Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Relaxer Stretching and Tips

I usually relax my new growth (NG) about anywhere between every 12-16 weeks.  The longest I have stretched was up to 17 weeks.  Now...I am currently at 28 weeks into my stretch.  From keeping the hair well moisturized to figuring out how to style it, it has been extremely challenging.  I have experienced mostly tangling which I have managed to conquer.  Without the use of a great conditioner, wide tooth comb and having patience...the stretch would have ended a long time ago.
Photo taken end of April 2012


Relaxing 4-6 weeks seems to be the norm for many relaxed women to get a touch-up, the new growth (NG) that is... The average growth of hair for many of us happens to be half an inch per month.  If you calculate this with the amount of 4-6 weeks of getting a touch-up, there is not much NG to relax.  Most likely there will be overlapping of the relaxer which can cause a slew of things that can deteriorate the health of the hair.  We are talking about dry, brittle, breakage, thin and over processed hair. 

Remember that the new growth is stronger than the relaxed hair because it is "virgin" (without any chemical treatment).  The area where the relaxed hair and natural hair meets is called the Line of Demarcation (or Demarcation Line) and happens to be the weakest.  Without the proper care of the two textures combined, the hair can easily break off in that area causing short hairs to stick out every which way.   

Stretching is a great way to alleviate the above mentioned issues.  Maximizing the amount of time between touch-ups can benefit many.  The more NG there is, the more one can see where the relaxer should be applied during the next touch-up session.  This means the less experience of overlapping, over processed hair and much thicker hair.  Always remember that you will be dealing with two different hair textures.  To some it will be frustrating and to some it will be a breeze to manage.  Be prepared and embrace the process along the way. 

A good thing sometimes can be a bad thing for some.  Stretching may not work for everyone.  Some experience more shedding, severe breakage and the hair tangles a lot, causing knots.  When that happens, it is an indication that stretching is not working.

Moisture is extremely important during the time between touch-ups...anytime.  Co-washes (washing the hair with a moisturizing conditioner),  Prepoos (oil treatment) and deep conditioning will keep the hair manageable and soft.  

Protein treatments are extremely important to balance the hair's strength with the moisture.  This can be done on a monthly basis to ensure that the hair is strong enough to withstand the stretching.  Be cautious with the amount of protein that is used.  Too much of protein can cause the hair to feel dry and cause the hair to break.  Using a moisturizing conditioner afterwards will keep everything balanced and it is a must. 

Protective styling and low manipulation is a great way to maintain the hair during stretches.  The less the hair is messed with, the less breakage and stress to the hair strands.  Some protective styles that can help during stretches are braids, weaves, buns, roller sets, rod sets, etc.  Braid outs works great too and the advantage of this is because the NG and the processed hair blends well together.  This in turn also lessens the amount of tangling. 

Here are some tips has helped me during my stretch:
  • I pre-poo before wash day by oiling my scalp and NG, put on a plastic cap and satin scarf overnight.
  • Use a wide tooth comb to detangle with conditioner while sectioning the hair.
  • Protein treatments are done monthly to reinforce the strength of my hair.
  • I do a black tea rinse every so often to slow down the shedding.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I use either diluted conditioner mixed with coconut oil to spray my NG or Herbal Essence's Long Term Relationship Leave In.
  • I wash my hair in sections in the shower, wash each one using my fingers in a downward motion to free the shed hair and to keep the hair from re-tangling.
  • I co-wash more than I shampoo, shampooing can be drying if done too often.
  • I deep condition with a moisturizing conditioner and oil after shampooing.
  • Protective styling is a must for me because it keeps my hands out of my hair every day.
  • Patience - without it, I would not be able to go through this stretch and cause more damage to my hair. 

Hope some of these things help you during your stretch.  What are tips that you can also share, what experiences have you encountered that you learned from?

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Favorite Protective Hair Style

2012 - Bra Strap Length (BSL)

The "french braid" is my ultimate favorite protective style, especially in the summer!  It can be worn for many different occasions.  And trust me, I have worn it for so many, including wearing it year round.

History of how I learned:  I learned this by accident!  My mother never knew how to cornrow and I was determined to learn at the time.  I might have been just starting high I would play with my hair and try different things.  Trying to learn was a disaster because I wasn't holding my hand properly to create a cornrow, but accidentally positioned my hands to create a french braid instead.  I kept doing it that way and I liked it!  But I still never learned how to cornrow until about 3 years ago (Shhh...don't tell anyone!)

What I love about the style, it does not require much tension. You can manipulate the tension to make it look from loose to tight.  I stay away from "tight".  I love my edges too much to lose them!

The benefits of wearing this style for me:
 * My hair is moisturized; especially the ends,
* Hair ends are tucked in to help retain length,
* Most of the hair is tucked away and "protected" from certain elements.
* Low manipulation,
* Low to No heat to create this style

We have to remember that the very ends of our hair is the oldest part; it is vulnerable and has been exposed to more than the parts of hair closer to the scalp.   That is why the emphasis is there to moisturize the ends, do protective styles, be gentle with the hair, etc.

I had received so many compliments about the thickness of my hair while wearing this style.  It also sparks curiousity as to how long the hair really is.  I posted a few pictures below (and one above) of the french braid I did during the course of my hair journey, also added the length of my hair at the time.  Would you have been able to tell what length my hair was?
2008 - Above shoulder length (SL)
2011 - Bra Strap Length (BSL)

2009 - Shoulder Length (SL)
The trick to give this style the ultimate look of "thickness" is to basically let the hair airdry.  When airdrying, especially when you have relaxed hair, it will give the hair a slight texture although the hair has been altered to "relax" the hair strands.  Lastly, braid the hair a little loosely when you get to the will give the braid some "body".

For the appearance of fullness and thickness:
 1. Wash or cowash the hair.
2. Moisturize the hair with a leave in conditioner and/or oil(s)
3. Be sure that the hair is well detanged, always comb starting from the ends and work your way up.
3. Part, comb and/or brush (soft one) the hair in the front to lay it down.
4. Tie a scarf to lay the hair down, especially in the front. 
    (The idea is for you to not use or use a minimum amount of heat.)
5. Let the hair airdy completely (or airdry to 70% or more and blow dry on low heat)
6. Continue to style as you like

Be creative and pizzazz it up!  Having a bang or swooping the hair in the front can give it a different look. I usually place a head band in the front...a simple black one. I am on a quest to get more bands to enhance this style and to place it on my head for other styles other than the french braid. 

I have also seen:
- Braids (micros, kinky twists) styled into a french braid
- "Braid outs" styled into a french braid
- French braids using wavy braiding hair to enhance fullness with the tail of the braid hanging down the back rather being tucked under.
- Wigs/ Sew-Ins french braided
- And french braids done to do a braid out.

Here's a video tutorial on the french braid:
Sdestra - French Braiding Tutorial

What are your favorite protective styles, especially for the warmer months?

Thanks for reading and God bless!