Tag Archives: Relaxer

Is Relaxed Hair Really Easier to Manage?

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Here I discuss this misconception and review some of the major mistakes I made when my hair was relaxed? Perhaps this explains why my hair never grew past a certain point.

A certain reality TV star was quoted as saying that natural hair isn’t for everyone. This was puzzling to me and many others in the natural hair blogosphere.  How could a person’s natural hair not suit them? Was he claiming that for some women the only option was to alter their hair texture permanently or to be constantly reliant on weaves?  This is fine if it is a choice but it’s unfortunate when women believe they have no choice but to rely on relaxers.  This implies that there is something inherently ‘wrong’ with their natural hair.

natural hair

 It’s very rare that you hear people of other races make such comments. This idea simply isn’t true and is a major misconception.   After making these comments he later ‘clarified’ on Twitter that he wasn’t being critical, he was simply pointing out that not everyone knows how to ‘manage’ their hair in its natural state, so thus it isn’t for everyone.  Really? I use to think like this, ask many women with relaxed hair or those that tried to go natural and have since returned to relaxer. Some will say the same thing.

However, is relaxed hair really that much easier to manage? All I know is when my hair was relaxed it didn’t grow past a certain point. Now this may not be the case for everyone but many of us can relate to this. During my time with relaxed hair I also had to deal with occasions where my hair was over processed, which led to breakage and regular setbacks.  Looking back now, I simply wasn’t aware of good hair care practice.  The principles that I have learned since going natural are also important for women with relaxed hair. They don’t just apply to natural hair but are integral for promoting healthy hair in general. For example both relaxed and natural hair benefit from protective styling. If I had incorporated this principle when my hair was relaxed I may have seen better results.

Click to check out vlogger KinkyCoilyCurlyMe's story below

Check out vlogger KinkyCoilyCurlyMe’s story below

Unfortunately, I believe many of us are still unaware of the effects of relaxers to the strength and overall health of our hair. This may be the reason why black women are considered to have the shortest hair length or  hair that ‘doesn’t grow’.  Relaxers may be one of the main reasons for this. Although there has been an increase in the percentage of women with natural hair in recent years, the majority still opt for relaxers.    After reading The Science of Black Hair, by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, I became more aware of  what chemical relaxers do to the hair. I realized where I was going wrong when my hair was relaxed. I wasn’t incorporating the practices needed to combat the negative effects of chemical relaxers.  I believe many women with relaxed hair are still not aware of how to manage their hair.  I’m not simply referring to styling, which is usually put before health.

Relaxers weaken afro textured hair because they strip the hair of its elasticity. With little elasticity, hair is more susceptible to breakage. Afro textured hair is naturally fragile as every kink and curl presents a potential breaking point. The American Academy of Dermatology found that relaxers make curly hair even more fragile and may therefore be the reason why the hair doesn’t grow beyond a certain point.  Afro textured hair certainly grows, that’s why we have to get a re-touch every 6 to 8 weeks. So the logical explanation is that the hair is breaking off from the ends and doesn’t reach a certain length as a result.

Good practices for relaxed hair

So what are the good hair care practices that would have helped me to manage my relaxed hair better?

Avoid bone straight hair

Hair care experts suggest that you should not relax your hair to the point where it is bone straight. Generally it should not be more than 80% straight; this leaves some elasticity in the hair.   I certainly didn’t know this when I relaxed my hair and my hair stylists didn’t follow this rule either. Instead they would wait until my scalp started to burn before they would even consider washing the relaxer out, this is not good hair care practice. Most of us believed that the straighter the hair the better. If  our hair wasn’t bone straight after a relaxer session it would have been considered a failure.  This doesn’t mean that such hair care experts are condoning the use of heat either in order to get the hair bone straight. In fact using heat on relaxed hair is not recommended, as this can cause dryness and breakage on hair that is already lacking in elasticity.

Wavy Relaxed Hair

Wavy Relaxed Hair

Relax the hair less frequently

Hair care experts also recommend that you relax your hair every 10 to 12 weeks rather than the popular 6 to 8 weeks. This is simply because of the harsh effects of the chemicals in relaxers and the risk of over processing. The more time that passes between relaxers the better, as this would reduce your overall use of chemicals.  How many of us followed this rule when we had relaxed hair? I relaxed my hair every six weeks without fail because I couldn’t handle the re-growth.  I didn’t like the very appearance of it. If you were going to follow this rule, you would have to learn to blend the two hair textures. Again, the use of heat to do this isn’t encouraged and it is stressed that such usage should be minimized. Using heat on the new growth is futile because any slight moisture on the scalp will result in the hair reverting. That’s why many of us fell into the trap of using heat too frequently, in between relaxers.  Some of us used it daily!  It would be beneficial to try braid-outs and twist-outs in between relaxers as this will blend the two textures well.

Don’t relax damaged hair

Dealing with two hair textures in between relaxers sounds like hard work to me and indicates that relaxed hair is not as easy to manage as people would love to have you believe. From personal experience the longer I waited in between relaxers the more shedding I experienced. This gave me the false idea that my hair was breaking without the relaxer and so I needed to relax it as soon as possible. The cause of heavy shedding between relaxers is still unknown and this topic has been debated.  It is suggested that you should wait for this period of shedding to subside before getting another relaxer.  Relaxing the hair is such a harsh process and should be done when the hair is in the best possible condition.

Respect the mark of demarcation

This is the point where the new growth reaches the straight, relaxed hair.  Hair care experts stress that when you relax your hair, you should not apply any of the mixture to the hair that is already straightened. You must only apply the relaxer to the new growth as this can lead to over processing. Well, I know from experience that this is almost impossible to do in reality.  Audrey Davis-Sivasothy suggests that you cover the relaxed hair with a thick cream or oil to form a protective barrier between the new growth and the relaxed hair. This may be the best way of preventing over processing. In practice, I know many of us did not take this rule seriously and I have seen hair stylists applying the mixture to about half of the hair. They certainly didn’t take care to ensure that they only applied the relaxer to the new growth. Hence, this is why many of us endured over processing as a regular occurrence.

Protein and moisturizing treatments

How many of us knew the difference between protein and moisturizing treatments when our hair was relaxed? And the importance of balancing moisture and protein with our treatments and products?  I can now concoct my own homemade protein and moisturizing treatments and I’m aware of the benefits. I don’t do protein treatments very often because I don’t have to, but with relaxed hair frequent protein treatments are a must.  Getting the protein/moisture balance right takes time and practice.   Protein treatments combat the weakening effects of the chemicals in relaxers.   Regular moisturizing treatments are also important in between relaxers. Relaxed hair is even more prone to dryness due to the chemicals in relaxers, despite clever marketing to convince you otherwise.

I only had treatments at the salon once in a while and the treatments I bought from the shops were mainly moisturizing treatments. I probably should have been having more protein treatments but I was unaware of the difference.  According to expert advice, protein treatments should be done every two to three weeks and moisturizing treatments should be done weekly with relaxed hair.

relaxedhair1

SimplYounique's hair growth

SimplYounique’s natural hair growth

After truly researching the effects of relaxers, I do not consider relaxed hair easier to manage. It also takes time and effort to maintain the health of relaxed hair. Dealing with the effects of chemical relaxers can be more of a headache, literally and figuratively speaking.  I think it was a miracle I made it through my relaxed years with hair still on my head, because I broke so many hair care rules.  Besides, you can still have straight hair when it is natural without the use of chemicals. If you are happy with your  relaxed hair that’s great!  You may still believe it is easier to manage.  We are all allowed our own opinions and our individual experiences differ.  However, I would suggest doing your research and adopting good hair care practices whatever your hair texture.

Click to check out hair Chime Edwards on Youtube

Click to check out hair Chime Edwards on YouTube

Whether relaxed or natural we should all learn to manage our hair correctly and no longer be stereotyped as the race that has the hair that doesn’t grow. Or that women with long hair in the black community must be bi-racial. I know there are black women with healthy, long relaxed hair too. But when I was growing up they were always the exception, not the norm.  For me personally, it was not a healthy period for my hair or for my self-esteem. Now my hair is longer than it has ever been. It is a wonderful experience to not have to rely on weaves or extensions for length and thickness.  It takes time to learn how to manage your natural hair but it is worth it!

What do you think?  Whether you have relaxed or natural hair, share your thoughts below.

Sources

·         The Science of Black Hair, Audrey Davis-Sivasothy; Saja Publishing Company 2011

·         www.blackhairscience.com

·         Ultra Black Hair Growth II, Cathy Howse, UBH Publications 2000

·         Grow It! Chicoro; ChicoroGYM Publishing 2009

·         http://www.curlynikki.com

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I can’t go natural! My hair is too tough (part 1)

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In part one of this article, I address one of the greatest misconceptions about natural afro-textured hair.

I have heard this statement many times from women who are apprehensive about avoiding chemical relaxers and wearing their hair natural.  When I point out that I no longer rely on chemical relaxers, they tell me that I must be fortunate to have soft hair and this has allowed me to stay natural. I usually laugh out loud when people tell me this because the last thing people used to say about my hair was that it was soft. I have certainly broken a few combs in my day and remember constantly having to replace the comb attachment on my blow-dryer, and this was when my hair was relaxed!

Re-growth terrified me because the more re-growth I had the harder it was to manage my hair. So I would relax my hair every six weeks without fail, whereas most of my friends could wait at least eight weeks.  I have terrible childhood memories of the first attempt at relaxing my hair. The first time, my mum used a ‘kiddy kit’ and it was as if she simply put moisturizer in my hair. Nothing happened. Then we tried again a few weeks later, with an adult relaxer. My aunty, who happened to be a hair stylist, left the relaxer in my hair for a very long time and my scalp was burning, only to find that my hair had barely straightened. I was so disappointed. On the third attempt it finally worked but my hair never really stayed sleek for the full six weeks. After two weeks it would start to look frizzy. So for as long as I can remember I used super strength relaxer. If anyone was to say their hair was ‘too tough ‘to go natural, it would be me.   In fact, isn’t that one of the main reasons the majority of black women use chemical relaxers in the first place?  According to a recent article in Ebony magazine, over 65% of black women in America opt to use chemical relaxers to straighten their hair. One of the reasons for this is this misconception that afro textured hair in its natural state is hard, unmanageable and doesn’t look presentable.

After years of believing that lie I had to really ask myself why people of other races could manage their hair with no problem, but when it came to black people we had to resort to chemically treating our hair as a norm. The pain of harsh combing when I was a kid, the burning of my scalp when I relaxed my hair, only reinforced the lie, that there was something wrong with my hair and that it needed ‘fixing’.  The solution for that was relaxer. Getting a relaxer was seen as a rite of passage among young girls when I was growing up in the UK. In fact I didn’t get my first one until I was 13. As a result I was bullied in school for being one of the remaining few to still have natural hair. When my hair wasn’t braided it looked messy as I didn’t know how to style it and I received negative attention from some of the other children. I couldn’t wait to get a relaxer (or perm, as it is referred to in the US)!

So what changed?  Well I grew up and was no longer an impressionable kid trying to fit in. I was a grown woman approaching thirty, who refused to believe that there was something wrong with my hair or that afro textured hair had to be fixed. I realized that I never really learned how to look after my hair in its natural state. I had only learned how to alter it and never embraced it as it was. I was also curious to see what it looked like in its natural state.  Perhaps if I learned how to manage my hair it wouldn’t be so unattainable to have it natural. I stumbled across some helpful advice and information on the internet and saw positive examples of women with natural hair on YouTube. If they could do it then surely I could.  I was tempted to simply dismiss their success by telling myself that they must be the exception, perhaps they are just fortunate to have ‘good hair’, hair that was soft, or maybe they were mixed.

I cringe every time I hear women make such statements to convince themselves that there is no way they can go natural even though they are interested in doing it.  The number of black women wearing their hair natural is increasing. According to a 2010 study commissioned by Atlanta based black hair care company Design Essentials; the number of black women wearing their hair natural increased to 36% in 2011. Sales of chemical relaxers were also believed to have dropped by 17% between 2006 and 2011, according to the market research firm Mintel.  So more and more women with afro textured hair are learning how to manage their hair and no longer rely on chemical relaxers, something that seemed unattainable just a few years ago.  There is also a greater awareness of the dangers of relaxers and the effects they have on the health of our hair and scalp. Many women with natural hair testify to the improvement of the health of their hair and scalp since going natural. The American Academy of Dermatology states that highly textured, curly hair is, “by its nature, more fragile than naturally straight hair,” and “relaxers make curly hair more fragile.” My hair is the longest it has ever been simply because I handle it with care, keep it well moisturized and wear protective styles from time to time. 

Afro hair is very diverse and no two heads of hair are the same, even within the same family. Some of us have more kinks than curls or more coils and some have a combination of all of these.  However, the principles of managing afro textured hair are the same and if they are applied you will have healthy, manageable and yes, long hair. We may all face different challenges; our hair may grow at different rates, vary in thickness or retain moisture differently.  But if you learn how to manage your natural hair then it will thrive. I always say that it is our lack of knowledge that is the problem not our hair. There is nothing wrong with your hair; you simply need to learn how to manage it. Any hair that is dry, knotted and damaged from styling will be harder to manage, whatever type of hair it is. I have always had very thick hair and that was one of my biggest challenges I had when it came to managing my hair. The very thing I hated about my hair is the main reason I receive compliments today. I have learned how to manage my hair so I no longer consider it ‘unmanageable’. In part two of this article I will list some of information I learned about natural afro textured hair.  This information gave me the confidence to take the next step and continue on my natural hair journey.

What were some of your main concerns about going natural?

Step Away From The Relaxer (part 3)

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Here is some more advice for those who are at the awkward stage of their journey. Your hair is growing well and it is no longer a TWA. It may be more of a challenge to manage, as a result. Perhaps you are entering an area of the unknown, where you have to figure out how to style your hair at this new length.This is particularly problematic when you remain as busy as ever. The demands of work, school, or looking after children make hair the last thing you want to  concern yourself  with. Remember, it isn’t our hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge. Once we learn how to manage our hair effectively at this stage, it is no longer an issue. Have a look at parts 1 -4, if you haven’t already. This week will be tips 5 and 6.

5. Beware of texturizers.  I almost fell for it. I was told I could texturize my hair to ‘soften it’. As if my hair is made out of concrete! I will repeat this; it isn’t the hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge.  I was someone who was regarded as having ‘tough’ hair. Why? When I first tried to relax my hair it didn’t work. It only relaxed on the third try and would look kinky again after two weeks or so.  Then I started using super plus relaxer (Elasta QP Super!).

So if anyone is considered to have ‘tough’ hair it should be me. Now, when my relatives comment on my hair they say, I’m fortunate that my hair is soft, that’s why I have managed to stay natural. No, it is not that my hair is softer than anybody else’s; it’s that I have learned to care for it, in a way that allows me to handle it effectively. I no longer use products that contain harsh sulphates for example, which dry out the hair. I have also learned how to keep my hair stretched out.  Refer to my post: How to stretch out your hair without heat.

When your hair is dry and tangled it makes it a lot more difficult to manage.  So don’t fall into the trap of believing that a texturizer  will ‘soften’ your hair and you  will still be natural. Texturizers are similar to relaxers, they are designed to permanently alter your curl pattern. Relaxers take away your curls completely and texturizers are believed to loosen your curl pattern. However if you have a Z shape curl pattern, the result will be very different from the photos on the box. Even if you have an S shape curl pattern results of texturizers can still vary and they are not temporary but permanent, like relaxers.   Your hair will not magically go back to its kinky, coily texture when wet.

Is my hair really going to look like this?

I know people who made this mistake and came out of the salon with hair that looked relaxed. Hence they had to start all over again.  Look at the ingredients in texturizers, they also contain chemicals that permanently alter your hair, such as calcium hydroxide or sodium  hydroxide (lye). They also contain ingredients that dry out the hair, such as: petroleum, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulphate. So don’t be fooled by the smiley faces of the models on the front of the box, and words such as ‘hydrating’, ‘anti-breakage’ and even , ‘organic’. Many of these products use the word organic while containing a number of harsh and unnatural ingredients. They throw in 1% of a natural ingredient and give you the impression that the 1% is the main ingredient. It’s simply a marketing tool. Don’t forget the website http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. You can type in the name of a product or ingredient and find out how it is rated, in terms of safety.

If you are having a problem with managing your hair, simply do some research. There is a great deal of information on the internet, and you can ask questions on forums, facebook pages and YouTube.  You will find someone who can relate to you and give you some helpful advice. I’m still learning better ways of managing my hair. It use to take me  1 hour and 30 minutes to detangle it. Now it takes me 30 minutes because I followed some advice I found on YouTube. It’s trial and error and you have to be willing to learn and make mistakes at the same time. You will be thankful that you didn’t go back to relaxers or texturize your hair, when you really didn’t need to.

Have a look at Kimmytube’s natural hair story (parts 1 and 2). It is very inspiring and highlights that fact that we are all learning. Her hair was the same length for the first ten years of being natural. It is only when she began researching how to truly manage her hair, she began to see great results. She also tried texturizers and it didn’t work out.

6.Protective styles  give you a well-earned break. These are styles that ensure your ends are tucked away, so that they do not become damaged. If your ends are protected they are less likely to break off and, your length will therefore be retained. I believe the reason my hair never grew beyond a certain point (when it was relaxed) was because it broke off at the ends. My hair was certainly growing from the roots. The fact that I had to relax my hair every six weeks due to re-growth was evidence of that. So the only explanation could be that there was a problem with the other side of my hair, the ends.

The benefits of protective styling are evident and there is so much information about it.  Protective styles include: twists, cornrows, braids, French braids  and basically any style where your ends are tucked away and protected for consecutive, days, weeks or months. If you do braid or twist your hair and leave your ends out, technically, this is a low manipulation style but it still serves the purpose of ensuring that your hair is left alone.

As your hair gets longer you should consider incorporating protective styles into your style repertoire. I like to do French braids, twists or rolls. Mini twists are great as well. I usually keep them in for a month but with French braids I can take them out when I get bored, so there’s less commitment. Protective styles also give you a break from styling and manipulating your hair. This comes in handy when you are pressed for time.

What is your favourite protective style? Have you ever texturized your hair before?

 

Step Away From The Relaxer (part 3)

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Here is some more advice for those who are at the awkward stage of their journey. Your hair is growing well and it is no longer a TWA. It may be more of a challenge to manage, as a result. Perhaps you are entering an area of the unknown, where you have to figure out how to style your hair at this new length.This is particularly problematic when you remain as busy as ever. The demands of work, school, or looking after children make hair the last thing you want to  concern yourself  with. Remember, it isn’t our hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge. Once we learn how to manage our hair effectively at this stage, it is no longer an issue. Have a look at parts 1 -4, if you haven’t already. This week will be tips 5 and 6.

5. Beware of texturizers.  I almost fell for it. I was told I could texturize my hair to ‘soften it’. As if my hair is made out of concrete! I will repeat this; it isn’t the hair that is the problem, it is our lack of knowledge.  I was someone who was regarded as having ‘tough’ hair. Why? When I first tried to relax my hair it didn’t work. It only relaxed on the third try and would look kinky again after two weeks or so.  Then I started using super plus relaxer (Elasta QP Super!).

So if anyone is considered to have ‘tough’ hair it should be me. Now, when my relatives comment on my hair they say, I’m fortunate that my hair is soft, that’s why I have managed to stay natural. No, it is not that my hair is softer than anybody else’s; it’s that I have learned to care for it, in a way that allows me to handle it effectively. I no longer use products that contain harsh sulphates for example, which dry out the hair. I have also learned how to keep my hair stretched out.  Refer to my post: How to stretch out your hair without heat.

When your hair is dry and tangled it makes it a lot more difficult to manage.  So don’t fall into the trap of believing that a texturizer  will ‘soften’ your hair and you  will still be natural. Texturizers are similar to relaxers, they are designed to permanently alter your curl pattern. Relaxers take away your curls completely and texturizers are believed to loosen your curl pattern. However if you have a Z shape curl pattern, the result will be very different from the photos on the box. Even if you have an S shape curl pattern results of texturizers can still vary and they are not temporary but permanent, like relaxers.   Your hair will not magically go back to its kinky, coily texture when wet.

Is my hair really going to look like this?

I know people who made this mistake and came out of the salon with hair that looked relaxed. Hence they had to start all over again.  Look at the ingredients in texturizers, they also contain chemicals that permanently alter your hair, such as calcium hydroxide or sodium  hydroxide (lye). They also contain ingredients that dry out the hair, such as: petroleum, mineral oil and sodium lauryl sulphate. So don’t be fooled by the smiley faces of the models on the front of the box, and words such as ‘hydrating’, ‘anti-breakage’ and even , ‘organic’. Many of these products use the word organic while containing a number of harsh and unnatural ingredients. They throw in 1% of a natural ingredient and give you the impression that the 1% is the main ingredient. It’s simply a marketing tool. Don’t forget the website http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. You can type in the name of a product or ingredient and find out how it is rated, in terms of safety.

If you are having a problem with managing your hair, simply do some research. There is a great deal of information on the internet, and you can ask questions on forums, facebook pages and YouTube.  You will find someone who can relate to you and give you some helpful advice. I’m still learning better ways of managing my hair. It use to take me  1 hour and 30 minutes to detangle it. Now it takes me 30 minutes because I followed some advice I found on YouTube. It’s trial and error and you have to be willing to learn and make mistakes at the same time. You will be thankful that you didn’t go back to relaxers or texturize your hair, when you really didn’t need to.

Have a look at Kimmytube’s natural hair story (parts 1 and 2). It is very inspiring and highlights that fact that we are all learning. Her hair was the same length for the first ten years of being natural. It is only when she began researching how to truly manage her hair, she began to see great results. She also tried texturizers and it didn’t work out.

6.Protective styles  give you a well-earned break. These are styles that ensure your ends are tucked away, so that they do not become damaged. If your ends are protected they are less likely to break off and, your length will therefore be retained. I believe the reason my hair never grew beyond a certain point (when it was relaxed) was because it broke off at the ends. My hair was certainly growing from the roots. The fact that I had to relax my hair every six weeks due to re-growth was evidence of that. So the only explanation could be that there was a problem with the other side of my hair, the ends.

The benefits of protective styling are evident and there is so much information about it.  Protective styles include: twists, cornrows, braids, French braids  and basically any style where your ends are tucked away and protected for consecutive, days, weeks or months. If you do braid or twist your hair and leave your ends out, technically, this is a low manipulation style but it still serves the purpose of ensuring that your hair is left alone.

As your hair gets longer you should consider incorporating protective styles into your style repertoire. I like to do French braids, twists or rolls. Mini twists are great as well. I usually keep them in for a month but with French braids I can take them out when I get bored, so there’s less commitment. Protective styles also give you a break from styling and manipulating your hair. This comes in handy when you are pressed for time.

What is your favourite protective style? Have you ever texturized your hair before?