But as the days of that week went on, I started to see an increase in hair breakage, which was more than a little annoying. (I seem to take every broken hair piece and every shed hair very personally these days) Until just a few days ago, I wasn't sure why this happened, I just knew I wasn't happy about it. After analyzing the process I think I've let my fear of using too many (sili)cones and causing product build up get the best of me and ultimately my hair. After I used the Hot Sauce on my damp hair I did not apply any addtional heat protector or hair serum (which also contains cones) before I flat ironed, but I should have. I am still working to perfect my moisture/protein* balance in my hair and it could be that my hair was not throughly moisturzed before I added the Hot Sauce so the moisture I added after did little to no good because it could not penetrate the silicone. Or it could be that I just needed more silicone than the Hot Sauce gave to throughly sheild my hair from the direct heat.
Since flat ironing has been a main cause of so many of my hair setbacks in the past, I've decided I'm going to give up flat ironing until after my next relaxer. My sister's college graduation is May 15 and I have no intention of flat ironing before that date. For right now I just don't think my hair can take it, and I can't take seeing the breakage that occurs from it. I will just continue with washing, deep conditioning and wearing protective/low-manipulation styles in the coming weeks and I'm fine with that. I want my hair to be healthy and I want to retain length more than I want to wear my hair straight right now, so my flat iron will be on the shelf for a while.
Using all-natural hair products means avoiding “bad ingredients” like chemical additives and preservatives, silicones, and alcohols. I also read ingredient lists to insure I am giving my hair what it needs, when it needs it. I don’t want to overload my hair with protein, even though it is a “good” ingredient, it can cause dryness and breakage if over used.
Even if I’m not using an all-natural product, I try to make sure any traditional product I use has more good ingredients than bad. Beauty products list ingredients in order of quantity, so products contain more of the ingredients at the top of the list. If the first ingredient in a product is water, then the product is made of mostly water (and in hair care that’s a good thing). If a product does contain bad ingredients, the further down they are on the list, the better because that means very little of the bad stuff is in the product.
Here are just a few ingredients to be on the lookout for (keep in mind each of these ingredients can be found in all types of hair products—shampoos, conditioners, hair color, moisturizers and styling products):
How much does it cost: I bought it from Folica.com for $39.99 it came with the steam setter and a set of 30 rollers, I also purchased an additional 6 jumbo size rollers for $9.99 at the same time. I bought some other random beauty product to bring my total to $50 which made me eligible for free shipping :).
How it works: The hair setter comes with a steamer, a little machine that you add water to and plug into the wall, the machine seeps out puffs of steam (like a clothes steamer) and there is a notch on the top of the machine where a foam roller is placed. The roller absorbs the steam for 3 to 7 seconds before you place it on the end of your dry (as in not wet) sectioned hair, roll it and cover the roller with a special plastic cap that holds in the steam and helps set your hair. Once all the hair is rolled which only takes 10 to 15 minutes (you have to steam each roller individually), the rollers sit for 15 to 25 minutes to allow all the steam to dry and then rollers are removed.
Does it work: Yes, I can go from straight to curly hair in less than an hour, without having to wash my hair first and the curls actually last more than a few hours. And if I preserve the curls with pincurling at night, they will last for a week. I love that!
Potential Problems: What I don’t love is what the foam rollers seem to do to my ends which is make them dry and frizzy, just like traditional dry foam rollers have always done to my hair. The remedy for dry foam rollers causing frizz is to wrap them in paper (old school) or to buy them wrapped in satin. But I don’t know if the steam setter would still work if either of those barriers was added between the steam in the roller and the hair. But I'll probaby give the paper a try just to see what happens.
Final Verdict: I have only used the steam setter twice since I received it, and even with the frizz I think it was a really good buy so I am going to give it another chance because I do love the results. Maybe making sure my ends are well moisturized before I start rolling will also eliminate the frizz. I’ll post an update after I try it again.
*Please note this post is 100% unpaid and unsponored by the company listed. This product review is based soley on my personal opinion and expereince.
I've never stretched this long before, but since my new growth is under control right now and I think I've come up with a great new strategy for preventing dryness, I think I can do it. My number one issue during my last stretch was definitely dryness, but during my last wash I used my Auburey Organics Honeysuckle Rose as a deep conditioner on dry hair (as the directions state) with heat (which was my own bright idea) and when I was done my hair was almost unrecognizable. It was so soft and easy to comb through, and my hair is never easy to comb through when its wet. I plan to keep up that technique and alternate the Honeysuckle Rose with Aubrey's GPB every other wash for additional strength for the next few washes. I also plan to keep up an increase washing frequency, I've been doing it every 4 to 5 days this month and I think that will really help with moisture retention as well.
It seems like this stretch will be easy, but I think that's just my inexperience with a long stretch talking. I know the braid out will be my style of choice for the next few weeks and I'll probably also throw in a few buns here and there to give my hair a rest from the braiding. But all and all I'm optimistic about the next 6 weeks and stretching my relaxer even longer, after all this is what being Relaxed Refined is all about!
Oils can also be used to sooth a dry scalp, this is not the same as old school “oiling the scalp” which is really just an unnecessary old wives tale. The only time I ever part my hair and apply anything directly to my scalp is when I’m prepping for a relaxer and then I’m trying to protect my scalp not moisturize it. “Oiling the scalp” with grease or any other type of moisturizer is just clogging hair follicles, which need oxygen in order for hair to grow. The scalp produces its own oil naturally called sebum, ideally sebum should travel down the hair strand and add natural moisture, but sufficient sebum distribution is effected by many things including a relaxer. Sebum is also easily removed from the hair and scalp with normal cleansing and it could take a day or two after a wash for the scalp to produce enough new sebum to ease the dry tightness that can sometime be experienced. Natural oils can be used in the “mean time” to soothe dryness, but just as with sealing a little goes a long way. I only need a small amount of oil applied to the pads of my finger tips and then I massage onto my scalp (think of the way you massage your scalp during a shampoo), no parting or slathering involved.
I also learned just like any other hair product natural oils are always best. Most of the commercial oils sold in beauty supply and drug stores are cheap blends made with inferior quality oils, if they’re even oils at all, often they are petroleum and or silicone neither of which are good for healthy hair. Natural oils are those produced from plants, fruits and vegetables—as in things found in nature, but even within natural oils some are better than others, commercial oil blends sometimes contain safflower and peanut oil and while these are natural oils they are not the most beneficial for hair. Here is a list of some of the best natural oils for healthy hair:
In the years before I started on this RR growth journey, my hair was pretty decent. I kept up my relaxer schedule and washed, conditioned and moisturized my hair regularly at home. I used products that were supposed to be good for relaxed hair, heat protector when I flat ironed and slept in a satin scarf of bonnet at night. My hair usually looked pretty good. But despite my decent level of care, my hair would not grow longer. Actually scratch that, after all I’ve learned about healthy hair I now believe that hair is always growing, but it may be breaking off before a change in length can ever be seen. And that was my problem. Or at least the main problem, a secondary problem was that regular flat ironing left me with split ends that needed to be trimmed at every relaxer touch up. So if my hair grew a quarter of an inch or more in between my relaxer touch ups (the average person’s hair growth is ¼ to ½ inch per month) I would lose half of my hair growth to breakage and the other half to the trim of my split ends. I never made any progress.
I washed my hair last night and seeing that it stretched well past my shoulders when wet and laid on my shoulders once dry made me proud of the progress I’ve made to this point. But this is actually the hardest part. Even with my “pretty decent” level of hair care I have been able to grow my hair to this exact length before. A few times I got frustrated and asked my stylist to cut it and a few times I changed my mind about having long hair and asked my stylist to cut it (I do actually like my hair in a bob cut) and a few times my decent level of care just wasn’t decent enough and I had to have more than just a trim to my ends to salvage the relative health of the rest of my hair. But this time will be different.
The whole reason for changing the way I care for my hair, for being Relaxed Redefined is to see a change in the length of my hair. I don’t just want healthy hair; I want healthy long hair. And when I say long, I’m not talking about down to my behind, that’s way too much hair to care for. But I do want to finally see my hair past my shoulders, I would be happy with armpit length and ecstatic with bra strap length. My first real measuring stick will be July of this year, because July of last year is when I started to grow out the last bob cut. If my hair keeps growing at its current rate and I don’t have any major setbacks, I should be at least grazing armpit length by then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed. This journey is exciting, challenging, and sometime frustrating, but finally reaching my goal after all these years will be well worth it.
The relaxer process is EXTREMELY drying to hair and since relaxed hair needs ALL the moisture it can get, traditional shampoo is pretty counterproductive. Sulfates strip hair of dirt and all oil including much needed natural oils produced by the scalp, which means it is actually doing more harm than good. There are really only two times my hair needs actual shampoo, during the relaxer process—in that case I do want EVERYTHING stripped out and after continual use of products that cause build up, such as silicones (which I rarely use). Outside of that there are plenty of ways to clean hair without using sulfate based shampoo. For example all of the natural hair companies listed in the post “Natural Care for Relaxed Hair” offer multiple hair cleansers that are sulfate-free but can remove dirt from your hair without stripping natural oils, such as Hairveda’s Amala Crème Rinse or Jessicurl’s Hair Cleansing Cream—two of my favorites. As a matter of fact after I use those products my hair feels clean and moisturized not dry and tangled like it used to with regular shampoo. I have probably only used traditional shampoo once or twice outside of the relaxer process over the past year and I don’t plan to go back. Depending on how I style my hair, I know most of the time I don’t need shampoo because I haven’t used any products that can cause build up (not only am I shampoo-free, I’m also silicone-free, but that’s another post). And any time I do use regular shampoo I always pre-poo (pre-shampoo conditioning) with oils—also known as a hot oil treatment or apply a rinse-out conditioner to dry hair so the shampoo has to work through that before it can completely strip my natural scalp oils. Once upon a time I made my own “shampoo” from a mix of castile soap, apple cider vinegar and water, a recipe I learned from famous hair blogger Traycee of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sista), it worked great however, I learned castile soap contains olive oil which I try to stay away from due to my scalp dermatitis (I still have the recipe though). I have also read that some people rarely use any type of “cleanser” at all, and only care for their hair with water and conditioner. I personally am still too programmed with the traditional cleanse and condition routine to give up that step, but I can certainly see the potential benefits. Giving up regular shampoo has been great for my hair and I believe it is one of the reason my hair has gained so much health.
Would you be willing to give up traditional shampoo?
From skinbiology.com, “both lye and ‘no lye’ 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.”
That’s the technical stuff, I was 8 or 9 years old when I got my first relaxer, “PCJ” or Pressing Comb in a Jar, my mother was tired of burning my sister and I (and herself) with the actual hot pressing comb, never mind the fact that a good press would only keep our hair straight for about a week. So one Saturday night (our ritual was Saturday night before church on Sunday) the switch was made from the hot comb on the stove to a jar of creamy white stuff that burned in a different way. From then on our relaxer “touch-ups” (applied to newly grown previously unrelaxed roots—also known as new growth) occurred every 6 to 8 weeks with a wash, blow dry and style occurring in the weeks between. Until recently, with the exception of a year in college when I chopped off all my hair and texturized it, I’ve had a relaxer touch-up every 6 to 8 weeks of my life. Even with conservative math that’s nearly 150 applications of a very strong chemical over my lifetime. Wow that’s a lot.
After learning all I have about what a relaxer really is and what it really does to my hair, I had to ask myself why would I still get them? I think the many possible answers to that question are as varied as the women who are asked it. For some its about convenience, for some its about habit, for some its about fear of seeing and experiencing their true “nappy” hair texture. Well for me the simple answer is right now straight hair is what I prefer. I like the versatility straight hair provides, bone straight one day, spiral curls the next, pulled back into a sleek bun the day after that (even though I’ve learned the hazards of that much hair manipulation, I could if I wanted to). I can’t even remember what it is like to deal with my natural hair on a day-to-day basis, so I can’t say if caring for natural hair is harder or easier. But for now caring for relaxed hair is what I know and what I am trying to improve. Understanding the “technical data” behind relaxers and learning about the potential hazards makes me an informed consumer and gives me the knowledge to better care for my relaxed hair.
Why do you relax your hair?
Stretching ~ get fewer relaxers, while this may seem counterintuitive to “having relaxed hair”, stretching out the number of weeks between relaxer touch-ups thereby reducing the amount of chemical exposure over the course of a year greatly increases the strength and elasticity of hair. Stretching also reduces the tendency of breakage which results in more length being retained. Stretching relaxers requires extra energy and effort to keep two different hair textures healthy.
Deep Conditioning ~ when the correct deep conditioners are used they provide additional moisture which leads to increased elasticity and decreased breakage. Deep conditioners also provide softer more manageable hair which makes it easier to stretch relaxers.
Minimizing Heat ~ use of direct heat styling tools (flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers with comb attachments) leaves relaxed hair extremely dry and brittle which leads to increased breakage. Reducing or eliminating the frequency of direct heat styling results in moisture retention and less breakage.
Protective Styling ~ or “tucking away” the ends of hair (especially shoulder length hair) protects from sun, wind and friction, prevents split ends and breakage, and puts less stress on your hair from combing and brushing. Protective styles include up-do’s like buns and French twists or getting extensions in the form or braids or twist, some also wear wigs and half wigs to protect real hair.
Reducing Manipulation ~ the more relaxed hair is manipulated the weaker and more prone to breakage it will become. Wearing low manipulation styles like braid-outs and two strand twists reduce the need for extra combing and brushing. Excessively touching hair can also lead moisture loss, and wearing a silk scarf or satin bonnet at bedtime will protect hair from rubbing against pillowcases all night.
Finding a Routine ~ if relaxed hair is unhealthy it will be slow to grow and quick to break. Finding a healthy hair care routine that works and sticking with that routine will improve the health and strength of hair and inevitably increase the length of hair.
~Relaxer: Affirm Mild relaxer, applied by my stylist, currently "stretching"* to 12 weeks. Stretching a relaxer can be quite an undertaking due to the additional time and effort required when caring for two different hair textures and trying to prevent breakage. During my last at home wash before a relaxer, I prep my hair with a protein treatment and I usually prep my scalp with oil the night before.
~Pre-Conditioning (Pre-Poo): I sometimes pre-poo on dry hair before I wash, I sometimes deep condition after washing, I sometimes do both. When I pre-poo I dampen my hair with Rose water and then saturate with coconut oil or apply VO5 Moisture Milks (Passion Fruit Smoothie) to dry hair, cover with a plastic cap and let it sit for 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on what else I have going on while conducting my wash process. I have learned during the last few weeks of my relaxer stretch pre-pooing is vitally important to keeping my new growth moisturized.
~Cleansing: I wash my hair every 5 to 7 days, sometimes more frequently during summer. I use sulfate-free all-natural cleansers like Hairveda's Amala Cream Rinse or Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream. I sometimes wash my hair in sections, parting into 4 braids and taking down each braid to shampoo individually, this helps prevent tangles and eliminates the need for extra wet combing. I only lather my hair one time (unless you I've used products that may cause build-up on my hair, which is very rare, I know lathering more than once is not necessary—lather-rinse-repeat is just a myth started by the shampoo industry to get people to use more shampoo!)
~Conditioning: After washing I apply either a protein treatment (if needed) and let it sit for its prescribed time then rinse and apply a moisturizing conditioner (protein should always be followed by moisture*). Or I go directly to the moisturizing deep conditioner usually Jessicurl's Weekly Deep Conditioning Treatment which again is covered with a plastic cap only this time I use my Hair Therapy Heat Wrap* to add heat to the conditioning treatment I wear this for 15 to 30 minutes and then rinse.
~More Conditioning: Following the final rinse I use Jane Carter Solution Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner Spray to help (gently) detangle my wet hair. And then I apply Giovanni Direct Leave-In, which I've used faithfully for about 4 years now, mixed with Hairveda Green Tea Hair Butter for extra moisturizing. My final step is to seal in the moisture with coconut oil (applied to still damp hair), only a small amount is needed (people who use too much coconut oil often report "crunchy" feeling hair). I also try to apply all conditioners in sections to insure thorough distribution, I don't part and braid as I do when washing, I just try to focus on one section of hair at a time shifting the rest out of the way.
~Drying: Since I've started on the healthy hair care path 75% of the time my hair air dries, if I'm getting up in weeks on my relaxer stretch I'll moisturize and brush down my front edges and tie on a silk scarf to help lay them down. The rest of my hair hangs free until dry or until bedtime if its late (in that case I put on my satin bonnet before drifting off to dreamland). If I'm still moving about the house I'll wear a satin scarf over my shoulders to protect my ends from rubbing on my shoulders. The other 25% of the time I'll either I'll apply Jane Carter Wrap and Roll after the leave in conditioners and roller set my hair then get under my hood dryer set on medium (not high) or rarely (during winter) if I'm in a hurry I'll get under the warm (not hot) hood dryer with straight hair for 15 to 20 minutes and then use my hand blow dryer on the cool setting to dry any remaining dampness before styling.
~Styling: If my hair is roller set, I usually wear it in curls, rather than combing out the curls. I preserve my curls at night with pin curls secured with bobby pins. If I air dry my straight I usually wear it in a bun or rarely I'll flat iron with a heat protector (but I am now taking an extended break from direct heat). Those are mostly my cold weather styles, when the weather is warm I prefer more textured styles, like braid outs and twist outs that start on damp hair. Those styles are easily maintained by loosely re-braiding/twisting before bed. If I haven't moisturized earlier in the day, I always make sure I apply a small amount of moisturizer before I move into style maintenance mode for the night.
~Tools: My must have hair care/styling tools: Hair Therapy Heat Wrap ~ Seamless wide-toothed comb ~ 100% natural boar bristle brush ~re-useable plastic caps ~ hood dryer ~ magnetic rollers ~ blow dryer with cool setting ~ flat iron with 100% ceramic plates (I have a Sedu) ~ satin bonnet and silk scarves, hair clips with protective coatings (to prevent snagging) and an ample supply of bobby pins.
*Asterisk indicates topics I intend to write separate posts on in the future (i.e. stretching, protein & moisture, Hair Therapy Heat Wrap).
Do you have a hair care routine?
Does this mean I’m ready to give up getting relaxers? Well not quite, at least not yet. Through my research I’ve realized that one day I would like to stop getting relaxers and grow out my natural hair. I want to know what my natural hair texture really feels like—outside of just new growth, and I’d like to learn how to manage my hair without chemicals. But I’m not ready for that step in my hair journey just yet. Right now my focus is on the exact title of this blog, learning to be Relaxed Redefined. I am redefining my relaxer schedule, redefining my “in-between” hair care routine and redefining my everyday hair styling. All of which has produced a visible and dramatic difference in the look, feel and over-all health of my hair (I'm still working on the length part :).
So what changed? Pretty much everything. Starting with my relaxer: rather than getting a touch-up every 6 to 8 weeks, I have started to “stretch” the time between touch-ups, my last relaxer was at 10 weeks, my next will be at 12 weeks. Stretching is a common technique in the healthy hair blogosphere, it helps hair retain strength by reducing the amount of chemical exposure. But it is not for the faint at heart, dealing with 2 different hair textures (straight ends and curly new growth) is a real challenge and if hair is not given extra TLC during a stretch it will suffer—I had to learn that the hard way.
Next I redefined my “in-between” routine: I have learned to handle my hair with care, relaxed hair is very fragile and needs a lot of pampering in order to thrive. Starting with the products I use, I first learned the importance of reading the ingredient list on all my hair products which led me to switch from traditional to all-natural products. I have started to pre-poo (pre-condition) on a regular basis and I eliminated regular shampoo, switching to only sulfate free cleansers instead. I also started to deep condition my hair with heat on a regular basis—usually every week, deep conditioning helps my hair retain moisture and increases elasticity, which reduces breakage. And I’ve started to use protein treatments to increase the strength of my hair; I’m still working to perfect this technique because using too much protein can have the opposite intended effect, but practice make perfect.
Finally, I changed my hair styling techniques: I used to flat iron my hair weekly and wear my hair down and straight every day, wrapping it at night. Never realizing frequent direct heat styling was basically frying my hair, leaving it dry and brittle. Not understanding wearing my hair down daily was leaving my perpetually shoulder length hair to brush against my clothes and break due to friction. And being unaware the combing, brushing and smoothing of my hair every night while wrapping was over-manipulation, causing even more breakage. Now I either roller set my hair when wet using the in-direct heat of a hood dryer or I air dry and wear my hair off my shoulders in a clip or bun (notice I did not say ponytail). These days, flat ironed straight hair is the exception, not the rule.
It hasn’t even been a full year that I’ve been redefining my relaxed hair, but I have already experienced very positive results from these changes. In July 2009 my hair was cut in a chin length bob style, as of this month (March 2010) my hair hangs slightly past my shoulder line. I now lose very little hair to breakage (no more hairs left all over the bathroom sink, counter and floor) and my hair is stronger, thicker, softer, shinier and has more body then I can ever remember. I still have a long way to go (and grow) but making thes changes, becoming Relaxed Redefined seems to be working out just fine.
In my last post I provided a short review of a few all-natural product companies, in addition to that, here is an easy to use table with an expanded list of great all-natural companies. Happy shopping! If you find a great all-natural product that you love, share in the comments!
Natural Care for Relaxed Hair
An easy to use list of companies that make all-natural hair care products
Where To Buy
Jane Carter Solution
O & S
O & S
O & S
Karen's Body Beautiful
Beauty 4 Ashes
La Boutique Organics
Where To Buy
O – Online Only ~ O & S – Online & In Stores ~ S – In Stores Only
*1- Jessicurl is available in some stores and salons mostly in California (USA)
*2 –Oyin Handmade is available at their store ExittheApple in Baltimore, Maryland (USA)
$ = Average price $10 to $12 ~ $$ = Average price $13 to $18 ~ $$$ = Average price $18 & up
When visiting these websites keep in mind that just because a product line is marketed a certain way doesn't mean that it won't work for relaxed hair. Several of the companies listed are marketed toward natural ethnic hair or naturally curly non-ethnic hair, but why should they have all the fun?! Look for ingredients that match your hair's needs and enjoy all the healthy hair benefits all-natural hair care products provide!
A major reason I started Relaxed Redefined is to fill a void in the hair care blogosphere, while there are many sites on the internet where great advice on caring for relaxed hair can be found, most sites I’ve visited seem to have something missing—a focus on using all-natural products to care for relaxed hair. The way I see, the relaxer process alone is more than enough chemicals for one head of hair, so I am committed to using all-natural products in the rest of my hair care to help balance the impact of the relaxer. Traditional shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers are filled with harsh detergents, toxic preservatives and moisture blocking lubricants, all of which can and do hinder the health of relaxed hair, its pretty much the equivalent of your hair eating McDonalds every day—and we’ve all seen Super Size Me!
Our hair, just like the rest of the body thrives on natural ingredients, like water, fruits, vegetables, and natural protein sources. I’m not suggesting heading for the produce section for hair products—although that can work, but I have a list of great companies* that produce great all-natural products, so that shouldn’t be necessary.