How to Take Care of Your Relaxed Hair

The hair relaxing process involves the use of chemicals designed to break down the protein bonds in your hair. To do the job, the chemical straightener needs to remove the invisible hair’s protective layer. This can result in dry, porous, and breakage-prone hair.

To ensure that your relaxed hair stays bouncy, smooth, and frizz-free, proper care and maintenance are very essential.

Black hair requires very gentle handling because relaxing makes this type of hair very fragile and prone to damage from heat and chemicals.

Related post: Hair Care Products for Relaxed Hair

Woman with straightened hair

Post Relaxer Care

It is important to thoroughly rinse with water to completely get the chemicals out of your hair. The relaxer is a rather strong chemical that, if left too long on the skin or scalp, will cause severe chemical burns. Any trace of a relaxer that is left on your hair will continue to process, causing your hair to break. That’s why all traces of relaxer residue must be rinsed away.

After rinsing out the relaxer proceed with the neutralizing shampoo to eliminate all traces of relaxer still active in your hair. Active ingredients in the neutralizer can penetrate the hair shaft and stop the relaxer from working in the hair. Leaving the neutralizing shampoo in the hair for a few minutes before rinsing helps restore chemically-treated hair to the natural pH balance.

After getting a relaxer, your hair is in its weakest state. After rinsing away the neutralizing shampoo you should apply a protein conditioning treatment to fill in the cracks in the hair shaft. A relaxer causes the hair cuticles to open, so they can better absorb the protein that has been lost in the relaxing process. Some stylists prefer doing the protein treatment immediately after rinsing out the relaxer and before the neutralizing shampoo.

Some stylists suggest the Olaplex Stand-Alone Treatment instead of a protein treatment, to reconnect broken bonds in your hair and prevent shedding.

How to Wash Relaxed Hair

Shampoo your hair twice a week and condition after every shampoo wash. Use a moisturizing, sulfate-free shampoo and a highly moisturizing conditioner formulated for chemically treated hair.

After applying the shampoo, gently massage the scalp with your fingertips. Make sure not to use your nails. Hair is most vulnerable when wet, particularly black hair which is more fragile and more prone to damage than other hair types. To minimize tangles, braid your hair or wash one section at a time.

Apply conditioner and let it work for five to ten minutes. Untangle with a wide-toothed comb, working from the ends to the roots, with the conditioner still in your hair.

When you have finished combing rinse with lukewarm water. Use cool water for your final rinse to seal the cuticles and to prevent frizz.

Wrap a soft towel around your head to remove water from the hair. Do not squeeze or wring out your hair, just let the towel soak up the excess water. Follow with a cotton shirt and leave it on for 10-15 minutes.

Always use a leave-in conditioner after washing relaxed hair. Make sure to detangle your hair thoroughly at this stage.

Take a small amount of coconut oil between your fingers and coat the ends of your hair. Coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft, provides protection and helps retain moisture.

Co-Washing Relaxed Hair

Shampooing too often can be very drying to chemically treated hair due to harsh detergents in traditional shampoo formulas. If you want to wash more often than twice a week, “co-washing“, or “conditioner-only washing” is a gentler alternative to shampooing. This no-shampoo method is done with a lightweight moisturizing conditioner, that cleanses and refreshes your hair without stripping the scalp of its natural oils. Washing with a cleansing conditioner adds moisture to your hair instead of taking it away, and can even be done daily.

If you have straight and fine hair, co-washing can cause it to look limp and lifeless.

Air Drying

Air drying is one of the healthiest options to maintain the health of your relaxed hair.
For straight hair without the help of heat, wrap your hair into a cross wrap and tie with a satin or silk hair scarf to lay tresses down. Another way to get straight hair without heat is to smooth all the hair back into a loose bun.

For a nice, wavy look, the roller set is the best way to keep hair smooth without using too much heat. You can also put your hair in a braid while it’s wet and leave it until it is dry.

If you are going to blow dry, let your hair air-dry at least partially before using the hairdryer. Put your dryer on the lowest heat setting or cold air to dry. Hold the dryer at least ten inches away from your hair and keep moving it.

Deep Conditioning

Deep condition your relaxed hair at least every fortnight. Relaxers strip the hair of its natural oils. Deep conditioning helps rehydrate chemically treated hair and makes it strong enough to withstand styling. Coat your hair in the conditioner, starting from the ends, and avoid the scalp as much as possible. For best results, use a plastic cap and go under a hooded dryer. Let the conditioner sit for up to 30-45 minutes using a low heat setting. You can also deep condition if you sleep with the conditioner overnight wearing a plastic cap. Your body heat will warm the conditioner and increase absorption into the hair.

A protein-based deep conditioner should be applied once a month to strengthen your hair and to replenish the protein lost through the relaxing process. However, using protein treatments too frequently may have the opposite effect and cause your hair to become weak and brittle.

Hydrolyzed Proteins

Adding hydrolyzed proteins to your shampoo or conditioner can be very beneficial for relaxed hair. Chemicals relaxers can leave hair extremely dry, brittle, and prone to tangling and breakage. Hydrolyzed proteins added to your hair care products have the ability to fill in damaged areas in the cuticle layer. This strengthens your hair from within and reduces the risk of breakage.

Hot-Oil Treatment

Do a hot-oil treatment on a weekly basis to add extra moisture and give body to your hair. Gently warm olive, coconut, or jojoba oil, and massage into your freshly washed hair. Wrap your head in a plastic shower cap and leave the oil on for half an hour before rinsing.

Bed Time Care 

Relaxed hair requires special care for bedtime. Conventional cotton pillowcases tend to rob the hair of moisture, and can cause friction and tangles. Sleeping on a satin pillow keeps your hair from getting tangled and prevents dryness. If you don’t have a silk or a satin pillowcase, tie your hair in a bun or wrap it in a silk cap. Apply a leave-in serum to the ends to keep them moisturized while sleeping.

Heat Styling

Avoid using heat when styling your hair, as the high heat can cause relaxed hair to become very dry and prone to breakage. You can style your hair occasionally, using high-quality, ceramic flat iron with adjustable heat controls. Be careful, because repeated usage of flat iron can burn relaxed hair.

When you are using a curling iron, hold the barrel cover slightly open – so the hair simply passes over the barrel without being tagged or pulled by pressure from the barrel cover.

Black woman with relaxed hair in a park


Use a wide-tooth comb or your fingers to gently detangle your hair. Never use a brush while your hair is still wet because brushing vet hair can cause breakage. Gently brush with a boar bristle brush and avoid pulling and tugging on your hair. Over-brushing relaxed hair can cause split ends and hair breakage.

Protective Styles

Wearing relaxed hair down daily is not advisable. Protective styling is one of the best ways to minimize hair breakage. Wearing the hair in a protective style helps hide the ends from harsh elements and from rubbing on your shoulders and clothes. Popular protective styles include buns, chignons, braids, twists, and weaves. Create protective styles that will last at least for a few days with minimal touch-ups and give your hair a rest from styling.

Dying Relaxed Hair

You should wait at least two weeks after a relaxer service before applying permanent hair color. If the hair is brittle and prone to breakage, permanent hair color is not recommended.

Because chemical relaxers are so harsh on hair, consider picking a dye that doesn’t require bleach or ammonia. Restore color vibrancy and shine with a tinted conditioner, or use temporary and semi-permanent colors as well as ammonia-free hair colors. These colors can be used immediately following a chemical relaxer. Apply hair gloss or hair glaze to revive color and add glossy shine.

To cover gray hair, use demi-permanent hair color. To hide your gray roots between color services use the temporary root touch up products – like root touch up sprays, color wands, and color touch up powders.


Keep your hair trimmed to remove dry split ends and uneven growth. Regular trims will prevent further damage to your hair. Get a trim every 2-3 months. Trimming more often can slow down hair growth.

Healthy Diet

In order to increase your hair’s protein content, eat healthy meals, and incorporate a lot of protein-rich food into your diet. Drink plenty of water to keep your hair hydrated from the inside. Your hair will be healthier and resistant to breakage.

How to Avoid Over-Processing

Before the next relaxer service, make sure it’s been at least 10 weeks since your last touch-up. Applying relaxing treatments more frequently could lead to breakage and thinning. When retouching, only relax your new growth. Don’t use the strongest formulations every time you get your hair relaxed.

young beautiful African American woman with relaxed hair
Medical Disclaimer

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6 thoughts on “How to Take Care of Your Relaxed Hair”

  1. My hair is a lot on the head but very weak it takes about 8months to get growth, what chemicals can use for my retouch?

  2. Please do NOT apply protein treatment BEFORE using your neutralizing shampoo.
    From the moment you apply your relaxer cream to your hair, The chemical reaction is occurring. This doesn’t stop when you initially rinse out your cream. Neutralizer and neutralizer only must be used to stop the process. I encourage you to leave the protein treatment In for up to 3 minutes (if used prior to neutralizer) and for the time suggested AFTER hair has been neutralized.

  3. Air drying is a great tip. Definitely inconvenient if you are short on time but so worth it for the health of your hair. Sleeping on a silk pillowcase versus polyester satin is a great option too. Silk helps your skin retain its natural moisture and will not dry out your hair. They also sleep better than polyester satin as it is a natural temperature regulator. Polyester satin is better than cotton to reduce breakage, dryness, and hair being pulled out but if you are able, opt for a silk pillowcase instead.

  4. can I put my hair up into a tight pony tail the same day is was relaxed? I have
    googled this in every way I can think of to phrase it and cant find any information.. I am having my hair relaxed for the first time on the same day as a dance performace where I have to put my hair up.

  5. You can put your hair in a ponytail style. Be sure to be gentle with your hair as relaxers will cause your hair to be fragile. First allow your hair to air dry. I usually wrap mine using a comb or I comb it straight down and let it dry. Then style it. Use an elastic hair tie with no metal and be sure to protect your edges with moisturizer. Use oil to protect your ends and make sure your ponytail is not so tight that it’s pulling your scalp. Lastly use a leave-in conditioner made for relaxed hair. One I use is As I Am leave-in conditioner to soften and strengthen my hair. Be sure to follow the directions.

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