I was recently asked by a colleague to write about how to take care of relaxed hair and make it grow. I’ve used relaxers more than half my life since I had my first relaxing treatment at 13!
The thing is, natural curls are gorgeous, especially when they’re defined and well taken care of. They’re perfect for going out or even just the everyday selfie.
But if you’re like me and you naturally have super curly hair, you’ll know that it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Frizzy, unruly hair is part of having curls, too.
That’s why I – and so many women like me – opt to relax my hair to tame and smooth it down while adding some shine.
The only downside to relaxing your hair is the damage that comes with it.
After all, it’s still a chemical process that takes a toll on your hair.
One side effect of the damage and brittleness of relaxed hair is slower hair growth.
Encouraging relaxed hair takes a lot of work and commitment, but it’s really just as simple as caring for your damaged hair and ensuring that your strands don’t snap or break.
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Why Is It More Difficult To Grow Out Relaxed Hair?
Does it ever feel like your hair doesn’t grow as long as you want it to, even if you’re doing everything right, like moisturizing well and eating enough protein in your diet?
Sometimes, even if you’re checking off all the items on the list of things to do to grow your hair, your hair doesn’t seem like it’s getting any longer.
I hate to break it to you, but the issue could be your relaxing treatments.
You must remember that relaxing your hair exposes your locks to a chemical process that deals a certain degree of damage to your hair strands each time.
When your hair is processed this way, it becomes fried and more porous, making it more prone to breakage and dryness.
Relaxers straighten and smoothen your hair by breaking down the disulfide bonds in your hair.
These bonds are responsible for giving your hair its natural curl and texture, so when a relaxer weakens them, your hair will be tamer.
However, these bonds are also what make your hair strands strong and resilient.
When you relax your hair, you’re giving up something you want to get rid of (unruly texture) along with something your hair needs to grow longer (hair strength).
Because your hair is weaker and more fragile after getting it relaxed, it will be more likely to break and snap off.
This gives you the illusion that your hair isn’t growing because you can never retain the length you desire.
Now that you want to grow out your relaxed hair, you’ll need to give it extra love and attention.
It went through a traumatic chemical process and will do so every time you touch up your roots, hampering hair growth.
So you have to pamper and care for it more if you want to help it grow.
Growing out your locks is different depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your relaxed hair.
Do you want to keep it straight and smooth?
Are you considering stretching your relaxers for less damage?
Or are you trying to transition back to natural hair?
The techniques for achieving longer hair are different for each situation.
Let’s go through each one.
How To Take Care Of Relaxed Hair And Make It Grow
Here are some tips for taking care of your relaxed hair to make it long, beautiful, and healthy.
If you want to grow your hair out while keeping your hair sleek and smooth, you have to give your hair the utmost care between relaxer touch-ups.
This can be a bit tricky since you’re constantly exposing your roots to the chemical process of relaxing your hair.
Here are a few tips to grow and care for your relaxed locks as you do this:
Stick With A Relaxer Your Hair Loves
There are many types of relaxers out there, from extra-strength ones to those that are gentle on your hair.
When you find a relaxer that your hair responds well to (meaning it smoothens your hair while causing minimal damage), stick with it forever.
Relaxer-hopping can do a lot of damage to your hair.
Try not to do it, no matter how tempting it is to try out something new every time you get your root touch-ups.
Switching to stronger, more damaging relaxers can often break your hair strands off, hindering hair growth.
When picking out a relaxer you want to stay loyal to, look for one suited for your hair type.
For example, if you have thin, delicate tresses, don’t go for the extra-strength variants meant for thick and coarse hair.
Go instead for normal-strength ones that process your hair slower and don’t leave it pin-straight.
This gives you the appearance of thicker, stronger hair that doesn’t stick to the sides of your face.
Avoid Relaxer Run-Off
When you’re due for your next relaxer touch-up, make sure you protect your hair that’s already been relaxed.
If you don’t do this, it can lead to overprocessing, which increases the chances of your hair breaking or falling off.
This keeps you from maintaining the length you want to see.
It will also leave your hair limp and lifeless.
Coat your hair with something that can prevent a run-off of the relaxer into your already-relaxed hair.
You can coat the rest of your hair in petroleum jelly or even douse it in some coconut or olive oil before you come in for your session.
Shampoo Less And Moisturize More
Make sure you’re moisturizing more than you are stripping your hair of hydration.
Wash your hair with shampoo less often, as it can be drying.
Your relaxed hair needs moisture to become healthy again.
Without hydrating and moisturizing your hair, it will never get to the length you want, especially when it’s damaged because of so many relaxers.
If the hair is too dry, it will easily break off.
You also need moisture to keep frizz and dullness away.
You can even create hair masks with coconut oil or shea butter – anything that will give your hair intense moisture.
You can also use nourishing oils like argan oil and grapeseed oil as sealants after your hair routine.
This locks in all the hydration in your strands while adding luminosity and shine.
All these help flatten and smoothen your cuticles to ensure they’re sealed and keep the moisture in.
Conditioning often also helps make your hair shinier and healthier-looking.
Clarify Your Hair Once A Month
Even though you should get into the habit of shampooing less often, you should still remember to give your scalp a deep cleanse at least once a month.
After all, clean, toxin-free follicles are the key to better hair growth.
When you use too many styling products or dry shampoo in your hair, there can be a lot of product build-up on your scalp.
This clogs your roots and follicles, curbing hair growth.
Create the optimal environment for growth by clarifying this area when there’s too much congestion.
Repair Your Hair With Protein
Hair growth starts with repairing your hair damaged by previous relaxing treatments.
Contrary to what you might think, your hair usually grows after you get it chemically processed.
But because your hair is so damaged and snaps off easily, it could look like it never gets past a certain length.
Get rid of this predicament by fortifying your processed strands with protein.
Look for protein treatments that fortify your strands, allowing them to be stronger and more resilient against breakage and hair fall.
Go for hair masks with keratin, silk amino acids, yogurt, and other protein-rich ingredients.
This drastically improves your hair’s elasticity and strength.
Stretch Your Relaxer To Give Your Hair Time To Breathe And Recover
One way to prevent constantly frying and damaging your hair is stretching your relaxers.
This means that instead of touching up your roots every 6-8 weeks, you wait about 3-4 months (or even longer!) to do it.
Not only does it minimize damage, but it gives your relaxed hair a better shot at growing longer.
You’re giving your scalp a break from all the harsh chemicals from your relaxing process, making it healthier and strong enough to grow more hair at a normal pace.
Relaxing your hair more often also increases the chances of relaxer run-off because your regrowth is shorter.
Eventually, your hair strands will be thicker and more resilient because they’re not exposed to run-off.
This will lead to length retention, allowing you to enjoy longer hair without breakage.
Granted, stretching your relaxer has its cons too.
Your hair might get more tangly since you’ll be dealing with two textures.
The strands will be susceptible to damage near the line of demarcation if there are stubborn knots.
Make sure you detangle with a good leave-in or oil to ensure you don’t get hair fall or breakage.
You’ll also likely be tempted to even out your hair texture.
To do that, you’ll have to either straighten your roots or curl the ends.
It’s always best to avoid heat to allow your relaxed hair to heal from the damage.
But if you must heat-style, always spritz on a heat protectant beforehand.
Growing Your Locks While Transitioning To Natural Hair
Trying to transition to natural hair without the big chop can be a hassle.
Your hair will look strange with two textures.
One thing you can do to improve the health of your hair and cover up the stark demarcation line between curly and straight hair is put your hair in protective styles.
Protective styles include low-maintenance ponytails and buns, but you can also go for locs, weaves, and braids for something more long-term.
This hides the relaxed parts of your hair so it doesn’t look like you have two different textures in your hair as it grows.
It also keeps you from touching or manipulating your hair too much.
Since your hair isn’t so exposed to the elements, they’re easier to care for.
For example, when your hair is in braids, they retain moisture better.
Having your hair in the wind can make it drier, but when your locks are pulled close together, they can keep more hydration sealed in.
Maximize this benefit of protective styles by using creams and oils to moisturize your hair often.
Another thing you should do while you grow out your hair is getting regular trims of an inch or so every couple of weeks.
This gets rid of split ends, preventing the damage from traveling up your strands.
This will allow your hair to grow much longer.
Other Top Tips To Enhance Hair Growth
Check out these other tips for encouraging healthy hair growth.
These methods are universal and will work on anyone who wants to grow out their hair, not just those with relaxed strands:
Consume More Protein In Your Diet
Hair is made up of protein.
When your strands are damaged and their bonds are broken down, you’ll need to replenish the lost protein if you want longer hair.
You can do that by consuming more eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy in your diet.
Give Yourself Scalp Massages With Hair-Growing Botanicals
Aloe vera, neem oil, and rosemary oil are just some of the best organic extracts for growing your hair.
You can give yourself daily scalp massages with these to encourage growth.
Plus, they’re natural and organic, so it’s a great way to balance out the chemicals in your relaxed strands.
Don’t Brush Your Hair While It’s Wet
Your hair is most sensitive to hair fall while it’s wet.
Don’t tug or brush your hair as soon as you get out of the shower.
This makes it easy to break and pull hair out accidentally.
Allow your hair to air dry before you comb it.
While relaxing your hair is a quick and easy way to tame unruly and disheveled curls, you still have to put more work in to make sure it grows longer and stronger.
Follow my tips above to ensure that your relaxed locks are taken care of properly as you promote healthy hair growth.
Whether you’re looking to transition back to natural hair or want a longer mane as you continue your relaxing sessions, hair growth is something many relaxed gals aspire for.
Just remember to pay attention to your hair, protect it from stress, and give it the nutrients it needs, and you’ll be seeing the length you want in no time.