Monday, May 13, 2013

Stretching ain't for sissies!

Good morning lovelies, and happy Moanday, lol!

So, I've decided to talk a bit about the fact that I am currently stretching my relaxer a little bit. To get everybody on the up and up, here's a definition of relaxer stretching:

Traditionally hair stylists have encouraged women to relax their hair every 4 to 6 weeks. Stretching your relaxer means lengthening the period between your touch ups, so instead of 4 to 6 weeks, you wait for 8 to 10 weeks or more.

Now, before I started my journey, I consistently touched up my relaxer every 6-8 weeks, always feeling that less than 6 weeks is just too short. Since the start of my journey I started stretching my relaxer, my longest stretch so far having been 13 weeks. This is one practice that has proven to be very beneficial to my hair and to my goal of retaining as much length as possible. My hair is currently the longest it has ever been. Granted, it's not the only practice that I have employed in the arsenal of my journey. 

Now, there are pros and cons when it comes to stretching, and if one wishes to attempt it, one must be aware. Like Maya Angelou says - if one knows better, you do better! 


  • Preventing over-processing of previously relaxed hair. Relaxing one's hair is a process of "controlled damage". The relaxer breaks down the protein bonds within the hair, allowing for the curls and coils and kinks to become smoother and straighter. Now, said hair can be maintained at an optimum health, BUT if one rushes one's touch ups, you are in danger off applying the relaxing not only on the new growth, but overlapping it onto already previously relaxed hair, further weakening those protein bonds and bringing you within danger of serious breakage. Stretching your relaxer allows for a decent amount of new growth which will make touch up day easier for you (or your stylist) and less damaging to the rest of your hair. 
  • A thicker head of hair, with more volume. This in itself is also a benefit of not over processing previously relaxed hair as hair becomes thinner when you overlap the relaxer. 
  • Your scalp gets a break from the chemicals in the relaxer. Anyone who's ever had a relaxer, and especially everyone who has a bad relaxer experience, can testify that those chemicals can BURN your scalp. By stretching your relaxer (and of course nourishing your scalp during the stretch) one's scalp gets time to return to optimal health after being exposed to the relaxer chemicals. 
  • Lots of new growth. Technically speaking this isn't a con. However, if you don't know how to care for your new growth, you will experience breakage, tangles and knots due to the fact that you're working with two distinctly different textures. Which brings us to our next point...
  • Demarcation line breakage. The line of demarcation is the point where the new growth and relaxed hair meet. Due to the difference in textures and the protein bond breaking process of a relaxer, this is also the weakest point in the hair shaft, and if one is not careful and mindful of this - hello breakage!
Now, long stretches aren't for everyone, especially if you're new to the process. When I started stretching I started adding a week with every stretch as to enable myself to judge which point is my optimal stretching time. So far, as I'm only a year and a bit into my journey I have determined that 11-12 weeks is my optimum time. Currently I'm 13 weeks post and as my schedule is currently, I don't see myself being able to touch up for another 2 weeks, and at 15 weeks post, it will be my longest stretch ever. I'm already struggling a little bit with my new growth, but I did pick up quite a few nice tips which helps me deal with the new growth and prevent breakage. The best ones that help me with working with two distinct textures are the following:

  • Finger detangling and a WIDE tooth comb are your friends! The best thing anyone can do for their hair whilst stretching is to be GENTLE whilst handling it. Fine tooth combs and brushes will land you in Breakage City. 
  • Keep new growth moisturized. Regardless of what kind of moisturizer works best for your hair, make sure that you keep your hair soft and manageable. Personally I have found the best way to do this - to moisturize my hair in the evening before bed, sealing it with coconut oil and tying it down with a satin wrap and satin scarf as to prevent reversion. 
  • Deep condition regularly, and make sure to alternate between protein and moisturizing conditioners. Protein makes hair stronger, moisture makes it pliable and manageable. You want to maintain the balance, especially considering that you're working with two textures. In addition, I have found it best to, when applying the deep conditioner, to apply it little section by section, in the same manner that you would apply a relaxer. This would ensure that your new growth and the line of demarcation gets as much conditioning as the length and ends of the hair. 
  • Stretch gradually. If you've been touching up religiously at 6 weeks all your life, add one week and touch up at seven weeks the next time. Then at 8 weeks, then 9 weeks, and so on and so forth, until you have found your optimal stretching period. 
  • Personally I keep my new growth pretty stretched and straight. However I do this in a heat free manner by doing roller sets. By keeping my new growth relatively straight, the amount of manipulation when combing, washing and detangling your hair becomes much less, which will attribute to less breakage. However, hair styles that blend the two textures, such as braid outs and bantu knot outs and twist outs, are also great for stretching (especially for first time stretchers). If you are focused on how straight your new growth isn't, stretching is going to seem like a seemingly impossible task.(Great tip from Sharday of The Awkward Stage)
  • On wash day, and if you're relatively deep in a stretch, try and wash your hair in sections. Personally I've started to section off my hair whilst doing my prepoo. It eases up the ENTIRE wash day process, as the hair gets less of an opportunity to kink and tangle up on you. 
  • Protective styling and low manipulation hairstyles are also beneficial when stretching your relaxer, as it means that you handle your hair less, which means less breakage, which is always the primary aim. Try braids, weaves, buns, roller sets, rod sets, etc. until you find what works best for you and your crown.
Lastly, you know YOUR hair best. I know that I'm taking a risk waiting another two weeks before touching up, which is also why I am going to be EXTRA GENTLE whilst handing my hair, whether this means washing, styling, moisturizing and sealing or wrapping. 

Anyone else have some nice tips for stretching?

On that note, have a great day everyone and a blessed week!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Stretching is something I did when I first started relaxing my hair but didn't even know thats what they called it lol. When I started taking care of my hair myself I went from relaxing every 3 to 4 mths to relaxing every 5 or 6 weeks smh, I am surprised that I didn't go bald :/