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How to Eliminate Breakage in Relaxed Hair
One of the questions I seemed to be asked daily is how to prevent breakage in relaxed hair.
As someone who has relaxed bone straight for over 20 years, there are a few things I do to virtually eliminate breakage.
Here is what has worked for me!
P.S. Tune in tomorrow for the Breakage Free Plan of Action to help you start eliminating breakage TODAY!
1. Relax with a Lye Relaxer
In my experiences, no lye relaxers has always led to dull, dry hair that breaks and sheds. The active ingredient in lye relaxers is sodium hydroxide, which is then mixed with oils, emulsifiers and other ingredients which slow down the process and reduce the strength. The relaxer comes pre-mixed so there is nothing to add.
The reason that that many people use no-lye relaxers is that they are often perceived to be less damaging. However, this is not often the case. No lye relaxers use an active ingredient called calcium hydroxide. It is then mixed in a container with guanidine carbonate to make guanadine hydroxide or a no-lye relaxer.
This relaxer is less irritating but often just as damaging to the hair, particularly if the relaxer is mixed and then left sitting out. It can also leave calcifium deposits on the hair - which is what makes hair relaxed with no-lye relaxers often dull, dry and prone to breakage.
This is why I prefer to relax with lye relaxers and prepare my hair and scalp effectively before the touchup. This leads to no irritation and minimizes damage.
For more information about relaxing, check out our interview with head chemist, Dr. Syed of Avlon Industries (makers of Keracare).
2. Relax with the Appropriate Strength Relaxer
One of the reasons that my hair thrived while relaxed is that I used the correct strength relaxer. This was a bit easy because I have naturally thick, coarse, resistant hair so I knew to request a super strength relaxer.
However, a lot of women do not use the correct strength relaxer. For hair that is thick, coarse and resistant, super strength is most optimal. For medium thickness, opt for normal or regular strength relaxer. For hair that is fine, thin OR color treated, make sure to use mild strength relaxers.
It may make sense to do a strand test (or ask your stylist for one). Seems kind of unnecessary? Trust me, using a super strength relaxer on hair that really needs a normal strength relaxer will only lead to over processing and weak hair that breaks easily.
Strand tests are particularly important for women with curly or wavy hair that decide to relax. It depends on the hair type but some of the curly textures can often be more resistant than "kinky" or more compact curl patterns.
3. Make sure the Hair is Relaxed PROPERLY
Relaxing really is a science. There are SOO many ways a touchup can go wrong...and leave you with hair that is dry, brittle and breaking. This is why i only get my hair relaxed by professionals that take the process very seriously. These places are often NOT cheap. But it REALLY pays to have a great stylist who is part of a GREAT salon. If you feel rush, dismissed or bullied, just leave. Trust me, as someone who has ignored their instincts, you WILL pay for it later on.
Note - If you are in the Boston or NY area, I would recommend Olive's Beauty Salon (Boston) or HairStyling by Joseph (New York). These two salons have always given me perfectly processed relaxers.
If you are self-relaxing, make sure to read the instructions, lay out all of your tools and products ahead of time, and set a timer.
Know what parts of your hair process quickly and what parts of your hair process slowly. Know your true relaxer strength (through a strand test) and make sure your products are all from the same brand - i.e. avoid using cheap normalzing shampoos or reconstructors.
Note - I prefer salon brand relaxers over "box" relaxers. In my experiences, the salon brands use better ingredients and have better "science" behind their formulations.
Turn off cell phones, tv/movies or anything that may distract you. And, one last time, follow the intructions to a T!
4. Do a Hard Protein Treatment the Week Before Your Relaxer...and every four weeks after your touchup!
Since the relaxing process is so harsh, I make sure to do a hard protein treatment the week before my relaxer to help protect the hair from damage.
Click here to learn more about Hard Protein Treatments - including what brands to use, how to do them at home and more!
Protein treatments really go a long way in helping prevent breakage so I try to do them every 4 weeks!
5. Do a Moisturizing Treatment the Week After Relaxer
During your touchup, my stylist will typically use a protein reconstructor to restore strength and body. The week after my touch up, I will do a moisturizing treatment to restore elasticity and moisture. Alternating protein and moisturizing deep treatments helps me add strength and elasticity to the hair, which goes a long way in preventing breakage.
My favorite moisturizing conditioner is still Keracare Humecto (I use the 5 lb tub). If I don't have that on hand, I will use Mizani Moisturefuse.
The next week, I will use a light protein conditioner like Aubrey GPB or Mizani Fufyl.
6. Drastically Reduce Direct Heat
Another way I reduce breakage is to reduce the amount of direct heat I use. I only set (on rollers, rods, etc.) or air dry my hair.
Only on special occasions will I blow out and curl the hair.
For daily curls, I reach right past the curling iron and pick up the steam rollers (as shown in the photo above) or set my hair on satin rollers the night before.
7. Hydrate and Protect the Hair at Night
I always apply an quarter size amount of moisturizer (Mizani Rose H20 or Keracare Conditioning Creme Headdress) to my hair, along with a drop or two of oil (Hot Six Oil or Jane Carter Hair Nourishing Serum).
Then, I brush my hair once with a paddle brush and then again with a boar bristle brush to distribute natural oils. Then, I wrap my hair or gather in a bun and cover with a satin scarf. If I'm wearing my hair curly, I scrunch the same products to the hair and cover with a satin bonnet.
8. Protective Style During the Day
Lastly, I try to wear my hair up as often as possible - in loose buns, twists or ponytails. This help prevents the hair from getting caught on my chair, car seat, sweater, etc. and breaking off. It also keeps my hair soft and healthy.
I hope these tips help! Reducing breakage in chemically treated hair is all about making sure the hair is processed responsibly and then handled with a great deal of care thereafter.