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How Often Should You Touch-Up Relaxed Hair?

Woman with straightened hair
Gabriele Colangelo - Backstage - Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2019/Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images 

Just like knowing which face products are appropriate for your skin type and knowing how to shade-match your foundation, having a firm handle on hair relaxing is important whether you're a DIY'er or you prefer to leave it to the pros. Beyond application techniques, knowing how to upkeep a hair relaxing routine remains a question for some. A good rule of thumb: There should be enough new hair growth for the relaxer to adhere to, and you should be able to see a clear line of where the relaxed hair begins and where the new hair growth ends. Often, this means you'll need a 1/2 inch to one inch of new hair growth, which usually occurs every eight weeks.

And, a crucial part of doing a relaxer retouch is refraining from applying the product all over the hair. Because previously relaxed hair is permanently straightened, it doesn't require additional chemical processing, and doing so could result in hair damage (breakage, anyone?). Rather, stick to only applying the relaxer to virgin hair. Below, find everything you need to know about how often you should relax your hair.

Can You Relax Your Hair More Often?

While eight weeks between touch-ups is recommended, some may feel the need to apply relaxers more frequently. Typically, this is the case among those with a short, cropped cut where the sides or back of the style require a touch-up while the top or crown of the head doesn't. Pixie cuts, for example, may require additional hairstylist visits for more frequent maintenance and trims every four to six weeks. The stylist may touch-up just the sides and back to make these areas look more uniform with the longer hair on top. Also, if you're prone to a quick-growing mane that grows faster than the average rate of 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month, you may want to relax more often, perhaps every six weeks (versus eight).

What Happens if You Wait Too Long Between Touch-Ups?

It's a slippery slope when it comes to the length of time in between touch-ups: If it's done too often it could have hair-damaging effects and if it's not done enough it becomes difficult to maintain. The more new growth you have, the more stress is placed on the line of demarcation (the area where the virgin hair meets the relaxed hair). Hair tends to already be weak in this spot, and waiting too long in between touch-ups may cause this area to get even weaker. And while those with relaxed hair should already be in the habit of applying regular protein treatments, this rings especially true if your relaxer retouches are stretched past eight weeks.

Can I Touch-Up Underprocessed Hair?

Sometimes, relaxers don't "take" as well as expected, so naturally the question bodes if it's advisable to reapply chemicals to already processed hair. Experts say that no matter how tempting it may be, this can cause breakage, thinning, and hair damage. So as difficult as it may be to calm frizzy tresses, relaxed hair that's been over-processed poses its own set of challenges. To blend any under-relaxed areas with the rest of your hair, wet sets as well as consistent conditioning can help.

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