Monday, 16 September 2013

Stretching It out (Your relaxers that is) - benefits vs. drawbacks

I'm a big fan of relaxer stretching! There are a few drawbacks, but the positives far outweigh them. We'll compare them in a minute, but first of all... 

What is Stretching? 

20 weeks post relaxer 

This is the act of extending the time one waits between getting relaxers. That is, if you are accustomed to retouching your hair at 6 weeks posts, then going a 7th week without it is considered stretching. Many stretch for anywhere from 10 weeks to 12 months and some go even longer. Prior to my hair journey, I never stretched my relaxers. I retouched at the first hint of new growth to keep my hair looking 'fresh'. These days however, I stretch to 7 and 8 months at a time with the help of my long-term protective styles. When I get closer to my goal of "below the waist" length though, I intend to stretch to 12-16 weeks. In my experience with stretching, I have encountered the following drawbacks:

  1. It takes more heat to straighten hair when I'm many weeks post
  2. Major shrinkage at the roots leading to shorter-looking hair
  3. New growth is dryer than relaxed portions (which may lead to breakage at the line of demarcation) 
  4. More difficult to manipulate (detangle and style) 
  5. More breakage and shedding 

Now let's get to the benefits of stretching: 
  1. Allows the scalp time to recover and rejuvenate after being exposed to harsh chemicals. 
  2.  More new growth gives those applying the relaxer, enough room to do so without applying it to previously processed hair. 
  3. The line of demarcation is easily detected 
  4. Thickening of my hair
  5. This is subjective, but when I'm stretching, I am more inclined to use protective and low manipulation styles leading to greater length retention

From the lists above, one may assume that it's a tie... not so! The negatives are minor while the positives yield major results. Additionally, there are measures one can take to limit the negatives of stretching. Have a go at stretching and you won't regret it.

Come back for my next post where I'll share some tips for relaxer stretching.



  1. Awesome post! I used to stretch for 4-6 months at a time, then I realized super lengthy stretches may have caused more breakage than I'm comfortable with. This year, I want to reduce the number of weeks between relaxers to 12 and a max of 16 weeks.

    KLP @ SavingOurStrands

    1. Thanks KLP. I'm still in my "long stretches" phase, but eventually, like you, I'll cut back to about 12 or so weeks. HHJ


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