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Using Chemicals On Black Hair

Chemicals for the hair such as perms, relaxers, texturizers and hair dyes can all damage your hair.

Before deciding to go natural, I used a relaxer on my hair for years. Unfortunately, my hair ended up dry, weak and damaged.

I had no idea how to correctly use chemical processes on my curly hair.
Here is factual information about the nature of chemicals on African American hair. I am sharing fool-proof tips to ensure that your hair does not become damaged like mine did.

Hair Dyes On Black Hair

Temporary Hair Dyes

The deposits from temporary hair dye sit on the outside cuticle layer of your hair. They do not go inside of your hair cuticle. They are basically coating the hair strands. You will find that as you wash your hair, temporary hair color slowly rinses away.

Your hair color will fade within a few weeks. People tend to use a gentle shampoos that do not contain sulfates. Sulfate-free shampoos can help to extend the life of your temporary hair color.

Permanent Hair Dyes

Permanent hair dyes are much more damaging than temporary hair color because they go inside of the hair cuticle and leave color deposits within the cortex. Once those color deposits are inside of your hair, they become attached to it, permanently.

The color deposits can not be rinsed away. Upon using permanent hair dye, your hair's protein structure becomes diminished. It is important to do deep protein treatments every couple of weeks (or as needed) to help rebuild your hair.

Prepare your hair before you use chemicals

The best way to prevent over-processing your hair is by following the steps suggested by the instructions within the product box. For example, Make sure your hair is strong and moisturized before applying any chemical. And always wear plastic gloves to protect your skin.

All hair products come with instructions that you should carefully read before placing the solution onto your hair.

Hair Relaxers and Texturizers

My Experience Using Chemical Relaxersrelaxed hair

Throughout my entire time using hair relaxers--I never once took the time to read the instructions that came in the box.

I did not know to never apply a relaxer onto hair that has already been relaxed. I did not realize that retouches are for new growth only.

I cringe at the thought of how abusive my hair tactics were to my hair and scalp. Lack of experience on how to accurately apply chemical-processes was the reason I always ended up with damaged, short hair.

Always Read The Instructions First

I blindly followed the hair tactics of friends and family members. Looking back, many of them did not have long, healthy hair either. It was a situation of the blind leading the blind.

Upon learning the correct way to use chemicals on my hair, I learned that I was doing a number of things dangerously wrong. Here are a few tips to help you protect your hair from chemical damage.

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Follow Instructions When Using Chemicals On Your Hair

There are important steps that you must follow while using hair chemicals. Read the instructions and make sure you follow the directions. For example, do not use a relaxer strength that is too strong for your hair texture in hopes that the product will work better. Start with the lowest strength and then work your way up to a stronger strength if needed.

*If you have no clue what you are doing consult a hair care professional.

Protect Your Skin From Hair Chemicals That Burn

Make sure you prep your hair correctly before using chemicals. If the instructions advise you to wear gloves, make sure you wear gloves to protect your skin. Also, when applying a relaxer, be sure to lubricate the scalp with a petroleum-based substance such as vaseline, to create a barrier from the relaxer cream.

Chemicals Change The Chemical Bonds Within Your Hair

Chemicals have the capacity to lift the hair cuticle (the protective layer) extremely wide; to go inside of the cortex (the brain of the hair) and manipulate its normal processes.

When the cuticles of your hair are open the hair is vulnerable to becoming damaged because it is likely to become weakened from the cortex being exposed.

Learn The Science Behind Chemical Treatments

Chemicals go inside of the hair strand to reform structural protein bonds. You hair's color and curl patten can be permanently altered through chemical processing.

Once the process is complete, there is no reverting back. Your hair will not go back to how it looked before you applied the chemical. You are stuck with the new curl pattern and/or new hair color alterations.

Chemical Treatments On Your Hair Are Permanent

When you use chemicals on your hair, you are breaking down the structure of your hair and forcing it into a new form. When you chemically alter your hair, whether to become curly (texturizer) or straight (relaxer), there is a huge opportunity for damage.

Both a relaxer and permanent hair dye cause the hair cuticle to open wide so that the cortex can be reformed. Any changes to the hair's cortex are permanent. Only the new-growth will reveal the natural texture of your hair.


Some people use a relaxer; then shortly after, add permanent hair dye to hair that is already weak and fragile. Double processing is extremely damaging to black hair. Double processing equals double the damage on your hair strands.

Double processing is a sure way to completely damage your hair. For the best results, give your hair time to recover from the first chemical. One, too many chemical treatments is likely to leave you with extremely fragile hair that breaks easily.

How To Prevent Hair Damage From Chemicals

Many people use chemicals without understanding the damage they can cause on the hair shaft. Chemical treatments manipulate important protein bonds within your hair.

If you alter your hair with highly alkaline substances such as relaxers and/or hair dyes, it will need to be strengthened with protein and moisture treatments on a regular weekly basis.

Forget The Bad Habits Of Family Members And Friends

My mother applied a relaxer to my hair at the age of eleven. I watched her work the creamy relaxer into my hair, from the roots to the ends. She used the back of a comb to flatten my hair.

My mom knew how to straighten some hair. So, I copied that method every time I relaxed my hair. I did not know that I was over-processing my already fragile hair. My hair did not grow past shoulder-length. I experienced chronic hair breakage.

Learn From Your Bad Experiences With Chemicals

I have had many bad experiences with chemicals on my hair. Sometimes, you discover what works for your hair by making mistakes.

There was a time when I despised my hair texture. Naturally, I turned to weave for refuge from my chemically damaged hair. Weave braids were my go-to hairstyle when I wanted to avoid my hair problems.

I wore weave braids for years at a time. Read More.

The Bad Side-Effects Of
Using Chemicals On Hair

1. Hair Breakage From Over-Processed Hair

If you have applied chemicals to your hair at home, without the guidance of a professional; then you probably have experienced over-processed hair.

Using chemicals incorrectly will leave you with short hair. Permanent hair dyes and hair relaxers, whether applied correctly or not will deplete the outside protective protein layer of your hair.

Every time you use harsh chemicals on your hair there is an opportunity for damage. Protect your hair before you use any chemical by performing weekly deep protein treatments, reducing heat styling and other forms of stress on your hair.

Chronic Hair Breakage & Chemical Damage

One of the best ways to treat chemically processed black hair is to use hair products that are packed with protein. For example, using a protein-rich deep-conditioner on your hair weekly will help to strengthen your hair and reduce hair breakage.

Since chemicals tend to remove some of your hair's protein scales, you should add protein deposits to your hair's cuticle layer to help rebuild it.

Protein treatments will help to mask the damaged protein scales of your cuticle. This will prevent your hair from becoming so fragile that it breaks away, uncontrollably.

Do not allow your hair to become weak. Weak, porous, chemically-altered hair can not thrive if left untreated.

How Do I Know If My Hair Is Breaking Or Not?

A quick way to know whether or not fallen hairs are a result of chronic breakage is by examining it and checking for three things.

1. Are the pieces of hair short?
2. When you stretch the hair strand, does it break easily?
3. Is there a white bulb at the end of the hair strand

If the answer to each question is yes; then it is likely that you are experiencing chronic hair breakage. Anytime you want to reduce chronic hair breakage; you have to increase deep conditioning and reduce tension on your hair by wearing simple protective hairstyles.

2. Dry, Dull Texture From Over-Processed Hair

One of the first signs of chemical damage is dry, brittle hair. Does it seem no matter what you do to your hair, it seems to look ashy and feel dry? Using harsh chemicals will cause your hair to become porous.

It is difficult for porous hair to hold water. Porous hair contains rips and holes in the cuticle layer which cause it to lose moisture quickly. Since the scales of the cuticle are missing, it is difficult for porous hair to reflect light and create a shiny appearance.

How to Recover Your Hair From Chemical Damage

Use Deep Protein Treatments On Porous Hair

Whenever you see weak, fragile hair--you should immediately think of deep protein treatments. Weak, damaged hair means that the protein of your hair cuticle is filled with gaps and holes. The best thing you can do for porous hair is increase the amount of protein you place on your hair.

Look For Hair Products That include These Proteins

It is possible to apply chemical processes to black hair and still acheive strong, long hair. All proteins are not created equal. Look for hydrolyzed proteins, which contain small molecules that can easily attach to your hair, such as, pantenol, biotin, wheat, collagen, silk amino acids just to name a few.

Great Deep-Conditioners For Naturally Curly Hair

Hair Products That Contain Silicones
Work Great On Porous Hair

Deciding to stick with all natural hair products only is a nice idea. But when it comes to managing damaged hair from chemical processing, it is not a bad idea to use hair products that contain silicones such as dimethicone and/or amodimethicone to help protect your weak hair.

Silicones have a technology that allow them to attach to the hair strands and hold the weak hair together so that it will not break away easily. Silicones have more staying power than protein; but they do not rinse away as easily.

Silicones Can Help To Protect Damaged Natural Hair But ...

The main issue with using silicones on your hair is that you may have to use a shampoo with sulfates to help remove their plastic-like residue.

Using a purifying shampoo, once a month, will help to give your hair a clean slate so that it can receive moisture thoroughly. If you dislike using sulfates on your natural hair; then stick to weekly deep protein treatments instead.

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Once you have successfully placed chemicals on our hair, there should be a period of restoring the hair back to its strong state.

This is the time to give your hair a lot of love and attention. Deep conditioning, cleansing, co-washing, and softening the hair with acidic (4.5-5.5 pH) moisturizers is an order.

Reduce the usage of heating appliances such as curling irons, and blow dryers. Avoid stress on your hair, wherever possible.

FIVE TIPS For Styling With Chemicals
From Cathy Howse's Ultra Black Hair Growth II Book


  • When hair is first processed, it is very fragile. Pamper your hair back to health. Acknowledge that you have placed your hair within a vulnerable state, where it is likely to become damaged and broken-off. For the first two weeks, pamper your hair with consistent moisture and little manipulation. Cathy Howse recommends washing and deep-conditioning the hair every three days when hair is vulnerable to damage.


  • It is so easy to become obsessed with keeping the hair straight. But is this obsession leading to over-processed hair? When applying chemicals, the health of the hair and scalp should be of most significance. If you want to preserve the hair and keep it healthy; then there will have to be sacrifices


  • When you understand the properties of hair; you will realize why double processing is like hair-homicide. You are giving the hair a beating twice in a short period of time. It is almost impossible for the hair to recover from such recklessness. Be mindful and consider if having the straight-color-treated hair is really worth the damage.


  • Direct heat on the hair is not as immediately damaging as a peroxide-based product, such as a relaxer, that manipulates the protective layer of the hair. Over use of heat damages the hair slower. Slower damage does not mean better; it just means slower. Heat also removes moisture from the hair hence the steam sizzling from the appliance. Take a break and use rollers, or rods instead.


  • It is possible to use chemicals and accomplish healthy, long hair. You just have to compensate for the moisture and strength that you remove from the hair during any chemical process. People are experiencing broken, brittle hair because they are not pampering the hair back to health. Instead, they compound the damage by immediately adding more chemicals and heat to the hair. Or worst, they simply abandon the hair all together by not properly moisturizing and repairing the damage done.


Be Careful When Using Chemicals On Black Hair

The Cortex Is Exposed

  • the cortex is the brain of the hair strand. It gives the hair its characteristics. Whether hair is straight, curly, brown or black is determined by the cortex.

The Cuticles Are Manipulated

  • the cuticles are the protective layer of the hair. They function to protect the cortex. When the cortex is exposed the hair is extremely susceptible to irreplaceable damage.

The Hair's pH Is Dangerously High

  • Relaxers, perms and hair dye are all highly alkaline products, with pH levels ranging from 10-14. Alkaline substances force the hair's cuticles to rise widely open. When the cuticles are lifted, the hair no longer has its protective structure in place. The hair is now within a weak state. The cortex can now be manipulated.

The Hair Is Dried Out

  • Alkaline products cause the hair to lose moisture and become dry because the cuticles of the hair are not sealed shut. When hair is dry, it is more susceptible to breakage and becoming damaged.

Be sure to use a neutralizing shampoo to help bring the pH of the hair back to normal (4.5-5.5). Water is not enough since it's pH (7.0) is still too alkaline to nurture the hair back to health.


How to Prevent Weak, Broken
Hair After a Chemical Process

Chemicals deplete the protein within your hair. It is your job to restore the hair back to its strong state where it can survive weekly styling and manipulation.

When it came to applying chemicals to my natural hair, I was a blind follower. It is easy to simply follow the ritualistic habits of those close to us.

Too often, we allow people to consult what we do to our hair without questioning their expertise. Chemicals can cause irreversible damage to your hair. Learn how chemical processes affect your hair and scalp. Take precaution.

Once you place a chemical on your hair, it is less healthy. And you have to take steps everyday to recover your hair if you want it be strong and get longer.

Gather facts about chemicals on your hair and formulate an action plan to help prevent damage. Replenish your hair with deep conditioning and protein treatments.


For the first two weeks, after chemical processing, wash and deep-condition your hair every seven days. Co-wash every other week. Moisturize daily, focusing on the ends. Wear protective hairstyles for at least four days out of the week. Reduce the use of heating appliances to once a week. Allow damaged hair to mend itself. Help your hair regain its normal capacity to be pliable and strong.


I have seen several African American women achieve long, healthy relaxed hair. I enjoy watching Shima from

Shima exemplifies someone who uses relaxers and hair dye and still accomplishes beautiful, healthy, waist-length hair. Check out Shima's youtube channel.


Hair dye is another wonderful way to spice up a look. However, hair dye can be equally drying.

ElectrikTV is on a healthy natural-color-treated hair journey. She offers many tips on maintaining the health of your color-treated natural hair.

The videos are from Youtuber Vloggers that document their healthy hair-care journeys. Both women seem to have healthy hair and are conscientious when styling and placing chemicals onto their hair. I hope the information is useful.
This is not an endorsement. The videos are independent of

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