I sometimes cringe when I remember my mindset during my ‘creamy crack’ days. Due to a lack of knowledge, many mistakes were made. This confined me to hair that never seemed to grow past a certain point or risked severe damage. Here are 8 common mistakes made with relaxed hair that you may have been guilty of practicing.
Flat ironing relaxed hair
Using heat on relaxed hair is discouraged by hair care experts, as relaxed hair has already been stripped of its elasticity. Therefore it is weaker than hair in its natural state. The use of heat is likely to weaken the hair further and cause breakage. Any use of heat should be minimal. Using heat to combat new growth is futile. as any slight moisture on the scalp will simply cause the hair at the roots to revert. This may lead to an excessive use of heat, which causes dry and damaged hair. Instead, embrace styles that allow the new growth to blend, such as twist outs or braid outs.
Relaxing every six to eight weeks
I use to relax my hair every six weeks with super strength relaxer. Hair care experts suggest relaxing your hair every 10 to 12 weeks or even less frequently. The more your hair is exposed to the harsh chemicals of relaxers, the more prone it is to over processing and weakening over time.
Check out vloggers Ebony and Erica of TwoLaLa. They relax their hair as infrequently as once a year! Now I don’t think I could have gotten away with that, but it shows that the more time that passes between relaxers, the better. This reduces the overall exposure of your hair to chemicals.
Relaxing your hair to the point where it is bone straight is not recommended. It should be no more than 80% straight, as this leaves some elasticity in the hair. From my experience many hair stylists would only remove the relaxer once it started to burn. I also had hair that didn’t relax easily, so it would be left in longer than the recommended time. This is not good hair care practice. Hair with little elasticity is more likely to suffer breakage, especially at the ends.
Relaxing beyond the mark of demarcation
It is often stressed that only the new growth should be relaxed. The point at which the new growth meets the relaxed hair should not be crossed. However from my experience this is not always followed, and it can easily happen by accident. Apply Vaseline to the relaxed hair to protect it during the application process. When the processed hair comes into contact with chemicals, it can lead to breakage.
Not experimenting with curly or wavy styles
Braid outs, twist outs and flexi-rod sets can also be done with relaxed hair, although the technique used may differ slightly. The time between relaxers can be extended if these curly styles are incorporated on a regular basis. These styles are great for blending in new growth. Rather than trying to make the roots look straight it is easier to curl the processed hair without heat. These styles create diversity and give the hair more volume, which is sometimes lacking with relaxed hair.
Moisturizing my hair with oil
Since going natural, many of us have learned the importance of water for moisturizing the hair and the use of oil for sealing. I had no idea of this when I had relaxed hair and would often talk about needing ‘grease’ in my hair to moisturize it. Most afro hair stores still sell the old products that contain petroleum and mineral oil. Even when going natural, I would use a lot of Shea butter to moisturize my hair, instead of water. Now we know better. There are some oils that have moisturizing properties as they penetrate the hair strands, coconut and avocado oil for instance. But generally, when our hair is dry, it is crying out for water, not oil. Both are needed to ensure hair is moisturized and remains moisturized. Use a water-based leave in conditioner for moisturizing, and a natural oil for sealing in the moisture.
Not understanding how to retain length
When I had relaxed hair I didn’t understand how to retain length. Instead I was resided to the idea that my hair couldn’t grow past a certain point. If I had understood the importance of low manipulation and protective styling, I may have been more successful at retaining length. Protecting my ends-other than trimming them when they became weathered-should have been practiced, as much as it is now that I am natural. However, it is more of a challenge to retain length with relaxed hair as chemically processed hair is weaker. Women with super long relaxed hair are the exception, not the norm.
Excessive shedding in between relaxers is experienced by many women with relaxed hair. Hair care experts are unsure of the exact reasons for this. I remember thinking I had to relax my hair as soon as possible to deal with it. Some even fall into the habit of relaxing damaged hair, rather than holding off until the damaged is reduced. If you are having problems with your scalp, such as excessive dryness and irritation, the last thing it needs is exposure to harsh chemicals that burn and irritate. Also, examine the products you are using and eliminate any with chemicals that may be responsible for causing dryness, such as sulfates.
Using weaves or braids to mask the problems with the hair
Adding tension to your hair with weaves or braids may cause more damage long-term, and worsen the condition. Although weaves and braids can give your hair a break from chemicals and manipulation, they shouldn’t be installed on hair that is damaged and breaking. Hair in this condition may not be able to withstand the tension. Also, such hair needs regular moisture and conditioning. It is harder to reach your hair or scalp when it is tucked away under a weave. When ever weaves or braids are installed, ensure that the stylist does not do t them too tightly. Wigs (without tight combs or harsh glues) may be a better option, as they do not put tension on the hair. Crochet braids are also believed to be lighter and kinder to the hair.
‘Team relaxed’ can enjoy healthier hair. But ultimately avoiding chemicals is best for the health of any hair type. If a person chooses to use relaxers, they can at least avoid the common mistakes made by many, and minimize the damaging effects of chemicals.
Have you ever made these mistakes before? Do you have relaxed hair? Share your thoughts below.