Yesterday was my curlaversary and I’m so happy I stuck it out! I spontaneously decided to go natural last year so I didn’t transition, I big chopped. After the shiny newness of my style and the joy of being part of a big, beautiful community wore off, I looked at myself in the mirror and wonder, “Am I still beautiful?” Yes, my husband said so and some days I even felt it, but not frequently enough. I looked back at old pictures of my relaxed hair and began regretting cutting it all of. Long, straight hair had always been my favorite accessory but all I had to work with was tiny curls. What was I actually doing, anyway? It wasn’t long enough to braid so protective styles were out. I have all of these different textures represented on my head so I didn’t even have a consistent curl pattern. The longer it grew, the more I wondered how was I going to look presentable?
After 22 years of being relaxed, I’m natural again. I have been natural for a week and I’m still in shock. My overprocessed relaxed hair was about APL but limp, damaged and lifeless. Do you have any idea how irritating it is to get a wash and set and not have a style in about two hours? What a waste of time and money! After repeatedly
trimming cutting my hair in hopes of achieving the dream relaxed hair of my youth, I decided enough was enough.
It occurred to me in the shower (where I do my best thinking) that I want to be natural by 30. Not GOING natural, I want to know my texture, love it and have some length. I’ve always flirted with the idea of transitioning but I know me. After months and months of stretching, I would see all the new growth and be like, “Ooh, I wonder how long my hair would be if I just relaxed it one more time!”
Staying consistent is one of my biggest challenges. One of the ways that manifests is my hair journey. I have been at this for over five years (!!!) and my hair has been as long as below shoulder blade and a short as neck length. I’m currently grazing arm pit length but I intend to hit bra strap length by the end of 2015. I don’t have many new year’s resolutions but I know this is a good time to restart my hair regimen.
- Clarify wash once a month
– Shampoo and deep condition using heat weekly (or bi-weekly)
– Light protein treatment every two weeks
– Air dry hair using t-shirt method unless wearing roller set or protective style
– 5000mcg of Biotin daily
– Moisturize and seal 3-4x times per week
– Exercise 3-4 times per week
– Drink 64 ounces of water daily
– Stretch relaxer at least 16 weeks
– Heat pass once a month
I ended my 29 week stretch on Saturday. This wasn’t my longest stretch but it was certainly the most irritating because my hair was underprocessed in several sections. Due to this, my roller sets would revert in certain areas and just be the hottest of messes. Dealing with my hair this go around also makes me wonder I had to make such a drastic cut or if the rough hair I felt was simply what didn’t straighten during my last touch up. Oh, well.
I used my normal Organic Root Stimulator Lye Olive Oil Relaxer in regular strength. I’m not sure if it’s the biotin I’ve been taking or my diet and exercise regimen but I had a grip of new growth. We ended up using 1.5 tubs of the creme mixed with castor oil. From start to finish, the relaxer application took 40 minutes! Interestingly enough, I didn’t burn at all and probably could have sat a little longer because I’m still wavy baby at the roots.
One of the biggest reasons ladies don’t retain length is because of chemical processing too often. This usually applies to ladies with relaxed tresses but color-treated natural ladies can also experience this. The best way to enjoy increased thickness and length retention is by relaxer stretching.
Relaxer stretching is simply extending your time period between retouches. Many “stylists” will advise their clients to return every 6 to 8 weeks. They aren’t telling you to come back because you have so much new growth it’s time for a retouch or even out of concern for your hair’s health. “Stylists” want you back so they can continue lining their pockets.
This poor advice you’re being given will make you think that every little bit of new growth is a cause to make an appointment for a touch up. Not the case. In 8 weeks, you’re going to have approximately 1/2 to 1 inch of new growth. This small amount of growth is going to make it nearly impossible for them to avoid applying relaxer to previously relaxed hair. The result? Thinning, damaged length and frayed, splitting ends. Not a good look.
If you have been following my journey, you know that I frequently stretch my relaxers. It can be challenging but the rewards (thickness and less chance of overlap) make it worthwhile. While this post was targeted towards relaxer stretching ladies, these tips can also apply to color treated hair.
I’ve compiled 5 tips to help you stretch your relaxers like a pro:
1. Start slow. When people first undertake relaxer stretches, they think they have to wait as long as possible. If your normal relaxer schedule was every 8 weeks, try adding 1 week. Keep this up until 9 weeks becomes easy and then add another. I try to shoot for 12-16 weeks stretches but some can go for a year or longer. Baby steps!
2. Handle hair with care. Especially the line of demarcation (where new growth meets relaxed hair). This means minimizing combing/brushing as much as possible. I usually comb my hair 1x/week (on wash day) so I don’t have to worry about excessive manipulation.
3. Keep hair conditioned. Since the line of demarcation is especially fragile, make sure to keep it supple and strong. This means using protein (as needed) but also not skipping your deep conditioning. Some ladies even find cowashing in between wash days helpful to keep hair pliable.
4. Embrace textured or protective styles. When I hit about 9 weeks, my hair does NOT want to be straight. Yeah, I can fry it to death with heat and cause a lot of damage but I much prefer to rock it in a textured style (braid out, twist out, curls, etc). When things get really crazy, I put it in a protective style. Which route you choose is a personal preference but I find protective styling works best for me.
5. Adjust as needed. When you have multiple textures in your head, you may need different products. Your new growth may not need as much protein as your natural hair requires. Be sure to pay attention to how your hair is responding to your regimen and tweak as necessary. There isn’t one model that’s going to work for everyone.
What is your longest relaxer stretch to date? Is there a product you can’t live without that melts tangles? Why do you stretch your relaxers?
A hair regimen is simply the plan you’ve implemented to care for your hair. Your hair’s specific texture, length, health and your specific goals will determine your regimen. I strongly recommend creating one to keep you focused and accountable.
I discuss methods for retaining length here and they’re a good place to start when building your reggie. I remember how overwhelmed I felt when I started my healthy hair journey so I compiled 5 tips to creating a hair regimen:
Keep it simple When building a hair regimen, simplicity is key. It’s easy to get caught up in a long, drawn out process but the easier you make it, the better your results will be. There are many different ways to skin a cat, you’re not required to utilize all of them! I suggest washing, deep conditioning, moisturizing and sealing, and protective styling as a base.
Be consistent Even the best regimen can easily be derailed if you aren’t consistent. Going super hard for one week and neglecting your hair for the next 3 won’t yield the desired results. Your hair is much like a relationship: starting out hot and heavy and then falling off will confuse your partner and can damage the relationship. Start by introducing a small change to improve your hair’s health (like easing up with the heat). Once that becomes second nature, incorporate another practice.
Avoid bandwagons I find that since hair boards have grown in popularity, bandwagons are more widespread than ever. “I used nothing but mayo on my hair for 6 months and my hair grew from NL (neck length) to BSL (bra strap length)!” Next thing you know, everyone and their mother is buying family size Hellmann’s in hopes of duplicating her results. I’m not saying that some hair care techniques aren’t viable and worth looking into but do your research first.
Chronicle hits and misses What better way to know what’s working and what isn’t than by keeping track? That was the original purpose of Stranded but you’re not required to blog or vlog. You can keep a journal where you write down what products you’ve tried. Note how your hair felt, how you used it, and if you’ve noticed any change while using it. Make sure you consistently use a product before deciding if it’s a keeper or something to pass on.
“My hair never grows.” This a gripe a lot of women have but it is actually inaccurate. If our hair never grew, we would never have new growth or need touch-ups! The problem is, some of us aren’t retaining the length that we’ve gotten.
Here are 7 ways you can help your hair, natural or relaxed, retain the length you’ve worked for:
Deep condition & protein treatments Maintaining the proper moisture levels in hair is especially important for our coils and kinks. Give your hair a treat at least once a week to help retain length. Relaxed and/or color-treated ladies, be mindful of your protein balance since your hair is already compromised by these services. Keep you moisture/protein in balance and you’ll be well on your way to retaining length.
Moisturize & seal I moisturize and seal my hair in sections but some women only moisturize and seal their ends. Different strokes for different folks. Regardless of which method you choose to implement, be sure to use a water-based moisturizer and a natural oil to keep your hair moisturized as long as possible.
With only 1 day left, I’m super
geeked excited about my upcoming cruise! I’ve started packing my bags, setting up Out of Office messages at work, and getting my mani/pedi on.
I have also decided on my protective style for the trip! I was vacillating between tree braids and crochet braids. Both are awesome protective styles (when done properly) but, based on my weeks of research, crochet braids are better for ladies with longer locks. With Hurricane Sandy knocking out power, this style took a lot longer than it should have. Luckily, my fantastically amazing mom was game and did it for me!
Crochet braids are basically when you cornrow your hair and then add bulk braiding hair to the cornrowed base. You add the hair to said base by slipping a latch hook needle under the braid, attaching the bulk hair, and pulling it back through. To keep the hair secure, you make a knot. It sounds a lot more difficult than it is, trust me.
|Here is a picture of the needle
I used Freetress Bohemian Braid 20″ Bulk in 1B and TP4/30. I bought 5 at packs $5.99/piece and ended up using 4 of them.
Continuing with my year long stretch, I have been rocking protective styles for the past few months so I can leave my hair alone. The boo and I had plans to go out Saturday evening (he works Saturdays so we never get to go out) and a good friend of mine was celebrating his birthday; I wanted to look fly. I decided that I wanted a wash and set since I haven’t seen my hair straight in about 7 months. I figured a quick trip to my local Dominican salon would be the perfect way to get my fix.
I went to Ninoska in 2011 for a wash and set and was pleased by the results. My next visit to get a relaxer retouch in May 2011 was my final time. They overlapped the relaxer severely which resulted in crazy wild damage. I cut my hair from BSL to APL because my ends suffered. I figured I would give Ninoska another chance because it’s only a roller set, how badly could that turn out?