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 its health. A proper regimen for relaxed black hair doesn't need to be complicated or expensive, but it should be consistent. Here's what you need to start, and how to execute.
Shampoo and Conditioner
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.
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.
How often you need a protein treatment also depends on what your locks have been through. 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 like Mizani Kerafuse Intense Strengthening Treatment ($22).
Daily Styling Products
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.
Stick to It
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 this month: Two-minute protein treatment
Tip: Protect your hair every night with a silk or satin hair wrap or pillowcase.
Whether your goal is longer, stronger, or simply healthy locks, create a regimen that works for you. Be consistent. Good hair days are ahead.