Tips for Relaxing African-American Hair

Michele Zipp

african american hair relaxing tipsMy friend Alecia always looks great. She's the kind of girl who can wear jeans and a t-shirt with Converse sneakers and she still looks elegant. Yeah, don't hate on her! She's also one of the sweetest people I know and she was cool enough to share her techniques and secrets on what she uses to relax her hair.

From Alecia:

Every 6-8 weeks, I relax my hair, but just the roots, which is about 1-2 inches of new growth. Be aware that there are different strength relaxers. I use Super, since my hair is course and thick.

What you will need (aka Alecia's favorite brands):

  1. No-Lye relaxer system that includes relaxer, activator, gloves, stirring tool, shampoo, conditioner, and grease -- Dark & Lovely No-Lye Conditioning Relaxer System or Organics by Africa's Best Olive Oil Conditoning Relaxer System, No-Lye work well.
  2. Towel to protect your clothing
  3. Comb and rubber bands to section your hair
  4. Disposable shower cap
  5. Frizz serum -- I use Citre Shine Anti-Frizz Serum, Highly Laminating
  6. Olive oil lotion -- Organic Root Olive Oil Moisturize is a good one.
  7. Blowdryer
  8. Flat iron (a wider iron will make things go faster, but if your hair is shorter, a  one-inch is the best option)

How to:

  • When relaxing my hair, I part my hair into four sections. I start with the front sections moving back, making sure to apply the relaxer on top of each piece of hair and beneath to cover each strand of hair.
  • Continue for each of the sections. It usually takes me about 20 minutes.
  • I typically keep the relaxer in my hair for 30-45 minutes, depending on how well the relaxer is working or if the solution is starting to burn.
  • After the relaxer is in, go back through the sections smoothing the pieces of hair with your fingers or the back of a comb -- do not comb your hair.
  • Try to keep the relaxer only on the new growth, otherwise you might damage your hair that's already been relaxed.
  • Tip: Open a window or turn on a fan, the chemical smell is pretty strong.
  • Once you think you've waited long enough for the relaxer to set in, rinse your hair.
  • Make sure all of the relaxer is out of your hair before shampooing.
  • Follow the shampooing directions (Dark & Lovely has a shampoo that turns pink to let you know if there is still relaxer in your hair).
  • I shampoo my hair 2-3 times to make sure the relaxer is completely gone.
  • Follow up with the provided conditioner, comb your hair, put on a shower cap and leave in for 10-15 minutes.
  • Note: Relaxer can be very drying, occasionally I leave the conditioner in for 30 minutes if my hair feels stringy. 
  • Rinse out conditioner.
  • Apply a frizz serum and blowdry your hair.
  • Once the hair is completely dry, apply a hair cream -- to make sure that your hair isn't dried out.
  • Note: Even though I've just relaxed my hair, it's still a little puffy, since it's thick. If you want your hair as straight as it would get from a visit to the salon, invest in a flat iron to smooth your roots and ends. I start at the back and go forward when flat ironing my hair, because the flatiron tends to get hotter as I move forward -- so the front of my head will be straight with one pass through.
  • Style and go.

Thanks Alecia!

Have any additional tips on relaxing African-American hair? Please share!



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