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:
2. Washing: I wash weekly and alter my methods based on how much new growth I’m dealing with. For instance, I can afford not to section my hair while washing the first few weeks after my relaxer. Once the new growth starts to come in, I have to wash in sections. Sometimes I wash in plats to further my efforts at keeping tangles at bay. When your hair is more coarse, washing in sections will protect it from tangling, which causes breakage.
Shampoo of choice: Nexxus Phyto Organics Theratin Extreme Moisture Shampoo
3. Deep Conditioning: Your new growth is going to be noticeably drier than your relaxed ends, so don’t skimp on your deep conditioner. I deep condition every week for 30 minutes to an hour.
Conditioner of choice: Nexxus Phyto Organics Humectin Extreme Moisture Conditioner
4. Moisturizing & Sealing: My deep conditioner is both a rinse out and a leave-in, so I use it as my hair moisturizer as well. I moisturize daily and follow up with a carrier oil. These are product you want to leave in, without leaving your hair feeling or looking greasy.
Carrier oils of choice: Vitamin E Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Castor Oil
5. Protein Treatments: This is NOT something you want to do weekly. Too much protein can lead to breakage. I do this every six weeks to maintain the strength of my strands especially when I’m dealing with the line of demarcation created between the relaxed and natural hair.
Protein conditioner of choice: Nexxus Emergencee Strengthening Polymeric Reconstructor
The less you manipulate your hair, the better. There are lots of style options to choose from but curly styles always work because they help in blending both textures (see Heatless Ways You Can Achieve Luscious Curls). During my stretches I rarely use heat and always air dry.
Styles you can try include:
- Flexi-rod/roller sets
- Braid/twist/bantu knot outs
For those who worry about taming their edges, there are many products on the market to help with that.
Edge control of choice: Syntonics Edge Define
Once you learn to deal with the tangles that come with stretching, the process becomes easier. The most important tip is to try to work in sections rather than combing through a whole head of hair. Listen to your hair and know when it’s time to relax. I hope this helps you get more in tune with what your hair needs, so you can give it the break from chemicals it deserves.
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