Relaxed hair and air drying
Heat. A four letter word that is literally offensive to relaxed hair. When it comes to styling, heat may seem like a necessary evil as it can transform the bushiest mane into a sleek and shiny crowning glory.
The kicker is that heat can cause damage and using it regularly can cause problems with relaxed hair leading to breakage, split ends and hair that doesn’t seem to grow beyond shoulder length. Relaxed hair is already altered in it’s structure by chemicals which have broken down the hair’s protein structure in order for it to become straight. Heat, whether in the form of direct heat (for example, a curling wand or flat iron) or indirect heat (from a blowdryer without attachment touching hair or hood dryer) will further alter the hair’s weakened strands, whilst drying out the hair and reducing it’s elasticity. Split ends will eventually appear and heat stressed hair will snap off at the ends as the hair is older. It is hard to retain length and grow hair beyond shoulder length if you use heat on a regular basis.
Turning down the temperature of your styling tools can help but it is even better to give relaxed hair a complete break from heat now and again. Whether you decide to forego heat altogether or simply skip some heat in your styling regime (ie. leaving out the blowdryer but flat ironing or vice versa) consider air drying.
Contrary to what you may believe, air drying is not only for those with European or Asian hair. Forget everything you’ve seen of such ladies out and about in the mornings with wet hair dripping down their backs- this is not what air drying relaxed hair is all about.
Before attempting to air dry, consider whether you want your air dried hair to be textured or straight. Consider what stage your hair is at; if you are one week post relaxer, it will be easier to achieve straight and sleek results than if you have one or two inches of regrowth.
Before you attempt to air dry hair ensure you shampoo and condition or co-wash (washing hair with conditioner only) with good moisturizing products. Hair should be detangled before it is fully dry, either with a shower comb whilst rinsing out conditioner or directly after washing. Use a wide-toothed seamless comb, which will prevent snagging or ripping delicate wet strands
- 1. Basic method-
After washing, conditioning and detangling use a cotton t shirt to absorb excess water from the hair. This is gentler on the hair than a towel and will help to keep the hair strands from frizzing. Do not rub, just cover the hair with the t shirt for a few minutes, lightly squeezing it to soak up water. Apply a good leave in conditioning or moisturizing product throughout the hair but do not be too heavy handed or your hair may become greasy and limp. Avoid gel, or any product containing alcohol. Use a natural oil such as olive, sweet almond, coconut or jojoba to seal the moisture into the hair.
For texture– use a heavier natural oil to seal, simply leave the hair to do it’s thing and go about your daily business. Relaxed hair will normally dry to form waves or even a slight curl.
For a straight look– use a lighter oil to seal, add a part as you usually would, use a soft bristle brush to smooth hair in direction you would like it to fall and cover the hair with a silk or satin scarf for a few hours, less in warmer weather. You may also wear overnight. The scarf will encourage your hair to lie flat and stay that way. Remove scarf to finish drying. Whilst the end result will not be as straight as if you had used heat, your hair should be thick and full of body when fully dried. Finger comb hair into desired style and go!
For an even straighter look, use wrapping mousse and comb the hair around the head, using the head as a giant roller to wrap set before tying with a scarf. This works best on freshly relaxed hair with straighter roots.
Prepare as above but simply tie wet hair back into a ponytail or bun and leave! There’s nothing to it! If hair does not dry fully in the middle, you can part for a while and leave it loose then tie back up once dried. Do not tie too tightly as hair will ‘shrink’ as it dries, making it even tighter and you risk pulling out your hair.
- 2. Roll it, girl!
Again, use a cotton T shirt to remove excess water, moisturize and seal hair.
For texture (curls)– use medium sized satin or magnetic rollers to roll hair and simply go about your day to day chores or leave overnight and remove once hair is dry. Hair will take considerably longer to dry than if you had used heat but it will feel so much thicker and you will be all the prouder of your damage free curls. This technique is good for blending hair that may be several weeks post relaxer, with thicker roots.
For a straighter look– tie a satin/silk scarf around the hair and leave on until hair is almost dry. Either remove the scarf and roll hair with extra large rollers or keep the scarf on, exposing the ends and apply rollers to the ends only for a straighter look with bumped ends.
- 3. Twist/braidouts
These looks are texture all the way! Absorb, moisturize and seal as above then braid or two-strand twist your damp hair. Make sure you do not pull hair too tightly and you may need to rewet your hair by spritzing with moisturizer and water as you go along so that the results will be uniform when you remove the braids or twists.
The smaller the braids or twists, the tighter the curl or wave pattern will be. Air-dry for a few hours during the day or overnight and ensure that hair is completely dry before taking down braids/twists or hair will tend to frizz.
For curlier ends, use flexi/bendy rollers on the ends of your braids or twists.
Remember to have fun with air-drying, it may not always turn out how you expect, but your relaxed hair will thank you for trying air drying!