It comes as no surprise that the most common question I get asked is ‘How can I grow my hair long?’. What is relatively surprising though is that of every 10 times I get asked that question, 9 of the ladies have relaxed hair. Is there a theme here or is it just me?
Ok, I’m not into relaxer bashing. I think relaxing your hair is personal choice or preference and some ladies just prefer straight hair. However, growing black hair long is trickier with relaxed hair because relaxing is in essence ‘ controlled damage’ and in many ladies cases completely uncontrolled damage!
Many relaxers and texturizers give a 20 minute window in which to apply it to the whole head of hair and work it through. And what do most women do? Just that. I’ve even seen a stylist who was very good at her job apply the relaxer at lightning pace and combed it through. She was done in 10 minutes after which she made the client wait another 10 only begining to rinse the relaxer out when the timer went off. You may be wondering what is wrong with the 20 minute scenario, after all it is what the manufacturers suggest. I venture to suggest that it is as ludicrous as saying that all pieces of meat should be cooked for 10 minutes on each side without accounting for they type of meat ( beef, chicken, ham) or the thickness. The lovely topside joint of beef would be quite raw on the inside while the thin fillet steaks would be overdone and ruined!
Manufacturers should make it clearer that the timeline that they give for the application of a relaxer is just a maximum time and that actual processing times will vary widely. I was a stylist in a previous life well before I discovered ‘real’ black hair care. I remember being annoyed with a woman who demanded that her hair be relaxed in sections as she only wanted the relaxer in her hair for 5 minutes at most. I thought that her hair would look like no relaxer had touched it after all 5 minutes is only a fraction of the standard 20 minutes right? It took a while to complete and her hair was left with a bit of a curl while wet but lo and behold, roller setting was as easy and straightforward as any other head of hair. In the completed look I had managed to achieve superior results than I had with any other client’s hair that I had relaxed bone straight. Her hair was silky smooth and straight but with gorgeous volume. Not the flat thin relaxed hair that I was used to seeing.
Many women don’t know that they are guilty of over processing their hair and they will adamantly insist that their hair is resistant or it was relaxed for the perfect amount of time etc.
Goals will dictate your results. If all you want is to have sleek straight locks every morning without having to do much and don’t mind keeping your hair short, then more than likely, relaxing bone straight or leaving texture in your hair will not affect you much either way. But if your number one goal is length then make use of strand testing and always leave a little bit of texture in your hair when using a relaxer.
If you are doing everything else right:
- You are having protein treatments regularly
- You are using alternating between moisture and protein conditioners
- Moisturizing your hair daily
- Washing your hair often at least weekly
- Have your combing technique down to an art form
If you are doing all these things but still not seeing any results, it might be time to hang up the relaxer brush and consider going natural. It is a painful truth that many would rather not hear but some of us will never be able to grow our hair long while using chemicals. Whether it is disposition (forgets to protect hair at night often or other indiscretion) or simply having fine hair strands that melt at the mildest of relaxers, it is a truth that you will have to figure out for the sake of your own hair.
You will be happy to hear that being natural does not mean that you will have to get dread locs, wear your hair in braids or an afro. You can continue to wear your hair straight and with the proper care and attention regularly heat straightened natural hair has the potential to grow even longer than its relaxed counterpart because you are starting with hair at full strength and elasticity.
Is it time you bit the bullet and went natural?