RELAXERS & HOW TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF HAIR LOSS WHEN RETOUCHING (PART 1)

 Relaxer101

I used to be the girl that would remove her weave and get her hair relaxed on the same day.
I often left the salon disappointed because my hair would be the same length or in some cases shorter and thinner than when I installed the weave. I did not know what I was doing wrong.

A lot of us relax our hair but unfortunately a large percentage of us suffer hair loss as a result of it.  This blog post will be the first of a two part series about relaxers and how to prevent hair loss as a result of relaxing.

In this post I will address the following

1)      How do relaxers work  (to give readers a better understanding of the risks involved)

2)      Types of relaxers (to help readers decide which is best for their hair and scalp)

3)      How often should hair be relaxed   

4)      Preparing hair for retouching and why this is an ESSENTIAL step for preventing breakage

 

HOW  DO RELAXERS WORK

Hair structure

Our hair has several types of protein links/bonds in its structure.  Relaxers work by opening the cuticle layer and penetrating the cortex of our hair.
The relaxer breaks some of the protein links in the cortex our hair.  The hair is then smoothed/pulled into its new straightened shape.

 

 

 

The unfortunate truth is that relaxers work by weakening the structure of black hair.  Please note however that relaxed hair can still look healthy and be strong if correct steps are taken before, during and after relaxing.
If relaxers are abused or used too often it can result in damage to the scalp and cause major hair loss.  This risk is well publicised but unfortunately several of us ignore this advice because the hair loss that occurs may not be immediate.  Relaxer abuse will result in weakened hair that breaks gradually over weeks and months.

 

TYPES OF RELAXERS

 

LYE RELAXERS

LYE

 

These are usually packaged in a jar or tub and are ready for use, i.e. there is no need to mix them with activators. They are sometimes called No-Base Relaxers.

PROS
Lye relaxers are said to be better for hair fibres because the formula does not leave mineral deposits on the hair. Mineral deposits left on hair fibres can hinder its ability to absorb moisture.
Also the levels of protein breakage that occurs with lye relaxers will allow the hair to retain more of its natural strength and elasticity than no-lye formulas.

CONS
Lye relaxers can be quite harsh on our scalp  in comparison to no-lye relaxers. For this reason, lye relaxers may not be suitable for ladies with very sensitive scalps or ladies that burn easily.

 

NO-LYE RELAXERS

NoLye

 

These usually come in a box kit that contains activators to be mixed in to activate the formula.

PRO
No-lye relaxers are said to be
“easier” on the scalp than lye relaxers.  This means that it is not as harsh on the scalp as lye formulas.  So if you have very sensitive scalp which burns easily you may want to consider using a no-lye relaxerPlease note that all chemical relaxers (lye or no-lye formula) can cause severe scalp burns and hair loss if it is used incorrectly

CONS
No-lye relaxers can leave our hair quite dry.  This is because no-lye formulas leave some mineral residues on our hair fibre which decreases its ability to absorb moisture
Remember dry hair has a higher risk of breaking. To overcome this problem a chelating shampoo should be used once a month if you use a No-lye relaxer formula. Chelating shampoos work beneath the surface of the hair fibres to remove stubborn minerals from no-lye relaxers, chlorine in swimming pools and hard water residue.

 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD HAIR BE RELAXED Relaxer 6

My hair 16 weeks after it was relaxed, at the Naturals in The City Event in Lagos
New camera! Please bear with me whilst I learn how to adjust the camera light settings.


When your hair has been relaxed, you should
wait at least 8 weeks
before your next relaxer.  Relaxers are meant to be applied to new growth and not on hair that is already relaxed.
The amount of new growth we have before 8 weeks is usually less than 1 inch long.  If relaxer is applied to hair that has very little new growth, it will come in contact with previously relaxed hair thereby relaxing it twice and over processing it.
Over processed hair is very damaged and it will break easily over  the following weeks and months.

Stretching Beyond 8 Weeks
The directions on most chemical relaxers suggest that hair should be retouched every 8 weeks. Please note however that you can extend the amount of time between your relaxer touch ups for longer than 8 weeks.
Extending the amount of time between your relaxers for more than 8 weeks is known as stretching.  For example several ladies on healthy hair journeys stretch their relaxer touch ups to every 10 to 12 weeks,
I relax my hair every 20 weeks.
I will elaborate on stretching, its great benefits and how to take care of hair whilst stretching in a separate post.

 

PREPARING HAIR FOR RELAXING

protein conditioners

Protein Conditioners

As noted above relaxers work by breaking down some of the protein bonds in our hair.  If hair that is lacking in protein is relaxed, you can begin to imagine how fragile it will be after the relaxer process.   Hair this fragile and damaged will not be able to withstand daily wear and tear and although breakage may not be immediate, it is almost inevitable.  It is therefore essential to prepare for relaxing by ensuring that your hair is not lacking in protein. Hair should be washed and deep conditioned with a protein conditioner a week before it is relaxed.

Hair that has just been removed from extensions is usually weak and in need of protein so to proceed to relaxing it the same day is a recipe for disaster: sooner or later the breakage will occur.
Hair that has been removed from extensions should be thoroughly detangled, washed and conditioned with a protein deep conditioner the week before relaxing.   The hair should be washed in sections or in  single braids to prevent matting and tangles.
Allowing a week between removal of extensions and relaxing will also give your scalp a chance to recuperate.

 As always,  I hope the above facts has helped somebody out there.

Please come back soon for part two which will provide a step by step guide for the actual relaxing process.

Learn | Change | Grow

 

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52 Comments

  1. Aragold
    July 18, 2013 / 2:42 pm

    Wow!!! Great job Lade. Very informative.

    Am quite new at this so please bear with me while i ask what you meant by “the hair should be washed in sections or in single braids to prevent matting and tangles.”…. *expand*. Does this mean African hair shouldn’t be washed while loosed…?

    • omolade
      July 21, 2013 / 11:16 pm

      @ Aragold

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      African hair can be washed loose. There are some situations however where hair is likely to matt and tangle when washed loose. It is in such instances that hair should be washed in braids to reduce the risk of matting.

      For more information on this please see the Cleansing article under How to Care for Black Hair tab.
      http://www.rehairducation.com/hair/cleansing/

  2. Tolu
    October 5, 2013 / 1:38 pm

    Wow! I’ve been doing it wrong for eons. Thanks a million. I have been reading your blog for a couple of days and I’m just about ready to start my hair journey very soon.I just need to do my prep well now. I deff know what I’m doing wrong and Theres a whole lot.

  3. omolade
    October 13, 2013 / 7:08 pm

    Hello Tolu,

    I am glad you’ve decided to take the hair journey and that the blog has helped. I was doing it wrong too for soooooooo many years. Let us know how you progress.
    x
    Lade

  4. chinny
    March 7, 2014 / 9:38 pm

    Hi lade,
    If am to give like a week break to have my hair relaxed after taking off my extension, do I have to wash my hair n treat it with d hair protein conditioner?

  5. Mmema
    April 12, 2014 / 9:35 am

    Hi Omolade, thank you very much for this post. Came at the right time! Learnt a lot, I used a lye relaxer(organics) for my new growth. It left my hair underprocessed, my new growth was still there and I didn’t gain any length, I waited after two weeks to retouch my NG again and the result was still the same. I can’t really manage my NG, I wanted to ask whether I should wait for 8 weeks? Or get a touchup again? So confused!

  6. Doyin
    May 30, 2014 / 9:02 pm

    Hi,pls I use profectiv mega growth and it has been good so far cos I started using it since my first relax in january last year when I changed 4rm natural to relaxed hair but I will like to change to a lye relaxer like ORS cos of what I read up there but pls will it av any adverse effect on my hair cos my hair dresser says its bad to change relaxers cos it causes hair damage and God bless u for this blog I av been looking 4 a blog like dis 4 quite sometime now.Thanks

  7. Fungai
    June 20, 2014 / 3:20 pm

    thank you very much. I used a no lye relaxer and cld tell my hair was overproccessed. I asked my hairdresser abt it she insisted that was de right way but now my hair is too thin and breaking. she is fired, am starting on a new journey to save my Hair.. all thanks to yo blog

    • omolade
      June 25, 2014 / 8:10 pm

      best of luck on your new hair journey. I hope it goes well and is free from setbacks.
      x
      Lade

  8. August 17, 2014 / 7:41 pm

    I think I will change back to Lye Relaxers. I had always used this till there was a way out of the scalp burning of using the No lye relaxers but it had made my hair too soft over the years. My hair now has no volume and I think I should go back to basics, I can either endure the temporary pain or texlaxe to minimize the pain.

  9. Lara
    November 6, 2014 / 5:03 am

    Hi,
    Is it good to condition your hair straight after relaxing before shampooing or shampoo first before conditioning? I use Mizani butter blend products.
    Thank you
    Lara

  10. Priscilla
    November 23, 2014 / 10:50 am

    Pardon this silly question. But we were taught or should I say I was taught one shouldn’t wash hair before relaxing, that the scalp has to be dirty to prevent burns during relaxing. If you say hair should be washed and conditioned does that mean that was a myth?

  11. Tebogo
    February 12, 2015 / 4:12 pm

    Hello Omolade;-)
    Thanks for the info, I lost my natural afro after using the first step relaxer, for days I did not know why but now I know. I am now growing it back and ensuring that I never touch relaxers and have enough of protein meals. Thank you

  12. LadyJ
    March 4, 2015 / 12:05 pm

    Is it adviceable to deep condition or steam ur hair the Same day ur retoucHed it and how often should one steam her hair either in a relaxed state or none relaxed state?pls reply.thank u

  13. Denise
    April 8, 2015 / 7:39 pm

    HI, I use no-lye cream and I find that I have to cream my hair every 4 weeks, is that wrong , what should i do

  14. Rain
    April 12, 2015 / 5:58 am

    You just saved my hair! Your blog has become my all time favourite blog! I wish you had consultation in portharcourt (Rivers State) or do you?

  15. jumin rhee
    April 15, 2015 / 9:14 pm

    I have bad issues with dry frazzled and frizzy hair. I have to put VO5 conditioning hairdressing (toothpaste tube one) in my hair after showering just to makr my hair look like hair and not a q-tip. I used relaxers in the past and did not wash my hair for at least 2 days. As soon as I showered my hair returned back to its original form. Would it be possible to relax my hair once per week, but only leave it on for a very short time as opposed to the first application which would be the full time. Thank you for your assistance.

  16. memoe
    May 18, 2015 / 12:01 am

    thanks fr the advice

  17. uche
    May 21, 2015 / 3:15 pm

    Nice one dear. Do u av a bbm channel? I own one but its for naturalistas but then I decided to educate pple on how to use relaxers too and ur blog has helped. Would like to ff u on bbmc

  18. Rachel
    July 1, 2015 / 4:33 pm

    I loved this blog. Thank you!

    Could you advise what shampoo and deep conditioning products you use? Also, how long did it take for your hair to get down to your waist?

  19. yusuff omolabake
    July 25, 2015 / 3:42 pm

    Nice one

  20. precious
    October 2, 2015 / 1:28 pm

    luv this

  21. Dayo
    October 20, 2015 / 5:18 am

    Hi lade, thank you for this blog, I love it. I have been trying to grow my hair for a long period now but it ends up breaking every time, i know it will grow with time as I follow the directions on your blog. I have left my hair for 14 weeks now and i want to relax my hair, I want to apply protein conditional as you said before relaxing it, so I want to ask if I can apply the protein conditional on my dry hair or I have to apply it on my wet hair, and if its wet hair, do I need to wash it with shampoo first before applying the conditional, thank you.

    • omolade
      November 10, 2015 / 2:50 pm

      Hello Dayo
      Thank you for your comment and well done on making efforts to relax your hair.
      Moisture conditioners can be added to wet or dry hair but protein conditioners in my option should be applied to clean hair which will most likely be wet.
      Protein conditioners bind to the hair and fill in small cracks along the hair fibre, the last thing you would want is to have dirt on your whilst the protein ingredients are binging to your hair fibre.
      So I ould suggest you wash your hair and do a protein treatment the week before you relax your hair.
      I hope that helps
      x
      Lade

  22. Deshola
    October 29, 2015 / 3:38 pm

    Great one, it really helped, thnks alot!

    • omolade
      November 10, 2015 / 2:54 pm

      :)
      I am glad it did Deshola

  23. fiyinfoluwa
    November 19, 2015 / 8:06 am

    Hi, jst came bout ur blog. My hair used to be very long then I realised my relaxer stopped working for me. So I tried diff products to get d right one. Dunno if ts right tho bt @ least, it works. Recently, ve bn experiencing serious hair breakage. My hair is now short nd I cnt seem to comb my hair without having to sweep the floor due to the breakage. M very frustrated nd am considering having a hair cut bt with ur blog, I guess dere is hope for my hair. Is there something I cn do to get my hair back? I really miss my hair

  24. liz
    December 11, 2015 / 9:13 pm

    Hi, good post. I find your post really interesting and inspiring. I love for my hair to grow very long. I have been on this hair journey for a year now and I must say there has been some improvement but I think the growth rate is kinda slow. I have taken note of your comments, I would like to know how often should I trim my hair since I hope to retouch or perm my hair once in 12 weeks at least. During the 12 weeks how do I keep or maintain the new growth before relaxing it.
    Thanks.
    Liz

  25. ada-uju
    December 13, 2015 / 8:21 am

    hello lade…. great blog.. av always wanted to care for my hair but didn’t know how.. but now I do. thanks to you.

  26. Virginia
    January 29, 2016 / 4:18 am

    Hi everyone I am 13 and I have been doing relaxers for awhile, I got my hair relaxed in December and I have breakage and all my hair in the back fell out….sadly I had to cut my ends and my hair a few inches to even it out. I was wondering what I could do to stop the breakage and prevent the next time from it happening? I should be getting it done in Feburary? I been putting argan oil in my hair and my hair and ends feel pretty soft right now. I am getting extensions and I am worried my hair in the back is not long enough and will show the extensions. I I I I I will be buying the Aphogee Protein Treatment tomorrow and I was wondering if that’s enough I will need to stop the breakage? I do know about deep conditioning…..should I still do that too?

    Thanks! I hope you can help me 😀

    • Lade
      February 9, 2016 / 10:38 pm

      Hello Virginia

      Thank you for stopping by. I am sorry to hear about the problems you have had with your hair.
      I don’t know how much you know about relaxing but something must have gone wrong for your hair to break so badly. It may or may not have been the relaxer. I don’t know your hair care habits or history so I cannot pinpoint what went wrong.

      The best thing for you is to learn about How to care for black hair and also read my blog posts about relaxing and how to avoid hair loss because of relaxing. The more you learn how to care for your hair the less breakage you will have.

      If you do want to get extensions you can try a style that is not too heavy and will not cause too much stress to your hair like crotchet braids.
      Aphogee might help with the breakage but don’t forget that your hair needs moisture too.

      Best of luck Virginia
      x
      Lade

  27. Chichi
    January 29, 2016 / 8:01 am

    hi Lade..
    just retouched my hair and it has been breaking like mad! i’m surprised i still have hair left on my head. It is soo scary, was thinking its some medical condition but now i think it was from relaxing. I had just taken off extensions and retouched immediately, plus the relaxer stayed too long, since all the washing units were occupied when i was ready to wash it off. pls pls pls..what can i do to salvage the little hair left?????????????

    • Lade
      February 9, 2016 / 10:00 pm

      Hello Chichi

      I am so sorry about the hair loss you have experienced. Relaxing hair the same day you remove extentions is a HUGE NO NO.
      Going forward all you can do is deep condition your hair regularly ( once a week – and make sure you learn about protein moisture balance)
      Avoid wearing any hair extenstions for a while and wear your hair in protective styles. if you want to hide your hair for a while then wear a wig ( but don’t neglect your hair)
      There is a lot of information on hairducation which will help and I wish you breakage free hair real soon

      x
      Lade

  28. Ezinne
    January 31, 2016 / 7:47 am

    Hi, thank you for sharing this with us.. I’d like to know which products are best for our hairs and which do u use.. Thank you

    • Lade
      February 9, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      Hello Ezinne

      My pleasure

      there are soooo many awesome hair products brands on the market but these products have various effects on different ladies hair. what works perfectly for me may not work well for you so it is always best to experiment a bit. I have written soooo many posts on hair products which will help you learn more about this.
      Just use the search button ( located on the top right ) of this page and search for products or how to but hair products and loads of relevant post will come up.

      I hope that helps
      x
      Lade

  29. Tosin
    February 2, 2016 / 6:48 pm

    Is two days okay to weight after washing toe relax?!

    • Lade
      February 9, 2016 / 9:52 pm

      I would say wait a minimum of 72 hours ( 3 day)
      I hope that helps
      x
      Lade

  30. adaeze
    February 7, 2016 / 5:41 am

    Thanks a million,lade.it was very informative, will give it a try.

  31. Priscilla Esi Nkum
    February 16, 2016 / 4:48 pm

    it helped a lot, thank yu. my hair is sooo damaged I need a miracle.

  32. Destiny
    March 22, 2016 / 7:37 am

    Since i started stretching my relaxers in july 2015…i have had underprocessed hair. That’s twice now. I tried a corrective relaxer last week at 10weeks post…and my hair still came out wavy despite leaving the relaxer on for close to an hour. All i had was wavy hair and some breakage. Dont know want to do , and i have moved from just collar bone length to Armpit length with stretches, but with lots of underprocessed hair . What do you suggest please. I use OrS no lye in normal. It used to work just fine before i started by healthy hair journey.

  33. Michelle
    April 10, 2016 / 9:02 am

    Hi Lade,
    Firstly thank you for an informative blog. Nowadays most women are going back to their natural hair and there seems to be more blogs on curly natural hair than relaxed hair. It’s good to see there’s something out there for the ladies who choose to continue relaxing their hair. Your hair length is so inspirational so keep at it girl, routing for you!

  34. Caroline
    April 20, 2016 / 7:44 pm

    kudos to you Lade, for such a great informative piece. I suggest that you try to add more basic pictures, which can best explain certain things you talk about. example,a picture that shows how to wash the ‘hair in sections or single braids’. I hope you find my contribution as laudable as other ones on this platform. Thanks.

    Caroline

  35. April 23, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    Hi Lade,
    I just stumbled on this blog and I really like this post. It is really informative. Please I have a soft hair and i have been using Dr Miracle no Lyle relaxer for a while now. My hair still breaks and the tips are really weak. What can I do to strengthen my hair. Secondly, how often should one trim the tip of the hair and what are its gains.

  36. Christywhite Ikpotokin
    May 17, 2016 / 10:11 am

    When my hair is matt together when loosing bread, especially d back of My hair, wht do i do?

  37. May 21, 2016 / 1:52 pm

    Hi
    I have been thinking of how best to care for my hair and decided to google before embarking on my journey. Thankfully your site popped up first and I have found it really helpful. I’ve been using Dr Miracle’s No lye relaxer and I often relax my hair after every three to four months because my natural hair is quite soft and easy to maintain. However, the last time I relaxed my hair it broke seriously I was afraid I will go bald. ???? That was in January. Since then I’ve been scared to retouch my hair and only stretch it with a straightener and pure natural olive or coconut oil. I’m contemplating changing my relaxer and ORS olive oil has come highly recommended. However, I’m worried that my hair would get worse if I change my relaxer because my hairdresser has warned me before that changing relaxers can damage the hair. Please I want to know if you changed relaxers what was the impact on your hair like? Do you think changing relaxers have adverse effect on the hair? From my understanding of the science of relaxing which you illustrated, the relaxing process and impact on the hair is the same. How does swapping creams change the process or affect the hair. Pls I’d really appreciate your insight and that of your followers. Thanks.

  38. Delisile
    May 23, 2016 / 5:32 am

    Hi Lade

    fantastic page. Im VERY inspired with your journey

    I have a problem with retaining thickness/volume. I have no problem with length. I lose a lot of volume once I relax my hair

    I don’t have an actual regimen, I do follow tips like not using alot of heat, wide tooth combing, stretching relaxers (lastest stretch was 13 weeks), using satin scarf when I sleep, using essential oils

    I have noticed that I neglected the conditioning part when it comes to my hair. I don’t prepoo , cowash and I don’t moisturize my hair everyday. I have recently started using homemade conditioners and my hair does feel a lot softer and its more manageable and doesn’t tangle as much or break as much but I still don’t have volume

    please tell me what I can do to retain volume/thickness?

  39. Destiny
    July 21, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    I got a virgin relaxer a week ago, and I went to the pool today and my hair is coming out. What do I do.? How do I stop it.?

  40. Veric
    August 22, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Am about to be 10 weeks pr. My hair is breaking crazy and kind of dry at the roots. I don’t know how to deal with it anymore. Am thinking about cutting my hair. Asking God for guidence!????????

  41. Jessica
    September 5, 2016 / 9:22 pm

    Hey ! I am on a hair journey now and this blog has really shed some light on so many thing that I used to do wrong. I am just about to relax my hair after 16 weeks. My hair is currently in braids and I was going to loosen it and relax but I know better because of your blog. Thank you. Is it safe to add castor, coconut or vitamin e oil to the no- lye relaxer?

    • Lade
      September 17, 2016 / 5:04 pm

      My pleasure Jessica
      I hope your relaxer goes well
      Most ladies I know use olive oil or coconut oil to weaken their relaxers. Castor oil might be okay to but ive never used it. I am not sure vitamin e oil is ideal for weakening relaxers but again I have never used it. I would recommend olive or coconut oil.
      hope that helps
      x
      Lade

  42. Millicent
    October 4, 2016 / 5:27 am

    Hi Lade. Thanks so much for the info. But I have a problem with all types of relaxers whether they’re lye or noble any time I retouch I have burns and the hair remains underprocessed. I would like to switch to texlax but I’m so confused as to what it actually is? Is it leaving the relaxer for a short time or adding oils to the relaxer or to the hair before processing. I am so confused. Also how do I ensure that the texture remains uniform through out the hair. Please help!

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