African-American hair, by virtue of genetics and race, is naturally curly, giving it a tight and kinky appearance. Many people of African-American descent want to have their naturally curly hair straightened or relaxed. Most African-Americans use the term “perm” to refer to the process of straightening and softening their kinky hair in order to make it easier to style and to manage.
Here are some tips and ideas on how to relax your African-American hair.
Know why you want to relax your hair. Depending on your intent, you will need different types of hair-relaxing products and procedures. For example, a soft or medium relaxer is recommended for those who wish to just make their curly African-American hair easier to manage. Those who desire straight hair will need the help of a heavy-duty hair relaxing product. Knowing your purpose will also help you choose the product or procedure that will not just relax your hair but also protect it, or at least prevent it from becoming dryer and more brittle than it naturally already is.
Employ the services of a hair specialist. Choose one who has already had a lot of experience with perming or relaxing African-American hair. This is the easiest route. You might want to do your hair relaxing procedure on your own, though. In that case, read on.
Buy a hair relaxing product that you can use at home. Make sure you read the label on the package and choose one specially formulated for African-American hair. Make sure you perform a skin test first in order to avoid allergic or adverse reactions to the chemical ingredients.
Follow the instructions accurately and carefully. Hair relaxing kits always have instructions for application and use. Follow them intently. The kits will include not just the chemical solutions but also other materials. Most kits are self-contained and complete. If your kit only includes the hair relaxing solution, then you need to prepare the following: mixing bowl, a mixing utensil (such as a strip of hard plastic or a plastic spoon), plastic or rubber gloves, petroleum jelly, shampoo, and conditioner. The procedure usually follows a series of general steps. First, apply petroleum jelly to the hairline, neck, and nape in order to prevent the hair relaxing solution from coming in contact with and irritating your scalp and skin. Then, mix the hair relaxing solution thoroughly. After mixing the solution completely, apply the mixture to your hair using either your fingers (make sure you wear gloves) or an applicator brush. Leave the solution on your hair for some time (follow the time frame as given in the kit instructions). Wash off the relaxing solution with shampoo until all the solution has been rinsed off, as remaining traces of hair relaxing solution can damage your hair. Apply conditioner afterwards and dry your hair with a blow dryer.
Although getting your perm from a professional hairdresser can be more expensive than a do-it-yourself kit, it is still the safest way to have your hair relaxed. Regardless of who relaxes your hair, always be gentle to it after the relaxing procedure as it will be weaker due to the reaction with the chemical solutions.