Lulit Price, MD, Neelam Vashi, MD, and Nkanyezi Ferguson, MD
Tips to reduce damage from relaxers:
- Relaxers should only be applied to the new growth and not for more time that is indicated in package instructions (i.e. only apply product to new growth rather than to the entire hair shaft). Never apply relaxer to hair that has already been relaxed
- Use a mild relaxer instead of regular or super strength
- Decrease application time. Wash off immediately if you feel the scalp burning
- Space out relaxer application to only every 2-3 months or longer if possible
- Space out relaxer and permanent hair color application at least 2 weeks apart
- Be sure to remove all relaxer from the hair and scalp with a neutralizing shampoo
- Use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners liberally when hair is washed
General hair washing recommendations:
- Wash hair once a week or every other week: This will help prevent build-up of hair care products, which can be drying to the hair. However, washing the hair too frequently strips natural moisturizers from the hair causing dryness and increased hair fragility
- Use conditioner: Use conditioner every time you wash your hair. Be sure to coat the ends of the hair with conditioner, as the ends are the oldest and most fragile part of your hair
Direct heat on the hair can weaken the hair, particularly if it was not adequately dry before applying the direct heat. Tips to reduce damage from heat:
- Use a heat protecting product before styling: Adding this to hair before styling will help minimize heat damage
- Use ceramic combs or irons to press hair: If you would like to press or thermally straighten your hair, use a ceramic comb or iron and only do so once a week. Use a straightening device with a dial to ensure the device is not too hot. Use the lowest possible temperature setting that gives you the style you want
Traction Alopecia is caused by repeated pulling on the hair from hairstyling or hair care. Common culprits include braided styles such as individual braids, cornrows, and weaves, as well as ponytails and repeated use of rollers to set the hair.
Tips to minimize traction alopecia:
- Rotate the pattern of braided and twisted hairstyles
- Avoid tight braiding, opting instead to refresh the hairstyle more frequently
- Avoid use of rubber bands and elastic ponytail holders
- Avoid sleeping in rollers; opt instead to wrap or pin curl the hair at night
- Wear a satin bonnet or use a satin pillowcase at bedtime
- Make sure braids, cornrows or weaves are not too tight: If it hurts while your hair is being styled, ask the stylist to stop and redo it. Pain equals damage.
- Caution with use of products used to hold the hair style in place e.g. hair spritzers and hair gels. If these are applied, try not to manipulate or style the hair after. Wash out products as soon as possible.
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