Thanks to blonde beauties like Beyoncé and J-Lo, the demand for hair color is massive these days. Clients with every natural shade and texture are keen to explore the world of bronde and milk tea and mushroom blonde hues—even those with relaxed hair. But can relaxed hair be lifted safely? It can…with a few big “ifs.” Like, “if” you understand the difference between coloring naturally curly and chemically relaxed textures, says Alfaparf Master Artisan and Texture Expert Jeannetta Walker, @watchmyhairbounce. And “if” you understand the biology of hair and how certain chemicals affect textured hair. And “if” you always ask yourself, “Will this be beneficial, or will it harm the hair?” before proceeding with any service. Once you’ve factored in the “ifs,” notes Jeannetta, you will have the confidence to lift every hair type. Here are Jeannetta’s key dos and don’ts for combining color and relaxing services.
Don’t…think that relaxed hair can’t be colored.
“That’s a huge misconception,” says Jeannetta. “It really depends on the health and integrity of the hair. Investigate the texture carefully. If it’s ready, which is rare, go ahead. If it’s not ready, you can prepare the hair with the right treatments. Everyone wants color these days, and with time and patience, it can be done safely, even on relaxed hair.”
Do…understand exactly how much and what type of relaxer has been applied.
“When you straighten hair with a relaxer, you’re breaking down the hair’s disulfide bonds,” explains Jeannetta. “Some stylists relax hair to the point of being bone straight, and it becomes lifeless. What’s more, the hair is weaker and more porous at this point. If you were to apply bleach, the hair would be on the floor. So the first thing I ask a client is if they have been applying relaxer at home. If so, or if she is coming from another stylist, I will work with the hair for awhile to see how it behaves. I won’t color the hair on the first appointment.”
Don’t…lift relaxed hair if here is evidence of breakage, split ends or extreme dryness.
The condition is too compromised to handle the lightener at this point. Treat the hair to restore protein with a regimen like the Alfaparf Semi di Lino Emergency S.O.S. Treatment and the Reparative Mask, which builds hair integrity from the inside out. You can restore moisture with a Semi di Lino Nutritive regimen. Repeat as necessary to restore the hair to health—it may take several weeks or even several months.
Do…use a mild or medium-strength relaxer and never take the hair to bone straight if you are also planning to lighten or color your client’s hair.
Do…color the hair two weeks after the relaxer application.
“I relax the hair, then wait two weeks to apply the color or lightener.” says Jeannetta. “This schedule reduces the likelihood of any overlap onto the colored hair. I never color the hair first and relax hair the too soon after.” One exception is demi-permanent color. With a no-ammonia product like Alfaparf Colorwear, used with 5-volume activator, it’s possible to enhance tone, and blend or cover grey hair on the same day as it is relaxed.
Do…add a bond strengthening formula to the relaxer.
“If I’m doing a relaxer touchup and preparing the hair for color, I will add Alfaparf The Hair Supporters Bond Rebuilder to the relaxer cream,” says Jeannetta. “It contains Biomimetic Quarternized Keratin that re- attaches and re-builds bonds in the hair, proportionate to the level of damage. Bond Rebuilder strengthens the hair during the chemical process. I’ll also add it to the color formula if needed. Bond Rebuilder is a universal product than can be used with any chemical service and is compatible with all brands.”
Do…be prepared for quick processing.
Bleach will move fast on relaxed hair, even if you’re using 10-volume developer, so be prepared. Jeannetta often removes foils and rinses the hair before an entire section is complete to avoid over-processing. “You have to work quickly,” she says, “or you run the risk of melting off the hair.”
Don’t…neglect proper after care.
“That means treatments every week or every two weeks in the salon,” declares Jeannetta. “And protect the hair from heat at all costs. Just because the hair is relaxed doesn’t mean the client won’t blow dry or flat iron her hair. Formulas like Alfaparf Style Stories Thermal Protector and Blow Dry Cream are essential for relaxed clients with colored hair.”