Caring for African Hair: Sane Hair Straightening and Transition

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In this lesson, you will learn how to straighten hair as a style option, not a societal obsession.  There are many things people do all the time, that simply shouldn't be done to straightened or relaxed hair.

Though any forcible changing of hair texture is somewhat harmful, there are things you can do to minimize the damage.  Read on.

When you're done, take our certificate course in African Hairstyles for quizzes and to get a certificate that you learned how to care for African hair.



Lesson 1: Caring for African Hair Overview
Lesson 2: Beading
Lesson 3:  The Art of Parting
Lesson 4:  Sane Hair Straightening

Sane Hair Straightening Techniques:

The Blow-out

A blow-out is partial texturizing or straightening by using setting lotion, hair oil, and hot air.  If it's done right, it can make the hair alot more manageable without causing nearly as much damage as chemical relaxers.  Really, there are only two clicks of pH factor between hair relaxers and depilatory hair remover creams.

There are two methods of blowing out the hair.  One is with a comb blowdryer, and the other is using a roller set, but roller setting is tedious, and not a good idea to help African kids love their hair.

The comb blowdryer is the easiest to control.  You can choose between loosening the curl to straightening.  To just loosen the curl, you stop just when the hair is dry.  To straighten, you continue blowdrying until it's fairly straight.

After washing the hair, apply a hair oil and setting lotion, or a hair mask, and then separate it into four to six sections.  Then blowdry each section by combing gently outwards with the blowdryer to the desired texture.

Again, you will not be able to get perfectly straight hair without causing some damage, so be gentle and don't obsess.  Here are some tips to get the best outcome:

Hot Combs Curling Irons and Flat Irons

Hot combs and flat irons are easy to use, and you have more control than a blowdryer as far as keeping the tool off the roots of the hair.  One thing to remember though, is to keep the heat as low as possible.  Try it at the lowest setting first, and only increase if needed.

Just take a small section of hair, and pass the flat iron or hot comb through it.  Do not let the tool set on any part of the hair for more than 3 seconds, or you're flirting with damage.

With children's hair, the blow-out is better than hot combing or using a flat iron.  Kids' hair is too fragile to take much heat over time, and it may lead to more breakage than is necessary.

Chemical Relaxers and Coloring

Many cosmetologists believe that permanent coloring, relaxing and texturizing hair should not be done at home.  I can definitely understand why, since I am a recovering relaxer who is now natural.  Chemical relaxers cause alot of damage to the hair that isn't necessary since they invented hair wax and the comb blowdryer.

However, some folks like relaxers for the convenience.  I believe that if one is going to do it at all, they should do it right.  So despite my dislike of relaxers, I'll show you how to do it well.

The first thing you should know is that no relaxer cream is going to give someone perfectly straight hair.  It will usually frizz or curl back up at least a little after it is wet.  So put the idea of having European hair out of your mind.

Second, relaxers and texturizers do cause hair loss and chemical burns.  They are one of the leading causes of cicatrical alopecia, which is hair loss due to scarring.

So chemical relaxers and texturizers should be viewed as a style option, not a necessity.

I feel like warning, "There is still time to go back."

If you insist on taking this route, there are some things that will prevent it from being a total disaster.

Transition


Many people are learning the hard way that chemical relaxing and texturizing doesn't really suit them.  What may work fine on someone else's hair doesn't work for them.  It's like smoking or eating too much sugar, different people have different tolerances, and at some point, a burning scalp and falling hair may be too high a price to pay for fashion.  Besides, natural hair says there might be a natural person underneath.

If you've processed your hair and want to go back to natural, there are a few options.  You can cut off the treated hair, wear it in braids until enough of the natural hair has grown to replace it, or use other straightening methods such as blow-outs or heat styling instead.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

No matter which choice you make, the relaxed hair is going to shed partly because of the natural shedding of hair, and partly because it is damaged.  This is why some people just cut it all off and start over.  Braiding it will at least keep it looking nice during the transition.  If you opt to use heat styling, understand that this will cause the processed hair to fall more quickly, so just be prepared for that.

Thank you for reading these pages on African hair care.  If you would like a certificate for what you've learned, and to communicate with an instructor about these topics, please take our course on African Braiding for Beginners at StudyItOnline.com.


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© 2006 Nicole Singleton Lasher

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How to straighten your hair.
Straightening your hair.
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Straightening the hair without obsessing.