As I mentioned last week, I will be extending my stretch a bit so over the last couple of days, I really been weighing out the pros and cons of stretching my relaxer. For those who are not familiar with the term, #relaxer stretching refers to stretching the number of weeks between each relaxer application. So rather than relaxing my hair every 6 to 8 weeks, stretching my relaxer would be to extend the time frame to 10 to 12 weeks, or more (gradually).
Is stretching your relaxer beneficial or harmful?
Well the truth is both. A successful relaxer stretch can give your hair a much needed break, decrease the likelihood of overlapping the relaxer during your next touch up, help to increase the strength of your hair, and thicken up your hair. Conversely, stretching your relaxer has the potential to do more harm than good by causing an increase in shedding, increase in tangles and matting, and breakage.
I personally have experienced both the good and bad when stretching my relaxers. Since the beginning my hair journey, my longest stretch was 14 weeks and my shortest, 10 weeks and I’ve dealt with everything from shedding and breakage to increased thickness and overall health.
Few tips that have helped me during stretches:
Deep conditioning, specifically applying the conditioner to the line of demarcation (the area where the relaxed hair meets natural hair). During stretches, the line of demarcation becomes susceptible to breakage, but deep conditioning helps restore elasticity to the hair strand, decreasing the chance of breakage.
Along those same lines, spraying my new growth with a little watered down moisturizer has been a great help in stopping breakage at the line of demarcation. I’ve only been doing this for the past couple of months and still wonder why I didn’t start sooner.
The use of protein helps to strengthen my hair. I’ve learned that I do not need to plan schedule my protein treatments. What I do is rotate protein focused products and that helps keep my hair strong.
Roller setting my hair. One of the biggest issues I run into during my stretches is tangling. Roller setting helps flatten and straighten my new growth without using direct heat.
Moisturize and sealing either daily or every other day. Keeping my hair moisturized decreases breakage.
Black tea rinses and recently, scalp massages with mix of jojoba, lavender, and eucalyptus oil to decrease shedding and hair fall.
Cross-wrapping my hair rather than wrapping it around my head. This has decreased the stress I place on my hair through manipulation.
Pre-pooing with grape seed oil and applying to my hair throughout the week to lubricate my strands, smooth my hair, and decrease tangles in my new growth.
Low manipulation, low manipulation, low manipulation. I try to leave my hair alone as much as possible since hair becomes rather fragile when stretching, especially in a longer stretch.
You might also want to try:
[*]Co-washing. I’ve tried a co-washing a couple times, and even liked it, but in the end I just couldn’t wrap my head around solely apply conditioner to my hair. I always end up feeling as though my hair is coated, but co-washing can be a great way to keep hair moisturized. The longer you stretch your relaxer, the more moisture your hair will require.
[*]Air drying to decrease in manipulation and use of direct heat.
[*]Blowing out your new growth with a blow dryer to help tame and smooth your new growth and make it a bit more manageable.
[*]A good point made by Sharday in the comments is that styles that blend the two textures like braid outs and twist outs can help during a stretch. They’re an easy way to style your hair without a great deal of manipulation.
[*]Wearing weaves and half wigs to hide your hair, like EbonyCPriness mentioned is also another good approach because it also minimizes manipulation.
If your initial goal was to stretch for 16 weeks but after 10 you start to notice that the stretch is causing more harm than good, there’s nothing wrong with ending your stretch. Ending a stretch successfully is a wonderful feeling but should not be done at the risk of a set back. At the end of the day, you should always listen to your hair.