If you’re a black woman who was born in the 90’s then you probably know a lot about caring for weaves, wigs, relaxed hair and little about natural hair care. For most of us our natural hair texture is new to us and we’re constantly learning what our hair needs and unlearning several bad hair practices that we engaged in before we went natural. Many of us have sworn never to get our hair relaxed again and we see the relaxer as a threat to our good health. However just like with everything, relaxers have some benefits too. In this post, I’ll be drawing your attention to some of the hair conditions we didn’t have to worry about when our hair was relaxed and how to make sure these do not adversely affect our natural hair journey.
Remember those rules of personal hygiene that we were taught in primary school? Things like not sharing personal tools like toothbrushes, combs, spoons etc that many of us stopped practicing as we got older? Yes, those. You see, now that you’re natural you’ll have to start following those rules. I’ll tell you why. Do you know what is called a louse (plu. lice)? I’m sure you’ve heard of it but you probably do not know what it looks like. Lice are parasites that live on the scalp; the presence of hair makes it conducive for them to live there. Once one louse finds it’s way to your hair, you’re in trouble because it’ll multiply in no time and before you know it, you can’t go two seconds without scratching your head. (Read the post on causes and treatment of itchy scalp here). You can get this parasite in your hair by coming in contact with any person, animal or tool that is already a host to it. When our hair was relaxed, we didn’t have to worry about lice because even if they got into our hair, they would be killed by the relaxer when we had our regular touch ups but that’s not the case with natural hair. Getting rid of lice when you have natural hair is a lot more difficult as most of our hair products make the hair more comfortable for the lice. So the next time you visit a salon, make sure you go with your own tools or at least ensure that the salon tools are properly cleansed before they are used on you.
As many of us already know, relaxer alters the chemical structure of the hair thereby making it generally weaker than natural hair. With all things being equal, the pressure required to break relaxed hair is a lot less than that required to break natural hair. As a result of this, natural hair is more likely to uproot than relaxed hair. If you’re a scientist or a science student, you know what’s called elastic limit, yield point and breaking point. For natural hair to break, it must have gone past it’s elastic limit and yield point to it’s breaking point. On the other hand, for your hair to be relaxed, it must have been chemically altered beyond it’s yield point so less energy is required to get it to it’s breaking point. When you put tension on a strand of hair without it breaking, that tension quickly travels down the hair shaft to the follicle. As you increase this tension, the hair strand may uproot before the tension is high enough to break the hair. This chances of this happening is much higher with natural hair than relaxed hair. Apart from natural hair being stronger, with relaxed hair there are usually two hair types to deal with between touch ups (the relaxed hair and the kinky new growth). The boundary between these two hair types is very fragile and so the hair will most likely break at this boundary instead of uprooting. Due to this, you have to be more careful with caring for your edges if you have natural hair. Protective styling should be done with caution as styles that didn’t affect your edges before may now cause traction alopecia.
In addition, relaxed hair blends easily with hair extensions and so requires less manipulation to get it sleek in braids and other protective styles. As a result of this, the chances of natural hair breaking when installing extensions is higher than that of relaxed hair. This is why it’s advised that you ensure that your stylist is experienced in dealing with natural hair before allowing him/her to handle your hair. Also, because relaxed hair is generally straight, it’s easier to run a comb through it without breaking it. This is why it’s important to reduce the frequency of combing natural hair and stick to using wide tooth combs if need be.
As much as going and staying natural is the healthy and wise option, let us also bear in mind that good health comes at a price and that there are several practices that you have to incorporate into your regimen to ensure that your natural hair journey goes smooth.
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