Welcome to Relaxed Redefined ~ a better, healthier way to care for chemically relaxed hair. This is a personal hair journal created to share easy, do-at-home tips and techniques that have made my hair stronger and longer. I hope you'll learn something here that will enhance your healthy hair journey or better yet insprire you to start one. Happy Hair Growting!

4.27.2010

Relaxer Recap


Last week I got my second relaxer this year after a 13 week stretch. I had planned to wait another week, but I had several events to attend last weekend that I wanted to wear straight hair for. As usual I took a bag of my own personal all-natural products with me to my appointment. Luckily my stylist is very open to this and is always excited and curious to see what I brought along. Before beginning this relaxer touch-up I asked her to apply coconut oil to the previously relaxed length of my hair for protection from relaxer run-off and too much water absorption. I think this method really did its job, my previously relaxed hair came out softer and less weighed down. I also asked her to base my scalp with pure jojoba oil to protect it from the chemicals that would inevitably touch and possibly burn my skin. This method did not work so well, but I can't blame the jojoba oil as much as I have to blame myself.

See what had happen was...my hair appointment accidentally ended up being on Wednesday. Why was Wednesday a problem? Because to prepare for my appointment I washed and did a protein treatment on my hair on Monday night. Originally, I wasn't planning to have my appointment until at least Thursday or maybe Friday. However, after returning home from an eye doctor appointment mid-afternoon on Wednesday I called my stylist to confirm for later in the week and she told me she would be having a medical procedure on Thursday morning and would not be working for the rest of the week. Trying to get in before the door closed, I asked if I could come for an appointment right then, flexible and friendly as always she said yes. Silly me, I completely forgetting that I had only washed my hair two days before. I said all that to say, during the relaxer my scalp burned pretty bad. My stylist wasn't even to the smoothing part of the process before the back of my head was past irritation into full burn mode. Because of my scalp dermatitis I almost always have some level of burning during my relaxer, but it didn't occur to me until I was rinsed, neutralized and under the dryer that having just washed my hair was actually the main culprit of the burning. It is a lesson I will not soon forget. Fortunately, I had only had minimal residual irritation once the relaxer was washed out but my scalp was sore for a few days after, I will be more careful next time.

Another change I made during this appointment was requesting that my stylist roller set my hair rather than flat iron it. I am still committed to my low-practically-no direct heat regimen (especially immediately following a relaxer) and plan to hold on to my goal of not flat ironing again until the weekend of May 15 for my sister's graduation. Luckily this time my hair dried in a reasonable amount of time so the roller set process was not too bad. After she removed the rollers we experimented with wrapping my hair and adding Seran-Wrap to smooth out the curl enough for her to trim my ends, this new method worked as well (but I knew it would because I'd tried it before on my own). When all was said and done she trimmed about 1/8 of an inch from my ends, which I was fine with me because I knew it was needed. My hair grew exactly as much as I thought it did, about 2 inches and rests on my collar bone. I am happy with this length even though I still have a way to go. I think most people would still consider my hair to be shoulder length even though it is technically past my shoulders.

I already have my next relaxer touch-up on my calendar for a few days before my birthday in August. This will be a 15 week stretch, but I anticipate that it will be much easier to stretch during warmer months. I plan to wear a braid-outs, braid-out buns and regular buns as my main styles. I also plan to start taking multi-vitamins again as well as taking a biotin supplement to see if it really makes a difference in my growth rate. I will continue my regimen of twice weekly deep conditioning on dry hair, followed by a co-wash or a light cleanser and I will keep up detangling wet hair with the water stream followed by gentle detangling with leave in conditioners and a low manipulation style. I think I am getting the hang of this, but only time will tell --the countdown begins again, 14 weeks to go.

P.S. I am not planning to do a length check pic until I flat iron, in my head I think flat ironing will make my hair seem longer, we'll see :}

4.23.2010

Eureka!

I made the greatest discovery the other day when I washed my hair and it will make my hair journey that much easier in the future. But first I have a confession to make; I don't like washing my hair in the shower (unless I was already planning to take a shower). In addition to all the prep I do for washing, taking the extra step to get undressed and sometimes taking more than one shower in a day made my hair routine even more labor intensive. Before I started my healthy hair journey I washed my hair in the kitchen sink regularly, it was convenient and efficient. But I usually lost far more hair than I wanted to in the detangling process after a kitchen sink wash. The regular faucet stream was no help at all with detangling; it was a water source and nothing more. But once I started this journey I forced myself to take the extra step of washing my hair in the shower (even if it meant 2 showers on a wash day) and I discovered the undeniable power of using the shower stream to detangle my hair. How could I go back to the kitchen sink and guaranteed tangles after that realization? It wasn't worth the risk of (unnecessarily) losing extra hair just because I was too lazy to get undressed. So off to the shower I went.


But last week fatigue got the best of me and I was willing to risk the extra tangles and take extra time to gently comb them out rather than take a second shower that day. So to the kitchen sink I went and hair fortune smiled on me. I didn't always have one before, but in our house now we have a kitchen faucet with a spray function but I (wrongly) assumed it wasn't strong enough to detangle the way the shower head could, so I never tried it. Silly me. For whatever reason that day I decided, “What the heck? I'll give it a try.” And during my final rinse I grabbed my Jilbere shower comb, clicked over to spray, let the water run through my hair for a second and then I started to comb through my hair and rinse out my conditioner--it was like butter, with 13 weeks of new growth! I was shocked and very pleasantly surprised. I still had to take my detangled hair from upside down (the direction it was in the sink and comb it downward (right side up :) but that was easy as pie going section by section with my leave-in conditioners. I can't believe I never tried it before, but I'm so glad I did. Now I'll only be washing my hair in the shower when I'm actually planning to take a shower.

4.21.2010

Preparing for a Relaxer Touch-up

I have learned a lot about relaxers on my journey so far, so know they can be very damaging but I also know it is possible to combat some of the inevitable damage with the right preparation. I do this with an intense protein treatment a few days before my hair appointment. Since protein bonds are broken during the relaxer process it is very important to shore up the protein in my hair as much as possible before my relaxer touch-up. The best way to do an intense protein treatment is to start with very clean hair, the protein is better able to penetrate my hair when I've used actual shampoo as opposed to just a conditioner wash. So I started with my newly beloved SheaMoisture Moisture Retention Shampoo, actually I started by coating my hair with coconut oil which I do in some form before every wash, then I used the SheaMoisture Shampoo. Once my hair was clean and free of oil build up, I applied an intense protein conditioner of my own making-- Giovanni Nurtrafix Hair Reconstructor mixed with about 2 ounces of Colorful Neautral Protein Filler (shaken well)--and let it sit with a plastic cap on for about 20 minutes. When I rinsed, my hair felt fotified and strong, which is always a good indication that my protein treatment has done its job. I followed that with the SheaMoisture Restorative Treatment Masque which left me with soft and strong hair.

I plan to do some additional preparation just before the actual relaxer such as oiling my scalp with jojoba oil the night before and coating the length of my hair with coconut oil immediately prior to application to reduce the impact of "relaxer run-off" and to prevent hygral fatigue (the absorption of too much water) during the rinse/cleansing/neautralizing stage of the process. These preparation steps should help to reinforce my new growth as well as strenghten my previously relaxed hair to make a successful and less damaging relaxer--touch up. Tomorrow is the big day!

4.19.2010

Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

If you’ve never seen the Sci-Fi comedy Galaxy Quest then you’re probably extra confused by this picture being on a blog about relaxed hair—not that Sci-Fi has anything to do with hair period. But the picture is not about the movie characters (or their hair) as much as it is about a famous line from the movie “Never give up, never surrender.” That was the mantra of the fake TV show space captain in the movie and it has been playing over and over in my mind today.

For a lot of people a “healthy hair journey” might be a completely ridiculous thing to be focused on. Of course there are plenty of more important things to be worried about in life than hair, and trust me I worry about those things too. But for me this hair journey is sort of symbolic for other areas of my life. There is nothing easy about going through the process of growing out my hair and taking steps to make my relaxed hair healthier. Choosing to stretch my relaxer means forgoing the sleek straight styles and having a lot of fuzzy new growth around my hair line, which means not always looking the way I’d like to look. Choosing to implement healthy hair practices means I spend a lot of time doing my hair that I could be spending doing other things, like enjoying a good book or getting some laundry done! But at the beginning of this journey I set a goal for myself that I really want to achieve and I’ll never reach my goal if I’m not willing to make sacrifices in order to get where I’m trying to go.

Sometimes when things (in life) get tough I want to give up (and there have been times when I have given up) I don’t want to put in the extra effort or make the additional sacrifices to see my goals come to fruition. And so I quit, and I never get to the end, I don’t get the prize. But I want this time to be different so my mantra for this hair journey (and a few other journeys in my life) will now be “Never give up, never surrender.”

I will be getting my relaxer touch-up this week at 13 weeks post and while I am very excited to see the progress I’ve made over the past 3 months, I know my hair won’t be where I really want it to be. It will not be arm-pit length and it won’t be anywhere near bra strap length. I’m expecting just past my shoulders, which means I still have a long way to go, and grow. So not only is this journey teaching me about perseverance (never give up…) it is also teaching me about patience –good things come to those who wait. For some people it will probably always be hard to believe that hair could (or should) mean so much, but these hair lessons are ones I also plan to use in the rest of my life. And for ME that will be good growth all the way around.

4.16.2010

SheaMoisture at Target

I recently tried two new products from a company called SheaMoisture that makes all-natrural and organic beauty products. The first product I tried was the Deep Treatment Masque for Dry, Damaged Hair (also called the Restorative Smoothie--I think they were in the process of re-naming this line when it hit the shelves). I paid $9.99 for a 12 oz jar which for all-natural products is a great deal. This conditioner contains plenty of goodies including sea kelp, Argan oil and Shea butter, it comes in a jar but it has an almost liquid consistency as opposed to a cream, and it smells heavenly like a tropical island breeze. So far I have used this product to condition my hair after cleansing, I used a small bit mixed with my regular leave-in conditioners and a small bit (on dry hair) to moisturize my ends. The label says it can be used these three ways, but I think I liked it as a regular conditioner best. It instantly softened my hair and made detangling in the shower a breeze, it also kept my hair moisturized after the final rinse. Even though I think this product is marketed as a deep treatment I personally don't consider it to be one because of the consistency, I just prefer my deep conditioners to be thick, and while this product is great, it was kind of runny. But consistency doesn't matter to me nearly as much as performance and this Deep Treatment Mask certainly performed.

The second product I tried from this line was the Moisture Retention Shampoo, this was a very interesting product selection for me because I can't remember the last time I used a cleanser that actually had the word "shampoo" in the name. But SheaMoisture does a great job of listing the synthetic ingredients their products do not include right on the label so when I read "No Sulfates" on this shampoo I was good to go. I'm glad I looked beyond the name of this product to its claims to "heal, grow and strengthen" because this is an awesome shampoo and probably the only actual shampoo I will use outside of my clarifying shampoo.  It’s funny that despite being sulfate free the Moisture Retention Shampoo has a great lather, it suds up easily just from rubbing my hand together before I even put it into my hair. When I  added the shampoo to my scalp for a good scrub it continued to lather well, and I immediately noticed my hair did not start to feel squeaky clean (as it does with SLS shampoos--which is a good thing). I completed my scalp scrub and rubbed the shampoo down the length of my hair lightly sudsing and then rinsed. I could tell my scalp and hair were clean, but my hair still felt very soft and moisturized. It was lovely, exactly the way washing hair should be.

The SheaMoisture product line is definitely gaining a new fan, ME!. After using the shampoo for the first time I told my husband, who has shoulder length locks that he had to try it the next time he washed his hair because it was just that amazing. I also fell in love with the Deep Treatment/Restorative Smoothie conditioner and will happily add both of these products into my rotation.

Be on the lookout for SheaMoisture which has four difference all-natural hair collections that include shampoos, conditioners, treatment and styling aids, and all products priced at $9.99 available exclusively at Target (and Target.com):

- Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Care (with Coconut Oil, Silk Protein & Neem Oil)

- Raw Shea Butter Restorative Care (with Sea Kelp and Argan Oil)--the one I tried

- Yucca & Baobab Thickening Care (with Biotin & Bamboo Extract)

- African Black Soap Dandruff & Eczema Care (with Plantain Enzyme, Tea Tree & Willow Bark)


4.09.2010

Be Gentle


 
A very important lesson I've had to learn recently is to be gentle with my hair. Relaxed hair is so fragile, the simple act of running a comb through it can cause breakage. Breakage is the enemy of length retention and if I can't reduce or eliminate breakage, I'll never reach my length goal. Knowing this has led me to start using the following gentle methods when handling my hair.

1) Detangle/comb wet hair in sections. I start from the back clipping the rest of my hair out of the way and applying leave-in conditioner to that section before gently combing through the botton third of my hair with a wide toothed comb. (I only use a small toothed or rat tail comb when preparing to roller set)  I continue to section hair and condition, gently combing until its all detangled.

2) When wet detangling comb from tips to roots ( the bottom up), not the other way around to reduce the amount of pulling required.

3) Use the stream of the shower to detangle hair after washing. The downward stream of the shower plus my Jilbere Shower Comb during the final rinse are practically a miracle when it comes to wet detangling. I still have a few tangles left once my shower is over, but getting the bulk of them out with the help of water is great.

4) Reduce using a comb to detangle dry hair to once per day, or less, using fingers to comb and detangle at all other times. I've started to try to avoid using a comb unless I have to on the length of my hair. I do use a natural boar bristle brush to smooth my edges.

5) Detangle dry hair in sections using the same method as wet hair adding moisturizer instead of conditioner.

Since I've started using these gentle methods I've seen a real reduction in breakage. Its really hard to change bad habits but I know in the end paying attention to these details will pay off with the hair I want.

4.07.2010

The Home STRETCH

   

         
The most difficult part of stretching the time between relaxer touch-ups is handling two different hair textures. Keeping new growth moisturized and manageable is the key to making it through a stretch without causing damage to either texture. I am entering the 11th week of this 14-week relaxer stretch and while it had been pretty easy going for the first 10 weeks, my new growth is starting to get a little stubborn now. It is very dry and feeling a little like cotton, and I'm worried about increased breakage at the always fragile demarcation line (as shown in the picture above, the point where new growth ends and the relaxed hair begins). Once upon a time frustration with new growth would send me running to my stylist for a relaxer touch-up. But times have changed and I've learned to get through this stage on my own and keep the stretch going. During my last (10 week) stretch my new growth started to get unbearable around the 8 week mark and out of desperation I decided to take my solution right to the source of the problem. (As a side note, it is so good to know that the stretches get easier with each stint, making it to 11 weeks before being tempted to call it quits is a new milestone!)

My solution was to grab my trusty VO5 Moisture Milks (DA BEST! $1 conditioner on the planet) for guaranteed softness and my applicator brush and I proceeded to separate my dry hair into four sections as if prepping for a relaxer. I then went section by section parting into smaller sections and brushed the conditioner directly on to my new growth the same way a relaxer would be applied. I applied my other pre-poo conditioner to the relaxed part of my hair and let it sit for a while (15 to 30 minutes). When my wash routine was complete, my new growth was soft, moisturized and most importantly manageable. I was able to make it through the final weeks of my stretch without having to worry about increased dryness or breakage.
+  
             = Managable New Growth

Was this process a little time-consuming? Yes, but as with all healthy hair care efforts, the extra time and care will always produce better results. If I had not taken the time to do this extra conditioning step I don't know if I would have made it to my 10 week goal for that last stretch. And I'll be re-using this method during my next wash to get me through week 11 and beyond.

**Just a note, the pic above is not my hair, I did not have time to take a pic of my own new growth before I completed this post so I turned to my trusty friend google. I'll be posting a pic of my new growth very soon.

4.05.2010

Healthy Foods for Healthy Hair

I've been slacking lately, but I'm working new posts to get back in the swing of things. In the mean time here is a list of foods that are not only good for you, but good for your hair too.

Iron
Iron helps bolster hair growth. Find it in meat, shellfish, fortified grains and leafy greens.

Protein
Protein is the building block of every strand, but it can be high in fat. To keep your saturated fat intake low, opt for lean cuts of meat, mix light meat with dark, or choose seafood.

Biotin, B6 and B12
Biotin, B6 and B12 promote new growth within the follicles. Good sources include whole-grain breads, oatmeal, skim milk, lowfat cheese, eggs, salmon, nuts and nut butters.

Zinc
Zinc strengthens natural oils that coat the hair shaft, creating shine. Feast on meat, nuts, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and yogurt.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps promote cell renewal in the scalp. Get your fill in the form of brightly colored fruits and veggies. Strawberries and kiwis are surprising super sources, as are raspberries, mangoes, oranges and red bell peppers.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A is also a hair helper; look for it in apples, apricots and sweet potatoes.

Antioxidants
Antioxidants found in herbs, dark chocolate and fresh berries promote a healthy scalp by sparking cell turnover.
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