Relaxed hair, by its definition, undergoes controlled damage in order to straighten it. So let’s get this out of the way: Your hair is going to be damaged at least slightly anyway as long as you're relaxing it. However, maintaining straight hair in a healthy fashion is possible as long as you follow several simple steps. If you're not currently following most of these tips, your hair probably isn’t as healthy as it could be. It goes without saying that all hair should be pampered, but unfortunately relaxed manes require even more special treatment because they’ve been processed so heavily. Try these five tips for maintaining healthy relaxed hair, and see if they can help you get your newly straightened tresses into the best shape possible.
See a Professional for Chemical Applications
This is typically where you'll spend the most money in maintaining relaxed hair, but it's worth investing in a trusted stylist for touch-ups and/or coloring—they're licensed for a reason. This may not be easy; you might even have to try several salons and get recommendations before you find someone you're happy with. Once you find a professional and build a good relationship with them, they should be able to advise you as to whether a lye or no-lye relaxer is the best option for you, which cuts will most flatter your face, and how to care for your hair on a daily basis.
Applying relaxers to previously processed hair, leaving chemicals on for too long, and getting your hair processed too often are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to straightening. While home kits are easier to use than ever and cheaper than having a professional apply treatments, these products also make it easy to overprocess the hair. Not waiting the recommended time frame between touch-ups is another risky move to make with relaxed hair. Even if you must apply your own relaxers (and we don’t know why you would), have a trusted friend help you with back sections of the hair whenever possible. Better yet, though, save those pennies and see a stylist for the task. It’ll ultimately save you money because you won’t need as many treatments to rehabilitate your hair back to health.
To try to help combat overprocessed hair, use a protein treatment, followed by an intensely moisturizing conditioner.
Choose Low or No-Heat Styling
Flat irons and curling irons are very convenient, but daily heat use without protection will eventually lead to dryness and damage. Heat tools are fine for occasional use, but try to get into the habit of low or no-heat styling when you can. Examples of styling techniques that don't require a lot of heat include:
Protective hairdos keep your hair's ends up and out of sight, which may allow them to retain moisture, which in turn may lead to healthier hair. Even if your goal is not to grow hair down your back, well-moisturized ends are still important. This isn't to say that your mane always needs to be up and out of sight; after all, if you have long, healthy, straightened locks, part of enjoying them is showing them off, right? But if you start to notice that your ends seem drier and/or are looking worse for wear, then incorporate more protective styles into your regular looks.
Try any of these hairstyles that don't need to have ends "bumped" or curled:
Wrap and Protect at Night
Not only does wrapping your hair at night save you time in the morning, but it also protects your delicate tresses while sleeping, especially if you add in extra protection in the form of a silk hair cover or pillowcase. Wrap your hair into a doobie with a brush or comb, molding your hair to the shape of your head. This preserves body and volume in a low-maintenance fashion that requires absolutely no heat. You also won't need to "bump" your ends with a curling or flat iron, so this heatless setting method is gentle on the most delicate part of your mane.
Relaxers may strip away a ton of the hair's natural oils during the process of straightening; replacing that moisture is highly recommended. Instead of using greasy, petrolatum-laden products which don't actually moisturize the hair but only coat it, rely on good-quality conditioners and moisturizers to maintain proper moisture levels for your hair follicle. Follow each shampoo with a rinse-out conditioner and deep condition two to four times per month, depending on your hair's needs.
Trim as Needed
The ends of your hair may become excessively dry if not cared for properly. They're the oldest and most fragile parts of your hair and they need to be treated with extreme care. However, they're not going to last forever, so it's better to get rid of split and dry ends sooner rather than later. The longer you keep them, the more your split ends may travel—all the way up to the hair follicle. If you routinely pamper your hair and observe other good practices, you'll need to trim less often than someone who flat irons daily or never deep conditions.
Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450