Relaxing your hair is super popular among women with kinky, coily curls for a reason. It’s a quick way to tame extremely unruly and tangly hair to make everyday styling a lot easier. When your hair is relaxed, it takes way less time to do each morning. Plus, you get to rock smooth and gorgeous straight locks.
However, relaxing your hair is never easy, especially when you do it yourself at home. There are a lot of mishaps that might happen if you or your stylist isn’t careful with the entire relaxing process.
And one of the most common (and also most terrifying) of these issues is over-processing your relaxed hair.
If your relaxed hair is starting to feel dry, limp, and hay-like in texture, it might be a sign that you’ve completely exhausted and over-processed it.
Today, we’ll take a look at how to fix over-processed relaxed hair and some things you can do to try and repair your damaged locks.
What Happens When Your Hair Is Over-Processed?
Over-processing happens because of one of two things.
You either leave on your relaxer for far too long, or you accidentally apply it to parts of your hair that have already been relaxed a few weeks or months back.
Leaving Relaxer For Far Too Long
First, let’s talk about leaving the relaxer in your hair for way longer than recommended.
When this happens, there are harsh chemicals that process or “fry” your hair.
These chemicals break down the bonds and proteins that make your hair strong, leaving it fragile.
That’s why it’s important that you only leave a relaxer in your hair for the suggested time in the product packaging.
Going past that will only put your hair in danger and risk burning your scalp as well.
Next, there’s overlapping.
This happens when you’re applying relaxer to your regrowth but end up slathering it all over hair that has been relaxed in the past.
You’re only supposed to apply relaxer to new hair growth, or else it’s going to be overkill and end up weakening your already processed hair.
The thing is, you can’t completely reverse over-processed hair.
Your hair is made up of dead cells as it is, so you can’t grow back the parts of the hair shaft that were broken down.
The most you can do to repair it is to improve the appearance, elasticity, and strength of your hair with the help of products.
What Are The Signs Of Over-Processed Hair?
When your hair is over-processed, it’s going to be very thin and weak.
It may start breaking off too, giving you split, ragged ends.
It will be super dehydrated and rough too, kind of like straw or hay.
The worst part is it’s going to look limp, dull, and lifeless, so all bounce and shine will be gone.
It’s also going to have a weird texture, especially when it’s wet.
It will feel gummy, spongey, and mushy all at once.
This is a sign that there’s absolutely no elasticity or resilience in your hair anymore.
Over-processed hair is notorious for breakage.
The more your hair snaps off, the more prone you’ll be to hair loss or alopecia, especially if the over-processing has occurred in one specific spot in your head.
Speaking of your head, another sign of over-processing your relaxed hair is having itchy or painful burns on your scalp.
If the relaxer was too strong for your hair or was left on way longer than it was supposed to be, you could end up with chemical burns on your scalp.
How To Fix Over-Processed Relaxed Hair
Dealing with over-processed hair is super stressful since there are so many symptoms you’ll want to reverse.
But it’s important to remember that fixing over-processed relaxed hair won’t happen overnight.
You need to treat, pamper, and baby your damaged locks for a long time.
Here are six ways to do that:
Tweak your hair wash routine so that it’s ultra-nourishing
When your hair is severely damaged and over-processed, it’s going to be dehydrated for sure.
It will need extra nourishment to keep it from getting weaker and more fragile.
So, you need to replenish it with the moisture lost from the relaxer process.
Make sure you incorporate more moisturizing products in your regimen, starting with your wash routine.
Look for sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners infused with many hydrating and moisturizing ingredients.
Sulfates tend to be harsh and dry out the hair even more, so you’ll be better off without those.
Stay away from dehydrating ingredients as well, like alcohol.
A terrific shampoo and conditioner combo that ticks all these boxes is the Maui Moisture Fortifying + Hemp Seed Oil Shampoo and Conditioner.
The anti-breakage formulas help strengthen brittle and dry locks.
Plus, it’s rich in intensely moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera, cacao butter, and hemp seed oil for deep nourishing.
Then, follow up with a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair hydrated even after you’re out of the shower.
One that we love is the Davines OI All In One Milk.
This leave-in spray is amazing at softening, hydrating, and controlling frizz.
It’s also filled with uber-moisturizing ingredients like roucou oil and sunflower seed oil.
Switch out your daily conditioner with a hair mask
If your hair is incredibly parched, you can switch out your daily conditioner with something thicker, like a hair mask or deep conditioner.
There are way more nourishing properties in these than regular, everyday conditioners for normal hair types.
These richer masks are usually focused on the mid-lengths and ends of the hair, where it tends to be driest.
But in your case, try to concentrate a lot of it on the roots area too, where over-processing tends to take place during touch-ups.
One great deep conditioner you can try out is the amika soulfood nourishing mask.
It’s packed with deeply moisturizing ingredients that repair and restore your hair.
These include jojoba seed oil which is rich in fatty acids and antioxidants and sea buckthorn which has omega-7 – a known elasticity booster.
This hair mask is free from harmful ingredients such as sulfates, phthalates, petrolatum, parabens, and more.
And to top it all off, it leaves your hair smelling sweet and floral with notes of orange, grapefruit blossom, rose, vanilla, and tonka bean.
To elevate your deep conditioning session, cover your head with a plastic wrap and sit under a hooded dryer.
The heat will speed up the moisturizing process, allowing your over-processed hair to absorb more of the moisture it needs to be stronger.
Treat your hair to a protein mask once a week
When your hair is damaged, it’s in dire need of protein.
Relaxers can strip your hair of its natural keratin – the proteins that keep your hair bonds strong and intact.
So, when chemical treatments like relaxer service break those down, you’re left with fragile locks.
You must replenish the lost protein.
Protein treatments help strengthen your hair and give it structure again.
It’s especially important if you’re starting to notice that your hair is gummy and mushy – that means you need to fortify it.
Proteins help fill in the gaps and holes in your hair to make it stronger, at least temporarily.
The Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair!™ Deep Conditioning Mask is an excellent protein treatment for over-processed hair.
It contains three kinds of proteins – corn, wheat, and soy.
It also has other reparative ingredients such as vitamin B, algae extracts, rosehip, avocado, argan, and sweet almond oils.
The mask is perfect for brittle, chemically-treated hair.
It’s even proven to decrease breakage after only two uses.
The mask is also made with 97% naturally-derived ingredients, so it’s perfect for those who don’t like using hair products with too many artificial chemicals.
But if you want an even more organic route, you can always DIY your protein treatment at home.
Mix together eggs, yogurt, and coconut milk to make your own protein-rich mask and slather it all over your hair before your next hair wash.
Lay off the heat-styling tools
Over-processed hair is so damaged that it has trouble maintaining any texture or curl.
The kneejerk reaction for this is to use even more heat, from flat irons to curling wands.
But you shouldn’t do that because heat will make your dry hair even more dehydrated and weak.
Try to keep your heat-styling tools in the drawer for now, at least until your hair starts looking and feeling a little bit healthier.
Give your hair a break and concentrate instead on moisturizing it daily.
Look at it as an opportunity to wear your hair down and natural for a few weeks or months.
But if you really can’t resist heat-styling your locks, be sure to use a heat protectant before your hair comes into contact with any tool.
Get that haircut you’ve always wanted to try
Some unlucky few who have over-processed their relaxed hair again and again might not repair it, no matter how many protein treatments or conditioning masks they use.
If that’s the case for you, you may have no other option but to cut off the dead, hay-like hair and start fresh again with healthy, natural hair.
Go to a seasoned stylist and ask them to cut off the damaged ends of your hair.
It’s your chance to experiment with shorter haircuts you’ve always wanted to try out.
It can be emotionally draining getting the big chop, especially if you’ve worked very hard to grow your hair long.
But it’s better to start from square one with healthy hair than keep your length but have it look dull, limp, and rough to the touch.
Don’t worry – cutting your over-processed hair will pay off in the end!
When your hair grows back, it will be bouncy, shiny, and hydrated again.
Stop relaxing your hair for a bit to let it rest
Make sure you let your hair breathe and recuperate between your relaxer touch-ups.
Stretch out each session for as long as you can go (two or three months each time is ideal!).
This gives your hair more time to grow out as well, which means fewer chances of overlapping.
And while waiting until your next touch-up, you can put your hair in protective styles like braids and buns to protect it from breaking off.
But don’t put it in styles that are too tight, like cornrows and box braids.
These can put tension on your hair, tugging at them so they snap off faster.
How To Avoid Over-Processing Relaxed Hair
Of course, prevention is always better than having to cure over-processed hair.
Here are some tips to help you avoid damaging your hair so much, to begin with:
Use Coconut Oil
Protect your already relaxed hair with coconut oil to avoid relaxer run-off.
Coconut oil has penetrative properties that allow it to plump up your hair cuticle and fill in any gaps in it.
This protects your hair from soaking up chemicals that can be damaging to it.
Plus, it nourishes your hair too, making it stronger!
Check Length Of Growth
Don’t touch up your roots when the growth is still too short.
Putting relaxer on super short regrowth increases your chances of overlapping.
Try to wait until you have regrowth of at least one whole inch before you do a touch-up.
Space Out Chemical Treatments
Avoid doubling up your chemical treatments in the span of a few days or weeks.
So if you’re planning on relaxing your hair today, don’t plan a coloring treatment at the same time.
Space them out by at least a couple of weeks at a time.
Seek Professional Services
Stop DIY-ing your relaxing service.
If you’ve been having issues with over-processing your hair, maybe it’s time to quit doing it yourself and start going to a professional at a salon to do it for you.
They can even assess your hair damage and give you more expert tips on how to repair your hair.
Dealing with over-processed relaxed hair is never fun.
You have to work extra hard to moisturize and strengthen your locks, which involves incorporating additional products into your routine.
And let’s not forget the emotional toll of having damaged hair that is difficult to style and lowers your confidence.
But when you do things right and are meticulous and religious with taking care of your hair, you won’t regret it.
Following the steps outlined above on how to fix over-processed relaxed hair, you can repair your locks and get them strong, healthy, and shiny again.
Of course, it’s not that easy for everyone.
Some people will have to cut off their over-processed locks and start anew with a shorter cut.
But hey – spicing up your hairstyle now and then is fun too, right?
Whatever you end up doing, know that there’s always a way to fix over-processed hair.
It’s going to take a lot of work, but if you’re consistent and commit to nursing your damaged hair, you’ll be rewarded with healthy, hydrating, bouncy hair again one day.