in updos with bobby pins and hair clips. Keeping the hair’s ends tucked in prevents breakage and damage from humidity. Heavy winter clothing like sweaters and jackets also have a way of breaking ends so never wear our hair down when wearing such clothing.
- If you like to wet set your hair with rollers, always use plastic rollers, never Velcro or foam rollers to avoid damaging your hair.