Stretching your relaxer will prove beneficial to your hair’s health when done correctly. For those unfamiliar with stretching, it’s when you wait a longer period of time between your relaxers. Touch-ups are recommended every six to eight weeks, so anything longer than your normal routine would be considered a stretch.
The major benefit of stretching is that it prevents overlapping relaxers. The more new growth you have, the easier it is to touch-up without spreading the relaxer to your previously relaxed hair. No overlapping means less breakage and thinning.
I’m an avid stretcher and I relax my hair every six months or once a year—the longest I’ve gone is 16 months. An assumption is that you need a certain texture of natural hair to be able to pull it off—WRONG. A looser curl pattern will make it easier to stretch, but it’s not impossible with kinkier textures. All you need is patience and after a while, it just becomes normal.
I will be sharing some tips on how I get by with my stretches and what products I use. I don’t suggest going out to buy these products if you already have something that works. Sometimes it’s not about the product, but how you are using it.
Some of this information will be helpful to individuals who are transitioning to natural hair because like stretchers, they deal with two textures.
You can ease yourself into the stretching process. If you get your touch-ups every six weeks, try seven, then eight, then nine…
Once you reach a point where you feel you can’t handle your new growth and your hair is breaking or shedding more than usual, then it’s time to relax.
The Nitty Gritty
1. Detangling: This is probably the most tedious part of the whole routine because you have to take your time. If it’s not done properly, you will rip out your hair. On a good day, it takes me about an hour.
I detangle my hair in 10-12 sections with a wide-tooth comb while it’s dry. I always try to do this the night before wash day because detanglers are generally full of silicones (what gives them slip) that coat our hair. Washing my hair after detangling ensures that I remove the product in time for my hair to absorb my conditioner, moisturizers, etc. It also helps that I have no shed strands sitting in my hair while washing it (having detangled the night before), as this can cause new tangles.
Be very careful when you comb your hair and always work your way up from the ends. When you are dealing with two textures, the point where your textures meet (line of demarcation) is extremely fragile. Be gentle. This is why it takes me so much time. But it will be worth it over time.
Detangler of choice: Mane ‘n Tail Detangler