What is the Secret to Having Long Thick Relaxed Hair? Part One

The secret to having long relaxed hair is knowledge. It’s all about knowing how to care for your relaxed or permed hair for yourself and understanding your strands. Relaxed hair is processed with chemicals to make it straight or to smooth out the kinks in natural hair, once this is done a relaxed head will require a different level of care than natural hair, it cannot be business as usual for your new hair. The problem is, persons with relaxed hair have no idea what to do with their new hair and so they lose it…

I am used to going on the street and getting the question, is that your real hair? Everyday. The follow up question is usually- what do you do? I may attempt to answer the question but I realize that it would take a very long time to impart all that I know about hair care. I used to be a college lecturer and I had a system for my students, I went with the general concepts and then zeroed in on the specifics. I will be utilizing the same system here. The general secret to having long thick relaxed hair I will give in ten easy points:

  1. Low manipulation- Excess combing or brushing can weaken the hair shaft over time and cause shedding and breakage. The less time one spends combing their relaxed hair the better it will look.
  2. Infrequency of relaxing- I learned this the hard way, one Sunday my mother was washing my hair and a clump from the back of my hair dropped out in the bath. I cried  for days because a whole chunk of my hair was gone. This was because I took the eight week relaxing time very seriously indeed and so the week after one of my frequent relaxers my hair had a tough time dealing with the pressure. Relaxers are chemicals, these chemicals alter the natural hairs curly pattern, if this chemical overlaps with a previously done part of the hair then you further break down the hair and this can cause serious breakage and hair loss. The prescribed option is to relax your hair just 3 times per year.
  3. Switching relaxers- This is a serious hair offense and probably stems from our scientific ignorance. Make a vow to yourself never to put anything on or in your body that you do not have at least a basic knowledge about and you will be better off. In my case, I studied a little chemistry, I actually wanted to do it as a first degree but changed my mind; I am still highly fascinated with chemical reactors. Most relaxers have a hydroxide acid base.
    If you have a bottle of liquid drain cleaner check the label. It contains hydroxide (sodium or calcium) which is very good for breaking down hair and other things; this is what is in most of your relaxers. If you overlap relaxers, the chemicals can break down hair faster than it should and cause serious hair loss. If you are switching relaxers make sure that the base chemical is the same.
  4. Conditioners- black hair needs conditioning. It is the best product that could ever happen for our hair, we need it like grass needs water after a drought. However, not all conditioners were created equal, some have ingredients to coat the hair shaft and others were designed to go deep into the hair shaft. Deep conditioners need heat to swell the hair shaft so that it can enter the hair and repair any nicks or scratches on the hair surface from within. On the other hand, regular conditioners coat the hair so that it is easy to handle and comb. They both serve a very important function in hair growth and retention and should never be overlooked. It is better for you to condition your hair than to shampoo it.
  5. Moisture- Many persons are unaware of the power of moisture for hair retention. Moisture serves several roles, a very important one is to make your hair supple. Supple hair does not break as easily as dry or brittle hair. A good moisture balance is needed to retain hair growth. A very good source of moisture for both inside and outside our bodies is water. If you are not drinking enough water your hair will get dry and brittle.
    Similarly, if you do not apply enough moisture to your hair it will get dry and break. Think about a piece of cloth left to dry in the sun with no fabric softener; the cloth will get hard, dry and rough. On the other hand fabric softener will not only make the cloth smell good, but it will make it soft and pleasant to touch as well. It is the same with our hair, the fabric softener is our figurative moisturizer. There are several moisturizers on the market we will explore them and tell you if they are good to be used. Important point to note: moisture is not oil!

Check out Part Two for more hair care secrets.

62 Comments »

  • Lisa said:

    Great article!

  • megan melville said:

    Thank you I am 12 years old and I was wondering would it be a good age to get my hair relaxed or permed. I would love a feedback please. Anyway to show my responsibility to my mom I wrote her an essay about perms and relaxers. Your site was a great source so thank you again.

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Megan,
      I wanted to relax my hair at twelve too. I begged my Mom but she said no. The truth is, my hair is better off now than it would be if I had put chemical in it at that age. I finally got the opportunity to relax my hair at sixteen and it stayed at the same length for years, I had no idea what to do with it and the ends kept getting thinner and had to be cut off. You see, I was not as well equipped to take care of my hair, high school was hectic and university even worse.

      Besides that, I had no idea what to use in my hair, there was no site around then to help me out. You have a distinct advantage, because there are so many places where you can get information on how to care for your hair. My advice to you would be to look at the hair regimens on this site, especially this one http://blackhair101.com/hair-care/hair-regimen-on-a-budget-relaxed-hair, look it over with your mom and check to see if the cost to maintain your hair is achievable every month/year. Apart from that you have to vow to take care of your hair or else you will lose it. In the meantime, I implore you to check out these articles too: http://blackhair101.com/hair-care/should-you-relax-your-hair-or-not and http://blackhair101.com/hair-care/lye-or-no-lye-understanding-the-chemicals-that-are-in-your-relaxer. Please take care to read the section on permed hair before you attempt it.

      All the best my dear.

  • maggie said:

    Hi Brenda :-D 4 years ago my sister she relaxed my hair and it falled off all I was ball for the whole year but now I have almost shoulder length and im breast feeding my son who is 6 month and my hair is shading a lot :’( I dont know what to do I live in Denmark in a very small town really small black people is only me,my mum and sister even the relaxer we do order thrue the internet African shops are very fare from us it takes like 6 ours with the train :’(. We all use organic olive oil relaxe. Denmark is very could I do seal my hair everyday with a hair lotion and coconut oil. Can I use costol oil the one witch I can buy on the food store. I do admit that I dont wash my hair that often maybe twice a month. Please help me I want to have long and health hair im tired of hearing my white friends telling me that we black people cant have long and health hair :’(

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Maggie,
      Most new mother’s experience hair loss because of the normalizing of estrogen. See this article here, Types of Hair Loss. The good thing about it, is that the shedding will stop after a while, the article Hair Regimen For Hair Loss, should be helpful. I tried the organic olive oil relaxer just last week. It is good. If it is pure castor oil- sure it can be used. Try to wash your hair once per week though, the scalp needs to be clean in order for you to realize meaningful growth, this is so, especially if you use oils. You can have long, healthy hair, just put in a little time, patience and best practices and it will grow. All the best.

  • Amanda said:

    Really great article for someone like me. I feel like my hair is nothing but a vicious cycle of: gets relaxed,looks really nice for about a month or two but then eventually gets really dried out and starts breaking off at the ends. I feel like my hair is not like most other blacks. each hair is just really really thin and frizzy and it seems like it never gets moisture no matter what I do. I hate dealing with my hair so I end up putting it braids or cutting all my hair off and trying to start from the roots again,

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Amanda,
      Everybody’s hair as its own little quirk. There are the general guidelines and then you have to tailor them to suit your particular hair, a friend of mine recently told me that her hair is a moisture diva and oils just don’t work for her, she has recently started using hair butters and her hair loves it. Maybe you can incorporate hair butters in your regimen and see how that works for your hair’s moisture level and condition.

  • Abena said:

    I just started my relaxed hair journey. I want to know how i can grow ma shoulder length hair to bra strap

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Abena,
      A good place to start is with the hair regimens.

  • maggie said:

    Thanks for help Amanda I will try everything what your recommend all of us :-D God bless you

  • Naomi said:

    Hi, this article is really helped a lot! Im 14 and im going to relax my hair again.(last time i relaxed my hair was a few years ago). I wanted to wait a bit longer but then i read somewhere tht your hair will break wen new growth meets the permed hair. so you would have to relax it again?

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Naomi, yes there can be breakage where the new growth meets the relaxed hair but you can check the hair breakage by slowly feeding the both textures with moisture and giving them some serious care. Here is an article that deals with that : 7 Tips To Take Care of Transitioning Hair

  • jazmyn said:

    Im twelve and my mom relaxed my hair just the other day because it eas to tough. All went well except the ends are still kind if thick and curly , everywhere else is straight. also i only had it done the other day and it is starting to slowly go back to normal. I am creaming it every day! Help!!

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Jazmyn, I hope you take care of your processed hair, follow the tips on the site.

  • esther said:

    hi brenda,
    my hair is relaxed and shoulder length now. how do i style it to look good and at same time protect it.
    i don’t like weaves,i want to care for my hair so that when its longer i will be proud of it.
    my goal of BSL. i am not asking for much but just some hair i can be proud of.
    i will be starting grad school soon and i want a flexible yet good styles.
    what do you suggest…….(buns are boring since i only get a little donut bun with my hair)

    thanks

    • Brenda said:

      Hi Esther,
      I am not particular about weaves or buns myself. Have you thought about curly hair styles? They look great even when the hair is growing out. I rock a variety of them all the time. Here are some suggestions. Watch that space, I will be updating it soon with a few more styles.

  • Adanna said:

    hello!

    my hair is relaxed, and pretty healthy, but I want to get thicker than it is now. When you say to only get relaxers three times a year, what do you suggest I do with it inbewteen then when the roots grow out to prevent breakage where the new growth meets the relaxed hair? What’s the best way to take care of it between perms?? Also, there’s alot of different relaxers but what base chemical do you recommend as best for hair?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Adanna,
      You can check out the hair style section, I promise to update it soon. There are some suggestions there on how to wear your hair between getting it relaxed. There is also an article on here about transitioning hair (the same rules apply)-http://blackhair101.com/hair-care/7-tips-to-take-care-of-transitioning-hair

  • Renee said:

    What about wrapping your hair at night, is it cumpolsory? Can you sleep without covering your hair ? If yes how do you recommend to put my hair before going to bed.

  • Renee said:

    Thank you! What do you recommend I o to my hair before going to bed? Braid it? Or just leave it loose?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      It depends on what hair style you want to rock in the morning. If you braid it, you will get curls. When you say loose, I think knots. Putting the hair in a slack bun after you moisturize and seal or wrapping the hair should give you silky, sleek hair in the morning.

  • Renee said:

    Thank you very much!

  • Amanda said:

    Hi Brenda,
    I relaxed my hair in May (I’m 13 years old) and it has been getting very thin recently. It’s getting very long but very thin at the same time, and I was wondering how I could make it thick. I’m getting very worried that I might lose all my hair, how do I stop it from breaking too? Will I still be allowed to use heat on my hair, and will it be able to grow longer? And also, I don’t trim my ends, should I? Thank you in advance! :3 oh and also what hairstyles should I wear to keep from damaging my hair any further, but still be stylish? I was hoping to leave my hair out, but I don’t know if that’s safe.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Amanda,
      Some of the suggestions in this article like not brushing, avoiding heat etcetra can make a difference in the thickness of your hair. Using heat and too many products, relaxing hair too frequently can cause the hair to grow thinner and thinner over time. Just make some adjustments in this article and trim off thin wispy, split ends and your hair should do fine. If you keep your hair up and moisturized for most of the week, then a day or two of letting it out should not be a problem.

  • HELP said:

    HELP ME!
    i am 17 and i used to get my hair permed in this dominican salon. it wasnt a blow out it was an actual perm. idk what kind though they tear off the lables. but i want to switch to organics perms/relaxers and im unsure how to know if its going to damage my hair. do u know what i should do?

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Yikes! can you ask them what is the name of the relaxer they used in your hair? Tell them you just want to know if it says lye or no-lye because you want to switch to a certain brand. If you can’t get an answer, I would recommend using no-lye from here on, its gentler on the scalp, the damage from switching may not be so bad with a no-lye.

  • Samantha said:

    Hi I had a question about your relaxer regimen. I’m interested in “tex-laxing” or letting my plain relaxers just “sit” w/o being combed through. My hair is very thick and coarse and I’ve never experienced a difference of thickness in my new growth. I would like to have less breakage/shedding w/healthier hair – I believe that just letting a regular strength relaxer sit for 10 minutes would loose my kinks while still allowing my hair to be easily straightened. I only put heat on my hair twice a month, I wrap at night, and deep condition about once a month. What do you think?
    Thank you!

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Samantha,
      Most of the people I know who have tried tex-laxing are either back to being natural or are fully relaxed. I was really interested in trying the tex-lax route myself, I even did it once but I met up on a couple of road blocks.
      1. When my new growth came in I was dealing with three hair textures. My new growth, the texlaxed hair and my relaxed hair. It was a nightmare for me because like you, I have thick hair.
      2. My hairdresser had no idea what I was talking about when I told her about the concept, so I decided to try it on my own. It took alot of trial and error to get the timing right to see how far to get the texture I was looking for.

      Despite all of this though, if you get it right and can stick to it, it is really a good way to have healthier, longer hair without breaking the protein bonds down altogether in your hair. A friend of mine uses Affirm Fibreguard Mild to texlax. She says it naturally under-processes her hair. Pls, do some research on that before you attempt it.

      P.S. Your regimen sounds good.

  • Kimani said:

    Hi Brenda,

    I’m 11 and my hair is relaxed and up to my belly but not as thick as I would like it to be I need to get it thicker ASAP please help

    From
    Kimani

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Kimani,
      Deep conditioning and hot oil treatments every two weeks will give the hair a thicker appearance. Also if you have any wispy ends cutting them off will definitely give the hair a fuller look. Castor oil is known to give hair body and bounce.

  • Penny said:

    Hullo.
    my hair really looks great after a perm bt gets dry after a wash.i use head and shoulder to wash it n then apply live-in conditioner with setting lotion,set and air dry it then oil it wth conditioning oil.please advise me.i want my hair to get long.bse it keeps breakng because its dry

  • Cas said:

    Hello Brenda! I’m 17 and I transitioned for about 1 year + and relaxed my hair in December.(yep, 14 weeks)And I over processed it as it would have been my first relaxer.
    I was wondering if the next time I relax my hair, if I should under-process it maybe, to get thicker hair?
    Thanks!

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Cas,
      The new hair growing in, will be the hair that is processed. That part of the hair should be the only part processed. Try going for the regular time this time around or have a professional do it for you.

  • jojo said:

    hi brenda,should i opt for a relaxer or should i go for pressing my hair

  • jojo said:

    does amla hair oil grow hair.its said its a secret of indian women

  • jojo said:

    and 1 last thing,what are the best moisturizers for black hair, or should i just moisturize with organic oils;castor,coconut,amla,etc.

  • Shekinah said:

    I’m 14 and I relaxed my hair last year and its past my bra strap. Is there any way to grow it out to grow it out to the belly button?? I want it LONG! Thanx! Your article is great!

  • Riva said:

    hi is the a way to make my hair fly in the wind or make it loose…

  • Vanessa said:

    Hello,

    I normally have thick and healthy bsl type but I had somethins going on in my life that really stressed me out and my hair started falling out so bad. I had to cut in to my jaw bone it was so bad. That as early 2012.My hair has been growing jut not that much. I had recently (April 1 2013) had another baby and due to me wanting my hair back and the hair loss that has happened to most moms after having babies. I relax my hair but only 10-12 weeks. I started to take hair, skin, and nails pills this week and hope they work.

    What are some other tips you can give me for growing longer healthier hair???

  • mpho said:

    Hii brenda I am 14 I’m from south africa half of my hair is long and half of it is short I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to cut my hair I want long hair…help please.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Mpho,
      These tips should help. Your hair will grow back if you cut it, don’t worry. Just take good care of it while it grows.

  • Danielle said:

    Hi , this was a very nice article. I didn’t really have a choice on perming my hair cause my hair was to hard to even comb my mom couldnt take it and since then my hairs been getting shorter , but finally I found a lady that actually made my hair grow longer, but I’m wondering if you actually know any good products that I could use on my hair to make it grow longer faster without going natural again
    Thank you.

  • nafisat said:

    Hi brenda,how possible is it for me to get about 6 inches of hair in 4 months,what natural products can I use???

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Nafisat,
      Hair usually grows at about 1/4 to 1/2 inch every month, all else being equal and you are fairly healthy. There is no product that ‘grows’ hair. Hair growing is a natural biological function. Products help with the retaining of length and keeping the growth that you already have moisturized or proteinized. I am not going to say it is impossible to get 6 inches in 4 months but girl, if there was some miracle natural product that did this ALL of us would be on it. :)

  • rochelle miller said:

    Thx but i can never have my hair perm only 3times a year. if i did my hair would look horrible. so i perm my hair every 6 weeks cuz my hair grows fast and i just got it done a few weeks ago and its already thick at the roots. and i was wondering if perming your hair every 6 weeks is good. i also have healthy hair its thick but i want it to be thicker.

  • matoyha said:

    Hi Brenda, greetings to you i processed my hair last year june and it was thin but not as thin as it is now. i am now concerned about the hair breakage, the loss of my hair front and the extremely thinning of my hair. i read ur article and i think i didnt pay close attention to any of the five pointers you listed so i would suspect that i didnt care much for my hair. so now i would like to know what steps to take if i want to get the bounce back in my hair or i would have to close my eyes, stop my breath and just cut it short and hope that it grows back. looking forward to your response. Blessings!

  • colleen said:

    Hi brenda I am 14 years old african guyanese and I have been relaxing my hair since I was 9 years old and it has not moved from armpit length I realy want it to be boobs length fast but I have tried almost every thing but it don’t work can you please help me with a natural way to grow my hair fast (p.s I can’t cut it nether put in fake hair)

  • Wonuola said:

    Thanks for this very helpful article. However, I need your advice. I have very stubborn hair and a soft scalp and this has been a major issue when it comes to relaxing my hair. In short, my hair never relaxed since I was little. My Mum only put relaxed in my hair to make it more manageable. By the time I entered the university, my hair was a lovely multi coloured gold. I was advised to use Ozone relaxer when it first came out and for the first time my hair relaxed. With the continued usage of Ozone, my hair darkened and grew until it almost reached the center of my back, while retaining body and bounce. However, Ozone lost its authenticity and I was advised to switch to kit, the latest being “profective mega growth relaxer”, but my hair has only gone from bad to worse. It is now dry and brittle, full of statics, retains a relaxed state for only one to two weeks, breaks easily and barely reaches my shoulders.
    Would really appreciate your help

  • shinika said:

    my hair is still breaking off i don’t know what to do.please help me.

  • elaine said:

    hey Brenda I must say an eye opener for me, you have great info,just a little about my hair long black hair but ever since relaxed it breaks and breaks and no matter what I used it still break not knowing I was using the wrong products…what is the best shampoo/condition can you recommend

  • Chloe said:

    Hello, I’m 14 and I live in England. I don’t trust my hair dresser. She comes round to my house to relax my hair and I’ve only had my hair relaxed 3 times but this time I don’t think she took proper care of my hair. Firstly she didn’t use any vaseline like she did the other time to protect my skin, and then she put the relaxed on my whole head of hair (is this normal) when she washed it out she scrubbed my hair roughly and after she brushed it from the root. I lost a lot of hair but she seemed happy with it. I’m afraid now that my hair is over processed. It feels weaker than before. Because I’m the only one in my family with afro hair, I can’t get support from them. I live in a white area so I don’t know anyone with relaxed hair I have to get all my knowledge from the internet

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Chloe,
      Relaxing all of your hair after it is relaxed is not normal. Brushing hair when wet is a BIG no-no. Don’t let her near your hair again! Try to find somebody else who is professional to do your hair or practice doing it yourself. Arm yourself with all the information that you can and be your own hairdresser.

  • deneisha said:

    Dear brenda,
    my hair is thin and very light and does not look healthy my hair line is kind oof going back and i am considering going back natural i don’t no what to do can u help me. by the way i am only 13 years old plz tell me u can help me????????

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Deneisha,
      Going natural sounds like a great idea. This site is filled with tips on how to care for your hair, whether you want it natural or relaxed. Just read around I hope you find the information useful. :)

  • Naisha Grant said:

    Hi Brenda
    Just been looking at your sight and find it very helpful. Recently i have become very interested in hair and natural hair care products. My hair is relaxd but find its breaking and becoming kind of thin. I av been out and brought coconut oil and also vinegar…because my hair is about 10inc and thinning i dont like to havr it out because it has no body atall. So i always have it in a bun and have to admit i pull it tight and the front of my hair is breaking. I know that style isnt going to help but there isnt much i can do….kind of stuck on what to do next can you suggest anything. Also im sok scared to use the vinegar will it damage my hair in anyway cant afford to loose any more. And would extentions be a good break for my hair??.

    • Brenda Barrett said:

      Hi Naisha,

      Vinegar won’t damage the hair if applied right. I would not recommend extensions to give your a ‘break’. They literally will break your hair and make it thinner. To give the hair a bit of body, maybe you can do it in curly styles and don’t use any heat to dry when you wash and cut off the really wispy ends to give the hair ends a blunt effect.

Add your comment

You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.