Knowing how to properly stretch my relaxer has been the foundation for my successful long-term transition to natural hair without breakage and big chop. Therefore, I think the two go hand in hand and often sandwich both topics in one discussion.
What is Relaxer Stretching?
Relaxer stretching means to extend the weeks between your relaxer touch-up. Rather than relaxing your hair every 6 weeks, you would relax every 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 16 weeks, etc. Extending the time between relaxers minimizes the opportunity for overlapping and overprocessing.
Is it Possible to Transition to Natural Hair without Breakage?
Breakage will happen. There is really no other way to put it. Many will make you feel breakage never happens and that is not true! Although the amount of breakage can be significantly reduced with proper care and technique, you will see breakage here and there so don’t let it stress you out. When I use the phrase without breakage, I’m talking without excessive breakage.
Wash ONLY When You Have Time
While this appears to be a no-brainer, it’s one that I violated often. Take it from me, don’t do it! Rushing leads to rough handling which leads to hair breakage. When breakage happens, frustrations rise. When frustrations rise, more breakage happens. It’s better to delay wash day than to rush through it and end up with breaking hair or marginal results.
Always Pre-Wash Detangle
Detangling is a step that is often overlooked or done incorrectly which leads to some pretty horrible wash days. Simply running a wide tooth comb through your hair is not proper detangling. A good detangling session begins with finger detangling to remove the bulk of shed hair. Your fingers are much gentler than a comb and can locate knots and tangles much quicker and without as much breakage. You should not use your wide tooth comb until the bulk of shed hair has been removed.
Your shed hair should be few in quantity when the hair is properly detangled. If you’re still seeing a good bit of hair collecting in your comb, keep detangling! If a wide tooth comb doesn’t get the job done, don’t be afraid to incorporate a medium tooth comb to remove the remaining shed hair.
Soften Hair with a Pre-Poo
As you enter deeper into your stretch, pre-poo treatments become really important! Incorporating a pre-poo for 15-30 mins will soften your new growth and assist with detangling.
Wash Hair in Braids
Washing your hair in braids is a great way to keep your hair tangle free on wash day.
Hair continues to shed as you wash your hair. Shed hair collects within the braid at the line of demarcation. Larger braids have a tendency to become matted. Therefore, small to medium braids work best.
[bctt tweet=”Washing your hair in 6-8 braids will keep your hair free from tangles.” username=”relaxedthairapy”]
The longer you stretch, the weaker the line of demarcation becomes. Using protein, however, will strengthen the weak point and help control breakage.
Stretch Your New Growth
Heat styling your hair with a roller set or flexi rod set is a great way to stretch your new growth. If you prefer to avoid all forms of heat, you stretch your hair by air drying in a bun, braids or ponytails.
Periodically band, braid or bun your hair throughout the week to keep the new growth stretched.
If your hair is low on hydration, try baggying your hair for 1-2 hours a few nights a week to increase moisture.
You can apply a cheap conditioner to your hair for a few minutes before rinsing it out. This method is known as co-washing and is widely used to increase hydration.
Seamless combs are gentler than seamed combs and lessens the opportunity for breakage and mid-shaft splits. Not everyone buys into this theory and that’s ok. I do, however, use seamless combs.
If you know that your hair is tangle prone and prefers to be combed – do it! Lightly combing your hair on a daily basis will keep shed hair to a minimum which reduces the opportunity for tangles.
Definitely opt for low manipulation styles like braids, buns, flat twists to keep the hair stretched and to minimize breakage.
And as always, have patience!