Updated: Oct 3, 2022
A recent Essence article mentioned that more and more women are returning to relaxed hair. Just like going natural, making a sudden change in your hair is not without its growing pains. Read below for common mistakes women make when switching from natural to relaxed hair:
Neglect a thorough wash day routine- many natural women make the false assumption that relaxed hair will take care of itself. Long gone are the days when you can assume that once monthly salon sessions are all that is needed for healthy relaxed hair. Relaxed hair thrives most when it's treated just like natural hair, which means you shouldn't skip weekly deep conditioning sessions
Use heat styling tools-when natural, one of the major no-nos is heat damage that alters your curl pattern. Some women incorrectly assume that since they no longer have to monitor their curl, using a flat iron for a sleek look is okay. This couldn't be further from the truth. Because of the inherent damage that happens when permanently altering the hair, relaxed hair is less resilient to common sources of hair trauma like heat and hair color. If you have relaxed your hair, consider eliminating flat irons or curling irons completely, or at least significantly limit their use.
Go bone straight- Most people don't realize that not all relaxers are the same. So called "mild" relaxers have a lower concentration of their active ingredient while ones labeled "extra strength" or for "coarse" hair, tend to have higher ingredients. Additionally, the longer you leave a relaxer on your hair, the more strong disulfide bonds are broken (I talk about this in more detail in my book). The more disulfide bonds that are broken, the weaker the hair. Instead of using high strength relaxers and processing at the upper limit, consider just loosening your curl with a relaxer, either by "texturizing" it or just using a low strength relaxer for a short period of time. In this way, you can still get some of the perks of relaxed hair (low styling time) while minimizing the downside.
Use at home relaxer kits- No-lye relaxers are an absolute no-no if you plan on maintaining healthy relaxed hair. The ingredients found in no-lye relaxers are more likely to lead to calcium build up on the hair and break it. If you decide to relax your hair, you have to commit to having a stylist apply a lye relaxer only for the longterm. Even one instance of no-lye relaxer use could subject you to future breakage and prevent you from reaching your hair goals.
Rely heavily on protective styles- this is a common pitfall of all curly women but it can be especially harmful if you hair is relaxed. Since relaxed hair at its best is weaker than natural hair, applying extensions to the hair (such as braids or weave) is more likely to result in traction alopecia. Before relaxing your hair, brainstorm hair styles that you would be comfortable wearing that do not involve added pieces of hair
Fall victim to relaxer shaming- society places a greater emphasis on the hair of Black women than on any other demographic-and this comes from all sides! Realize that you will need to have confidence in yourself no matter what your hairstyle is, because shaming happens whether you are natural or relaxed. Your ultimate goal is to have healthy hair and this can be achieved whether your are natural or relaxed. However you wear your hair, don't let society make you think you are better or worse than anyone else and understand that true worth comes from within.
Stay tuned for my upcoming blog on common pitfalls for women with natural hair