Before reading this article you may want to read this post on the different relaxing options open to you, namely relaxing, texturizing and texlaxing, all the pros and cons of each plus photos of the various techniques so that you can better visualize your final results.
As a professional hairdresser; I do not think children’s hair should be relaxed but this is my very personal opinion. My mother was adamant about not relaxing my hair; in fact I didn’t get my first relaxer until I was sixteen years old.
Did I want a relaxer as a child? Absolutely but by the time I got my first relaxer most of my friends with relaxers had begun to show severe damage or thinning.
If a client came to me wanting to relax their child’s hair I would spend a considerable amount of time during the consultation in hopes that they would delay it until the child was older.
I would not ultimately refuse to do the child’s hair if the parent insisted but I would feel obligated to give them all of the necessary information that would allow them to make a carefully considered decision to proceed.
I do however find it interesting that a research study was done on long term use of relaxers and want to share the summary with you all. “A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology has linked hair relaxers to uterine fibroids, as well as early puberty in young girls.”
Scientists followed more than 23,000 pre-menopausal Black American women from 1997 to 2009 and found that the two- to three-times higher rate of fibroids among black women may be linked to chemical exposure through scalp lesions and burns resulting from relaxers.
Women who got their first menstrual period before the age of 10 were also more likely to have uterine fibroids, and early menstruation may result from hair products black girls are using, according to a separate study published in the Annals of Epidemiology last summer. (BET.Com)”
Even with the conclusion of this study’s results I want to say that relaxers have always carried a bad reputation and it is primarily due to the improper application or care for the hair before, during and after the process that causes issues.
I want to share with you the necessary precautions and steps to ensure that your hair maintains its health and that you are aware of someone’s ability to properly perform a chemical service.
There are some licensed professionals that neglect to take the necessary precautions to safely relax hair so please be cautious when selecting a professional and by all means use my suggestions to supplement how you relax your hair at home!
Before relaxing-do a protein treatment at least two weeks prior to relaxing. The process of relaxing the hair strips the hair of protein so it is important to build up the level of protein prior to relaxing.
This should be done on virgin hair (hair never relaxed) and for previously relaxed hair. To protect hair that has been previously relaxed during a touch up, I recommend using a filler to prevent over processing.
Fillers have a high level of protein and can be purchased in liquid or gel form. Many years ago Ampro’s protein gel was commonly used as filler. The filler is applied on dry hair and allowed to dry over night or under a dryer set on the lowest cool setting.
Cool setting is used to prevent the heating of the scalp which would cause the relaxer to process faster. Ideally you can apply your filler and pre-section your hair the night before relaxing. Sectioning should be done with the length and condition of hair in mind. Areas that are finer or weaker should be sectioned separately from coarser hair; these weaker areas should also be relaxed last.
Relaxer Application tips
Relax without any distractions-no kids, no phone calls, no engaging in conversation even if you have someone assisting you with your relaxer application. The entire focus should be on timing and observation of the chemical process- always do the hairline and nape last!
These areas experience and accommodate more environmental stress than any other areas! Make-up, face creams, lotions and tension all can affect these areas and make them highly sensitive!
What is texlaxing?
Texlaxing is the use of a mild or altered relaxer to slightly alter the hair pattern but not straightening the hair bone straight. This is achieved by either cutting the application time in half according to the manufacturer’s suggestion or by adding oil or condition to the relaxer prior to application.
Always, always base no matter whether you have a sensitive scalp or not or if the manufacturer claims it has a no base application. Any scalp abrasions or scratched areas will lead to severe chemical burns that can result in scalp infection or severe scarring. Hair loss due to scaring is permanent!
The coarser areas should be your starting point when applying the relaxer-The nape is not included! Many start the application at the nape, complaining that it is the most resistant but this area is very prone to damage, no matter how coarse it may seem; over time it will begin to break.
Keep in mind that heat from the scalp causes the relaxer to process faster, this is the primary reason that many complain that the retouched hair appears smoother than previously relaxed hair.
Since heat is a factor; always relax in a cool climate. Do not relax your hair in a hot or humid environment. Sweating and higher body temperature will cause over processing!
Over processing and under processing can be avoided by paying close attention to the application process. Note that when applying a virgin relaxer leave at least an inch near the scalp when first applying the relaxer and an inch near the ends to prevent over processing. The logic to leaving the ends is that the ends are the oldest weakest part of the hairs strands.
The area that the relaxer is first applied will be processing longer than other areas, so start in the areas where the hair is the strongest or coarsest. For those with significant differences in textures it is best to use a mild relaxer for fine hair areas and regular where hair is coarser.
I have never used a super strength relaxer and do not advise anyone to do so even for the very coarsest of hair. The strength of the relaxer is a good indication of the content of chemicals used.
A relaxer made for coarse hair will likely contain more chemical straightener than one for fine hair. Does that mean that my hair will not straighten? No, it simply means that it will take longer for the hair to react to the relaxer. It is better for those relaxing at home to avoid using strong relaxers just to ensure there is less likelihood of over processing or damage.
The timing chart is very specific for all relaxer applications. If it recommends ten minutes then the application must be applied, worked through and ready to rinse when those ten minutes are up! If you are unable to apply the relaxer quickly, ask someone to assist with the application or relax hair sections separately.
Consider relaxing the front area first and then relaxing the back later. If the timing chart states a shorter processing time then again adhere to it and move quickly to stay within the recommended time! Ladies, I have observed some very bizarre relaxer experiences.
I watched in horror as a licensed professional applied a relaxer to her own hair and proceeded to take a client while the relaxer sat on her hair! I never observed her look at the clock the entire time! She was older than me and I felt it inappropriate to inquire in front of clients but I did so after hours.
Believe it or not, I was told that she knew what she was doing so I never approached her again. I even refrained from saying I told you so when her hair began to fall out. Please always follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer when applying relaxers!
Never comb the relaxer through the hair! Use the back of a comb, your fingers or a tint brush to smooth the area and check the wave pattern only. Combing will stretch the hair during processing and cause eventual breakage if not immediate breakage.
Rinse the relaxer for up to five minutes without manipulating the scalp or hair. It is ideal to apply a protein conditioner after rinsing and prior to neutralizing. This allows the treatment to deeply penetrate the hair strands prior to neutralizing which seals the cuticles shut. Lather the neutralizing thoroughly and shampoo at least three times.
It is ideal to allow the shampoo to sit at least three to five minutes on the last lathering to ensure that the hair has returned to the normal PH level. Feel the scalp and hair strands while visually looking for areas that you may have missed before proceeding to co wash or shampoo with a non-neutralizing shampoo.
Many experience breakage due to failing to properly remove the relaxer and neutralize the hair. Always finish with a deep treatment to replenish the moisture to the hair and prepare it for styling. Although many are tempted to try high manipulation styles it is best to consider a low manipulation style choice so that your hair and scalp can recover.
I advise using a hooded dryer(affiliate link) or air drying the hair right after a relaxer to guarantee the best results! Using these tips will enable you to safely relax or texlax your hair at home like a real professional!