Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons Learned from my last Relaxer Stretch

I'm so excited. I officially accomplished a personal goal of stretching a full 16 weeks. For me, that was the longest relaxer stretch ever! Four months ago, I visited a Dominican salon for a touch up. I walked in there with three months worth of summer new growth growth, I walked out with freshly relaxed bone straight hair and about 3 inches of hair cut off. No, I didn't ask my stylist to cut my hair but, for some reason, she had a strong desire to do a major trim. Looking back, I know exactly why she did it.

I'll get back to that later but the real reason for this post is because I want to discuss all the good and not so good, I experienced over the past four months. I'd like to be as detailed as possible for my own edification. I'm going to use this post as I would an entry in my hair journal, as a way of sealing in the learning from the last four months so I can replicate the successes and course correct in the areas where I struggled.

So let me start by discussing the state of my hair as it is today. The goals I set out four months ago were to eliminate/reduce breakage, increase moisture levels, strengthen strands overall, and last but not least, thicken the look of the my hair overall. Four months later, my hair feels much stronger, is more elastic, and has retained length and thickened. I'm not exactly where I want to be but I'm more than half way there. Now let's get into what I did the past four months.

Nutrition
I tried my best to remain as consistent as possible with vitamin support for my hair. If you remember, the last stretch was when I was introduced to Noridic Naturals purified omega 3 fish oils. I must say that I'm pretty proud of myself on how consistent I've been with these fish oils. I've already gone through my first bottle and and now working through my second (larger size) Nordic Naturals Omega 3. We're partners for life now. Other supplements that I've tried to remain consistent with are my chlorella green tablets. I also take biotin, a vitamin B supplement, and a multi from time to time. One other supplement I started taking fairly consistently was Cell Food. I'm not sure what the benefits to the hair are, if any. I really just take it for overall nutritional support. My main goal when taking the supplements was not growth, I take supplements more for support. My theory is that the hair has to be a strong as possible coming out of the scalp so it can be more resilient when it undergoes the relaxer process. Not sure how much truth there is to my theory but it makes sense on the most basic level so I'm stickin' with it. Oh, and I should also mentioned that I reintroduced carrot juice back into the line up late into my stretch. I went to the grocery store one day and found Bolthouse farm juice in new larger sizes. The minute I saw it, I knew I had to get a piece of that action. One area that we struggle most with when taking our vitamins is consistency. What I tried to do was not get down on myself if I missed a day here and there. I just started right where I left off and kept it moving.

Routines
As you may already know, I don't hide my hair like I "should". I know of the incredible benefits of protective styling so I gave in a little this last stretch. I didn't bun more than normal last stretch, what I did do was tie my hair up with my scarf more often. So instead of laying on my couch watching a movie, I'd lay on the couch with my hair tied up while watching a movie. I should also take a moment to say that I love my silk scarf much more than my satin (polyester) ones. This year, I'll be beefing up silk scarf collection. I think my husband is tired of seeing me in the same leopard print design day after day. I have no problem tying my hair up because I think of it as a way of recharging my hair. As my hair is exposed all day, it's kinda like having your cell phone off the charger. Sure you can use it all day but sooner or later, you'll have to charge it to get maximum benefit. You best believe that I'll be continuing this habit over the next 3-4 months.

Another technique I implemented over the past three months was using a plastic cap in the morning's as a way of enhancing moisture. What I tried to do was use the plastic cap to simulate humidity and create a slightly damp feel on the hair. Once the hair felt slightly damp (after about 5-10 minutes), I'd remove the plastic cap, add some Gleau oil and tie the hair down with a silk scarf to seal. This technique really helped with me with dryness issues, especially during the winter months when the air is drier than normal. I hope this technique continues to impact my hair positively going forward. Another routine I implemented was trimming according to the lunar cycle. I don't know if that attributed to more growth but I will say that I trimmed more last stretch than I've done in a while. At one point during my stretch, I trimmed just for the heck of it only to find out that the lunar calendar trim was only a few weeks away. I trimmed anyway and I still retained length overall.

I think the area where I made my biggest progress overall was in my weekly wash routine. Over the past four months, I've been nursing one side of my hair which seemed to struggle more than the other side. With the introduction of my facial steamer to my routine. I was able to dedicate a little more effort to the pre-poo step. This extra attention was absolutely critical to the progress I made this last stretch. Week after week, I spent a large amount of time paying attention to the areas of my hair that needed the most attention. Four months later....progress. I'm not right where I want to be yet, but I am much closer to seeing the light than ever before. I treat my wash routine unlike anything else in my life. There are certain other practices that I'd like to remain consistent on but I have to admit, it sometimes still is a struggle for me. Not with my wash routine. There is never (ever) even the hint of deviation from my routine. My mind never debates whether I should carry out the extended pre-poo step or whether I should skip it this one time. Never! Now if only I can transfer that level of dedication to some of the other areas of my life.

Products
Over the past four months, I used pretty much the same staples. The only new products I used were the Asience conditioner, and I also purchased Burt's Bees Hair Repair Shea and Grapefruit deep conditioner. I didn't do an official review post on this product because I don't really use it for it's intended purposes. It's supposed to be a 2 minute treatment but I've been using it consistently in my pre-poos. The ingredients are more in line with a moisturizing conditioner than a 2 minute treatment. Since it contained practically no proteins, I put it to use for other purposes. So far so good. Overall, my routine has been a moisture routine with a little protein mixed in. Since my hair doesn't appreciate protein like it should, I sneak the protein into it's food as one would a stubborn child who won't take it's medicine. This method works really well for me so far, but as always, if there's a better way, I'll find it and I'll chuck this routine without even batting an eye.

Struggles
I'd like to talk a little about where I struggled and what I'll do going forward to avoid or minimize the issues I experienced. This stretch just happened to land right in the middle of shedding season. Every year, around fall, my hair begins it's shedding ritual. The crazy amount of shedding pretty much created the worse bout of tangles I've ever experienced in my life. Even after I relaxed, I had beaucoup tangles to contend with. I take 100% accountability for what I had to go through when I spent pretty much all day babying tangles out of my hair. That's the reason why the lady at the Dominican salon cut my hair last relaxer, they neither had the time nor the patience to deal with my hair's issues. When I stretch, I have the tendency to detangle the length of the hair, while overlooking the roots. What I do is allow the roots to remain in it's compacted position without doing my due diligence in detangling. Meanwhile, my shed coils are getting even more deeply intertwined with it's neighbors. I can't let this happen ever again, so I'll have to do a major detangle at least once a week during my pre-poo so I can release all the hair that's been shed throughout the week. If I find that once a week ain't cuttin' it, I'll increase the frequency. Not only will I play defense by detangling on a regular basis, I'll also have to play some offense and implement strategies that slow the amount shedding.

So here I stand ready to begin another long stretch. I've got a lot to look forward to. I hope to learn even more about my hair this go around. And with the focus on uber-healthy ingredients like ceramides and such, only good things will come about I'm sure. If I had to attribute anything to the success of the past stretch, I would say it was consistency. One thing I could certainly say about my last stretch is that I maintained a laser like focus pretty much the entire time. I knew the day would come when I would enjoy the wonderful fruits of my labor in the form of healthier hair. Today, I look back and smile proudly at what I was able to accomplish. Again, I'm not talking so much about the results as I am the focus and dedication level. As long as these remain, the results will follow. Thanks you all for being in it with me for the long haul. Now enough talking about the past, I'm ready to focus on what's next for my hair.

Thanks for listening.
  1. WOW!!! Congrats on your stretch! I'm currently on an involuntary stretch myself. I haven't relaxed my hair since the 3rd of October after having a stylist here in Australia overprocessed my hair back in July.

    So after that process i decided to do my own relaxer on the 3rd and i've been learning a lot about how to take care of my own hair from your blog. I must say it is a difficult process and even after all these months of babying my hair i'm still overwhelmed.

    My hair looks much better than it did in July right now but i'm contemplating either relaxing my hair in February and having it cut short like Halle Berry so i can get rid of all my weak hair, shave it all off and start again or just stretch and transition to natural.

    Although i must say even if i have my hair natural i must straighten it bone straight with an iron cause curly hair is not my thing. I hope you'll keep us posted on your next stretch as it'll be great to see how you handle it from the 1st week till the end

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  2. That was a good long stretch. Gonna post any pics? I'm hoping to stretch past my usual 11 weeks. Where do you get your silk scarves? I did purchase one of mine from Prettywrap.com. I did go back but google has their site flagged for being an unsecure site. It was not that way when I purchased from them. It kinda put me off purchasing again until they fix their security issues.

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  3. Congrats on a very lengthy stretch. I'm so glad that you go into detail for yourself and for us?..as far as what works and what doesn't. Its really nice to see the success and the struggles that you have.. cause mine are very similar. I've been facing a lot of shedding for the past 2 months! And its been driving me crazy..because i'm thinking all of these months of dedication to my hair..and its all coming apart.. but I see that its natural. So i feel a little better about it. The biggest goal now is to counter it so it doesn't get out of hand and the hair that is on my head..gets what it needs. good luck this time around! i'll be waiting to hear more.

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  4. Hi Natalie! I got mine from TJMAXX. I'm not sure if you have one in your area but it's kinda like a Ross store. I hope to film a video today and I usually take pics when I do a video. Look out for that soon.

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  5. Funny you mentioned TJMAXX. I do have one nearby I purchased one awhile back but found no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't tie the darn scarf without it slipping off. LOL. I gotta keep practising. It was a nice one as well. Only about 9 bucks. I drive by one on my way to class, next time will be Weds.

    Looking forward to seeing your vid.

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  6. I just got back from the salon after having my last touchup on the 24th of... September! Yeah, it's not my longest 'stretch' by any means (don't ask, lol) but I definitely learned that I need to get it done more often. So, I know how impressive a feat a stretch really is... well done, you!

    My goal until the next time is to hopefully have less shedding. Maybe I'll try a better pre-poo treatment or something, but I feel like all my efforts are in vain when there's so much shedding. But it's almost Spring, maybe my hair just needs a little sunshine :)

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  7. Anon,
    As a matter of fact, I haven't mixed SAA and Burt's Bees. Have you? Do you know something I should? Now you got me thinking about it.

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  8. I love your blog! Why did it take me this long to find it. Well, before I play catch up, just wanted to say, great job on the stretch! Great tips also :)

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