Many African American women use chemical relaxers to straighten their hair. This decision is really a commitment to a dedicated hair care regimen in subsequent years. Even with the best care however, breakage and hair loss can still occur. Caucasian women also relax their hair, but the products used are different from those used by African American women.
Fortunately hair loss caused by hair relaxers can be remedied. For many women, the way they respond to treatment, depends on the health and strength of their hair to begin with. For some African American women, breakage can be excessive, and can begin almost immediately after straightening the hair. In many cases breakage is due to an improper hair care routine.
How Relaxers Damage the Hair
Contrary to what some people think, African American hair is actually fragile. Since hair relaxers work by changing the cuticle from being straight to curly, it does put stress on the hair. Most relaxers use a chemical called sodium hydroxide for this purpose. The risk of damage begins from the first use, and increases each time the treatment is repeated.
Treating Hair Loss
Some experts advise against women using these chemicals, many women are simply not willing to consider that option. Thankfully, women now have a number of alternatives when it comes to straightening and styling the hair. Women who have experienced hair loss due to the use of relaxers can do any one of the following:
Opt for natural or organic relaxers: As with almost everything else, there are organic, presumably safer options available. These products do not produce the same results for everyone, so be sure to get proper guidance before purchasing or using natural hair relaxers.
Avoid hair dye: It is advisable that you not use hair dye at the same time the hair is relaxed. This is especially true if it is the first time using relaxers, or if the hair is known to break easily. It is best to color hair at least two weeks after chemically straightening the hair.
Do not use extensions: This can put further strain on damaged hair. Tight hairstyles are also a no-no if you have lost hair due to the use of hair relaxers.
Change of diet: A proper diet can help to protect hair from damage by hair relaxers. It can also give the hair its best chance of growing back quickly. Some important nutrients for hair growth include iron, vitamin B12 and fatty acids. Good food sources are fish, meat, eggs, shrimp and breakfast cereals.
Herbs: Some herbs which are said to promote hair growth and strengthen hair include licorice extract, psoralea seeds, sage and ginger. Ginger can be brewed as tea, or it can be put on the scalp. Psoralea is a Chinese herb that is also used on the scalp, while sage is used to make tea.
Other herbs such as saw palmetto have been shown to help with hair loss, but not when the damage is caused by external factors. Often, recovering from hair damage caused by relaxers may involve quitting them completely for a period of time. Hair care is not always an easy task. It becomes even more difficult if the hair is damaged by relaxers or some other chemical processing. But thankfully, damage caused by relaxers can be reverse over time.