We have many names for it: processed hair, relaxed hair, treated hair, creamed hair, straightened hair, and the list goes on like a scroll! But despite the various names for it, we have a common problem with that hair: growing it and keeping it healthy.
Most women of African descent who treat their hair with chemicals find that it will either fall out, or suffer from so much breakage that their only alternative is the dreaded weave.
But before you decide to sew in someone else's hair, consider that it is possible to effectively grow strong and healthy processed black hair. Adhering to these tips and suggestions has helped my hair grow from neck length to breast length. Yes, I said it, breast length. On top of that, my hair is now healthy enough that if I wanted to grow it down to my back, I have that option. I do certainly hope these tips work for you as they have worked for me.
1) Admit the truth! Get the myth out of the way! How many times have you heard someone say this: "Processing your hair doesn't harm it! It only gets harmed if you don't take care of it after"? This is probably bigger than the Watergate lie. Processing your hair absolutely does harm it, but once you accept and understand that, then you can move on with trying to find ways to strengthen it again. Ever wonder how cream straightens hair? The answer may surprise you. Relaxers are very strong chemicals that work in the same manner by changing the basic structure of the hair shaft. The chemical penetrates the cortex or cortical layer . . . and loosens the natural curl pattern. This inner layer of the hair shaft is not only what gives curly hair its shape but provides strength and elasticity. Once this process is performed it is irreversible. This process which produces the desired effect of "straighter" hair at the same time leaves hair weak and extremely susceptible to breaking and further damage. One must keep in mind that relaxers do not help the hair, but actually strip it. So by applying chemicals to the hair, even if it is to achieve a desired effect, is never really to the benefit of your hair health.The very act of straightening it with chemicals is damaging the hair structure. But do not worry. There is salvation.
2) With the myth out of the way, find the right relaxer for you! The key to good hair is a healthy scalp. Some relaxers you will have an allergic reaction to, while others you will not. If it is the first time you are relaxing your hair, your hair care specialist should test it on a small area of the scalp to see what kind of reaction you personally have to it. If you have been relaxing your hair for years and no matter what you do you are screaming and crying because of the burning sensation before the prescribed time, consider changing relaxers. If you want to "stick to the evil that you know", you could be jeopardizing the health of your hair. There is a myth about natural black hair that many propagate. All black hair, so long as it is naturally "kinky" without any influence from Caucasian, Asian, or Indian influences, is the same. This is false. All natural black hair is not made alike, and this difference also goes for our scalps. So why does your friend Vanessa use the same Revlon relaxer and her scalp does not burn when yours does without scratching it? Or why does your sister with the same hair texture get straighter hair after she creams it? Apart from variations in texture which are possible throughout the Black community without the influence of interracial mixing, the answers probably lie in the ph of your scalp. Consider that body chemistry plays a role: If [you are] on certain medications or [if you] consume large quantities of acid laden foods (i.e. orange juice, sodas) this can lower normal body pH from 5.5 to 3.5. All of this plus heavy hair dressings, coat the lower shaft causing a pre neutralizing effect on the hair prior to contact with the relaxer. Combing a relaxer cream with a pH of 12-13 with scalp secretions at a pH of 3.5 to 4.0 may result in a pH of 8.5 or less. This pH is generally too low to relax hair. Apart from finding a relaxer that works for you, you may find it helpful to search the internet for tips on what to consume to adjust your scalp's ph level, though some are considered quite urban legend-esque.
3) Touch ups! At the first sight of new growth around the hairline, many run for the headbands to hide it, or the Vaseline or other products to paste down the hairline unto their heads. Some run to the hairdresser for touch-ups. "Touch-ups" should only be applied to new growth between 6-8 week periods or more, suggests most hairdressers like my own. For those like me who hate going to the hairdresser, I will wait as long as possible before I do a touch-up. I can wait up to 3 months or more. Waiting means two things, one good, one bad. The good- you are preventing further damage too soon The bad- when combing the sturdier new growth, you may be at risk of your hair breaking where the new growth meets the more delicate, weakened creamed hair. To avoid the bad, section your hair carefully and apply hair care products to the scalp and new growth that will make it softer and prevent you from having a hard time combing it. If you are embarrassed by the new growth, indeed, use a fashionable head band to hide the hairline that may appear trashy at times. Find a fashionable hair braiding style that will last for a time without you having to comb it. Just be sure that after washing, moisturize it greatly and braid tightly to keep it from frizzing. Please, do not run for the hairdresser just yet. Give your hair a little time to grow out.
4) But my hair won't even seem to grow! You could diet for a month, take a four month piano class, or get a three-year college degree and you still have not seen any darn new growth! Well, of course this is an exaggeration, but many black women find that their hair grows very slowly from the scalp. Apart from preventing breakage, you need new growth in order to grow your hair to the length you desire: plain and simple. Getting your hair to grow, however, is not so plain and simple. If you do not have a condition or head injury preventing hair growth or causing hair loss, you can try the magic weapon that worked for me. It is so simple you probably have not even thought about it.
So here it is: Massage your scalp! Massage, massage, massage! There used to be a myth that said people who wore hats too often were more at risk for hair loss because they were blocking the oxygen from the air. While this myth has been debunked by specialists, the myth has risen the question: does lack of oxygen cause hair loss? Every single cell in your body must receive oxygen and nutrients in which it metabolizes to maintain life." Lack of oxygen, just like to any other body part, will cause cells to suffer. Therefore, if other parts of your body will suffer without oxygen, hair is just as susceptible if it is not getting the oxygen it requires. However, the way to get oxygen to your scalp is not through the air or breeze just blowing. It is through blood flow. So, deeply massage your scalp 5-10 minutes before bed and in the morning to get that blood flowing. I found an increase in hair growth, and you may too. You know that short, brittle, probably-never-gonna-grow area at the base of your scalp that you continue to abuse with hot irons and force into ponytails, but all it does is hang down in a trashy manner? Yeah, that part can actually grow. For me, it never did until I started massaging that part of my head every night before bed.
For ten minutes or less, massage the base of your scalp where the hair grows. When done and having moisturized this area, braid the short area loosely and separately when going to bed. You get two benefits: 1, you have given it even more oxygenated blood 2, by braiding it, you are letting it relax at night without forcing it to join your longer bits of hair and further tearing the ends.
NOTE: If you sleep with a handkerchief on, as many people do, you will want to remember that it should be tied loosely on the head. As much as you do not want it to shift at night and mess up your hair, the base of the scalp can come under pressure if it is tied too tightly at the back of the head. For me, massaging my scalp was the single most effective thing in making that part grow and "catch up" with the others.
5) Battering your hair. Yes, your hair looks great creamed! But won't it look even better when you dye it blonde? Won't it look even better when you go out tonight with a nice curly do? Yes, it may look better, but it surely won't feel better. "But it's only for one night!" you protest. "Just one hot iron treatment for one night so I can look great!" That one time can contribute to a hundred little split ends. Split ends= breakage; Breakage= Falling out hair; Falling out hair= Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
Here are some general tips: 1) Avoid as much as possible the use of hot irons to straighten your hair. You have heard it a dozen times before, yet you ignore the simple rule. These hot devices will only break it more. Find clever ways to get the desired hair effect without having to apply damaging heat. If you want a straight do every single day, you may want to try what Jada Pinkett Smith says she does. She wraps it. At the end of this article is a link to a youtube video that will show you how to wrap your hair. If you want to get a curly effect without the heat, use curlers and let air dry, or cut and shaped toilet tissue rolls to get a desired curl effect. 2) Wait at least 2-4 weeks before applying hair color chemical (or dye) to recently relaxed hair, if applied at all. 3) Use rollers and let your hair air dry instead of frying it with your hair dryer. 4) If you want a super Shirley Temple curly style, or a curled style any at all, and do not want to use the curling iron, try making Nubian knots, sometimes called "Chinese bumps" or "chinee bumps". There are various ways to do it. At the end of this article is a link to a site for a wide variety of nubian knots styles and how they will look after you take them out. Nubian knots are very simple to do. Section hair. Take a section when wet and twist it together, then wrap it around and around as if you're wrapping it around a pole. Secure with curling pin. If done when wet, your hair will come out curly. I do not suggest using hair sprays to set it that have alcohol in it because the alcohol dries out the hair.
6) Stop wetting your hair unnecessarily. In high school, many girls with treated hair would wet it throughout the day to get a sleek, wet look. This damages hair. Hair is more susceptible to damage when it is wet. If you went into the bathroom during high school and saw a lot of wet hair lying on the floor, it was probably because the girls wet their hair, combed it, broke more of it, and thought the of-the-moment sleek look was worth it. There are many products out there that will give you a sleek look without damaging it, or give you amazing hair without the damage. Consider the pantene pro-v nature fusion brand, olive oil, and other products.
7) Do not be afraid to trim, but know when to say NO. Some hairdressers are scissors-happy. You get a little new growth, and then they snip off the equivalent from the ends. You end up never seeing a length difference. It was only until I told my hairdresser not to ever put a scissors to my hair that I was able to see gradual changes. Some will sneakily do it behind your back. If you do not want your hair trimmed, be forthright. Say no and don't worry about hurt feelings. You can either cut it yourself, or more advisably for evenness, get a friend to help you. While having to constantly trim your hair can sometimes be discouraging for the length aspirations you may have, you should remember that trimming your hair is still essential for healthy hair. It will get rid of split ends which can split all the way up to the root and you lose the entire hair strand instead of just a three-inch piece. Depending on how often you use heating products, you will want to trim your hair in accordance. I often only trim when I notice ends getting trashy or a little too uneven. If that means months, then I will wait months. Does hair grow faster if you trim hair? It's a myth I have heard. I do not know of any scientific study that proves hair from the roots grows faster. It may appear hair grows faster because you are losing less due to already cutting off bad ends. Some trim once every year. As I said, I watch my hair and determine when it is time to trim. You may want to do the same, but do not be stubborn.
8) Eat healthily and eat lots of protein. Many people overlook this, but for me, I noticed a strengthening in my hair when I increased my protein intake and changed my diet. Vitamins and protein are essential. I used soy products to increase my protein intake. Hair finity vitamins may be the option for you. Instead of compiling a list of important hair vitamins or buying a variety of separate vitamins to fulfill that list, consider their products that have already done the job for you. At the end of this article you will find a link to hairfinity. Some articles will tell you that protein ingestion has no effect on the hair follicle itself whatsoever. Some others will call this false. I can only speak for myself and what difference I have noticed in increasing my protein and keratin intake. You are what you eat, and it makes it every difference. Two article links about keratin, protein, and the hair are featured at the end of this article. Until then, keep reading for more tips.
9) Wash hair once every one or two weeks. People with naturally straight hair tend to wash their hair either every day or once every three days. But treated hair is already more prone to dryness and being more brittle than other hair, so you do not want to exhaust it by constant washing and then constant heating to dry said hair, and you do not want to wash out the natural oils from your head all the time. Wash it once ever 1 or 2 weeks. If you have dandruff problems and find this hard to do, there are products you can use throughout the course of the week that will control your dandruff, like Revlon Zp11 formula. Head and Shoulders is a good anti-dandruff, and you can also use one that continues to moisturize your hair while washing. A dandruff shampoo by Pantene Pro-v's Relaxed and Natural is good for that. We all know hair is a woman's crown of glory, and it can be your crown of glory too if you give it the love and care it needs.