Tips on Relaxing Natural Hair

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Hair relaxing is a popular way to get the straightest hair without the use of extensions or track weaves. L'Oreal's HairScience.com notes that African American hair grows the slowest of any hair type and twists around itself as it grows, resulting in a kinky appearance. A relaxer treatment alters the hair's pH level to allow for straighter, less kinky hair. If you're planning on relaxing your natural hair, do so with care. Being careless can result in hair damage, scalp damage and poor results.

Contact a Stylist

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If your hair has never been relaxed before and is in its natural state, visit a qualified stylist to have it done. While relaxing products can be found on drugstore shelves, a good stylist can examine your scalp for signs of damage and choose a relaxer that will work well with your hair type. Make sure your stylist applies a strand test to look for an allergic reaction before using a new product, and talk to her about the strength and potential for damage of the product she recommends.

Prepare Your Hair

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Your hair should be combed free of knots and tangles before the relaxer is applied. Because of the highly abrasive chemical nature of the relaxer, even the smallest of scratches or irritation on your scalp can cause you pain. It's important that you gently comb through your hair with a wide-tooth plastic comb, or make sure that your stylist does so. It'll make the relaxer easy to apply and assure a smooth and even application process.

Apply a Base Cream

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Most relaxers contain lye, calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate, according to a study published in a 2007 issue of "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention" that tested the connection between hair relaxers and breast cancer. The study didn't find a connection but did note that hair relaxers are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so they can contain other ingredients that aren't listed on the packaging. Your stylist should apply a barrier cream before applying the relaxer to your hair. The barrier cream can protect your scalp from chemical burns and stop any of the ingredients from being absorbed by your skin.

Use Less Relaxer

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Ask your stylist to only leave the relaxing product on for 80 percent of the recommended time. Hair can become excessively dry and drained of the elasticity that allows it to look bouncy and full if relaxer is left on for too long. Over-processing can leave you with dry, lackluster and damaged hair that is easily breakable. If possible, allow at least six weeks between relaxing treatments to allow your hair time to recover.

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