How to straighten afro hair

Written by kim walton
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How to straighten afro hair
(long hair image by Bettina Baumgartner from

There are many ways to straighten African-American hair; one of the most popular is permanent straightening using a chemical process. Permanent relaxing is achieved by applying a chemical straightener, which "relaxes" the natural curl pattern of the hair. While many think permanent relaxers are extremely damaging to hair, the American Academy of Dermatology's pamphlet, "Skin of Color" reports, when used according to package directions, hair straighteners usually do not cause problems.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Relaxer kit
  • Relaxer brush (optional)
  • Light oil (optional)
  • Leave-in conditioner (optional)

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    Permanent Relaxers

  1. 1

    Think twice before using a relaxer--it is permanent. Once you have changed the molecular structure of your hair, it cannot be reversed. Before applying consider your long-term hair goals, permanent relaxers require deep conditioning and a bit of "hair pampering" to avoid breakage and damage to your hair.

    How to straighten afro hair
    (long hair image by Bettina Baumgartner from
  2. 2

    Follow the directions provided with the kit. Section your hair and begin applying the relaxer to the most resistant section of hair, usually this is the hair closest to the nape of your neck. Once the relaxer has been applied to the entire head begin smoothing. To smooth, you must quickly manipulate the hair by smoothing out the curl pattern, the smoother the hair--without a wrinkle--the straighter the outcome. You can use a relaxer brush (which resembles a paint brush with stiff bristles), or the straight edge of a comb.

  3. 3

    Rinse the relaxer and shampoo or condition. Relaxers vary at this point, some neutralise to lock in the smooth restructured hair, while others condition the hair to take advantage of the open cuticle before neutralising. Refer to the directions if you are uncertain about the next step.

  4. 4

    Neutralise your hair using neutraliser shampoo, regular shampoo will not close the cuticle of your hair. Reversion will occur if you do not use a neutraliser shampoo. Don't skimp on this step, use a generous amount of neutraliser shampoo and make certain that you have rinsed all relaxer chemicals out of your hair. Neutralising should be done in a smoothing manner also, as you shampoo do not manipulate the hair too much, keep the hair as smooth as possible while shampooing.

  5. 5

    Condition your hair, this is another step that you do not want to miss. Your hair has just had a chemical process and needs nourishment. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer, if you elect to use other conditioners, make sure you also use the one provided in the relaxer kit. Rinse final conditioner from hair and style as usual.

Tips and warnings

  • Lay out all the products and tools you will need before you begin.
  • For dry hair, use a light oil so that hair will not be weighed down.
  • You cannot reverse this process once you have neutralised the hair.
  • Wash relaxer chemicals off skin immediately to avoid irritation.

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