Relaxed hair can look sleek and sophisticated, but it's not effortless. In its own way, it's just as high maintenance as natural hair. Because chemical straightening is a harsh process, nourishing your tresses is essential to maintaining hair health. A relaxed hair regime doesn't need to be complicated or expensive, but it should be consistent. "Caring for relaxed hair has many similarities to caring for natural hair with a few major differences, says celebrity hairstylist Monaé Everett. We asked Everett and hair expert Diane Cole Stevens for their advice on how to keep relaxed hair healthy.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading for an expert-approved hair care regimen for relaxed hair.
Use a Moisturizing Shampoo
How often should you wash relaxed hair? Short answer? At least once a week. Choose a high-quality moisturizing shampoo like Kinky Curly Come Clean ($10), and use it at least once a week. Cleanse the scalp first, massaging in circular motions with the pads of your fingers (not your nails), then let the water work the suds down the length of your locks. Avoid piling hair on top of your head or aggressively rubbing shampoo into your ends. Rinse thoroughly.
Follow up with a moisturizing conditioner designed for dry and/or damaged hair, as these usually contain the emollient ingredients that Black hair needs. You want rich, creamy formulas that completely coat your hair. Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Hydrating Conditioner ($10) is a great option.
Focus the product on the hair shaft, avoiding the scalp. Use a wide-tooth comb to work the conditioner through and fully saturate your hair. Leave in for a few minutes, then rinse out. Instead of using shampoo every time you need to clean your hair, you can co-wash (conditioner-only wash) instead.
Opt for Rich, Creamy Conditioners
Wondering how to wash and deep condition relaxed hair? We've got you covered. "My go-to deep conditioning treatment for relaxed hair is the Naked Keratin Plus Reconstructive Masque," says Everett. "Any chemical can damage the health of the hair strand; the reconstructive mask allows you to literally feel the improvement of the health of the hair. The healthier the hair shaft, the more it is able to receive and maintain moisture."
And how often should you deep condition? It depends on how dry your hair is. If you're diligent about conditioning and always use a leave-in after shampooing, you probably won't need deep treatments more than once or twice a month.
If you apply a lot of heat to your hair, however, you may need to deep condition at least once a week.
Committing to a weekly deep condition is a great first step to maintaining healthy hair. However, adding heat or steam will take that conditioning treatment up a notch. Invest in a steamer cap, which provides gentle heat to help absorb all of your hair products.
Try a Protein Treatment
"Relaxed hair from sodium hydroxide or calcium straighteners can weaken strands, so protein treatments may be necessary," says Stevens. If your tresses are 100-percent virgin—that is, no chemicals at all, including color—your hair can be perfectly healthy without any major protein treatments. (An occasional mild reconstructor keeps your hair strong, but it's not required.)
On the other hand, if you color, relax, texlax, or heat style your locks, you'll need more frequent and more intense treatments. These range from two-minute reconstructors you apply after a shampoo to spray formulas that you add before styling. You may also need a serious treatment if you're experiencing extreme breakage. In this case, it's usually best to go to a professional stylist, although you can hit your local beauty supply store and find effective products.
Add Moisture Daily
Relaxed hair benefits from a daily application of hair oil or leave-in conditioner. If you're creating a curly look via a straw set, Bantu knots, or braids, mousse is a must. You may not need hair oil or a leave-in conditioner each day, but paying attention to your hair's look and feel will help you replenish your hair with what it needs.
Stick to Your Routine
Consistent hair care is one of the keys to healthy tresses. If you only deep condition haphazardly or you let several months go by without a protein treatment, your locks will pay the price. It might be helpful to keep a hair journal until the routine becomes second nature to you. You often need to make time for hair care; taking proactive steps helps to prevent problems down the line.
Try scheduling hair care into your calendar. A sample regimen might look like this:
- Sunday: Shampoo, condition, deep condition
- Monday: Apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Tuesday: Apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Wednesday: Apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Thursday: Co-wash, apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Friday: Apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Saturday: Apply hair oil or leave-in conditioner
- Twice a month: Two-minute protein treatment
Wrap Your Hair Each Night
Protecting your hair every night with a silk or satin hair wrap or pillowcase is a must. Not only will it keep the moisture in your hair, but it will also keep your style intact. This will prevent the need for restyling each day, meaning it will prevent adding too much heat to your hair.
Whether your goal is longer, stronger, or simply healthy locks, create a regimen that works for you. Be consistent. Good hair days are ahead.