How Often Should Relaxed Hair Be Touched Up?

One of the many debates that take place in the relaxed hair community is how often relaxed hair should be touched-up. There are many differing opinions based on common sense and personal preference. I even have an opinion on this debate, based on my own personal experience.

Before we get there, let’s make sure we’re all aligned on terminology and what a relaxer touch-up actually is.

shoulder-length relaxed hair curled at the ends.

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What is a relaxer touch-up

When you have relaxed hair, hair that is chemically straightened, that relaxed hair stays relaxed. The relaxer can’t be washed out or removed. It does mean that when the hair grows you get what is called new growth.

New growth is the unrelaxed or natural hair that grows out of your head. To get that new hair straight like the rest of the hair strands it needs to be relaxed. This is what is called a touch-up. It’s similar to when women with colored hair get their roots touched-up.

What to consider before getting a relaxer touch-up

If you plan to stay relaxed you’ll need to get a relaxer touch-up at some point. The key is to determine what that point is for you because it varies by person. I get my relaxer touch-ups every 10-12 weeks. It took me some trial and error to determine that was the amount of time that works best for me. I based on that a few things.

Amount of new growth

The amount of new growth we have is due to how quickly our hair grows and our hair density. On average, hair grows about half an inch per month, but everyone is unique. Some of us have hair hat grows like crazy, while others have hair that grows slower.

Additionally, density plays a role because if you have denser hair, more strands, you’re going to have more new growth. Combining that with length after a few weeks from your last relaxer you could have a lot of new growth on your head.

The more new growth you have the harder it can be to deal with two different textures on your head - the new growth and the straight relaxed hair.

After going through several relaxer stretches (which you can see more about here) I got a good idea of how much new growth I would typically have at each week of the stretch. 

Hair texture

Another factor to consider is hair texture. I’ve got hair that is on the coarser side. If you have coarse hair, it tends to be more resilient and can handle longer intervals between touch-ups. On the other hand, if you've got fine hair, you might need touch-ups more often to keep that consistent texture.

Desired look

Everyone has their own style, right? Some people love a super sleek look and want to go for more frequent touch-ups. Others prefer a more natural look and embrace a little bit of new growth. It's all about finding the look that makes you feel fabulous and confident.

When should relaxed hair be touched-up?

If you ask this question of different people you will get different answers. I know I have. Several hair stylists over the years have told me it would be six to eight weeks which is what you typically see on a container of relaxer. I also believe that’s what was taught in cosmetology school.

I’ve now started seeing hair stylists saying you should have about two inches of new growth when you get a touch-up. That allows for there to be enough new growth to avoid what is called relaxer overlap - accidentally relaxing previously relaxed hair because there is more relaxed hair than new growth. Avoiding relaxer overlap helps keep relaxed hair healthier and stronger.

My experience

When I was first relaxed I took that old advice and went every six to eight weeks to get a touch-up. Once I had to pay for them myself I stopped going so frequently because I couldn’t afford to go that often working part-time in high school making minimum wage.

Then when I was in college I didn’t go frequently because I didn’t have the money or transportation my freshman year to go to the hair salon. About that time, I started going 10 weeks, 12 weeks, and even a little longer. I realized that I didn’t need to get touch-ups that often. As long as I was caring for my hair it wasn’t necessary.

What I didn’t realize then is that I had started relaxer stretching which is going for longer than six to eight weeks between relaxer touch-ups. It wasn’t until after I started getting interested in relaxed hair care and found some other relaxed hair influencers that I heard the term relaxer stretching and realized it was a thing. 
If someone tries to tell you there’s a hard and fast rule on how long you should stretch their relaxer they are wrong. There isn’t one. Relaxer stretching is a personal thing. There are some who can go as long as six months or longer between touch-ups. I’ve heard of some only getting a touch-up once a year. Others like me go 10-12 weeks. It all comes down to what you are willing to manage.

I’ve gone as long as 18 weeks and that’s before salons were closed during the pandemic. When salons were forced to be closed I only had to stretch for 16 weeks. What I learned from both instances is that I don’t like stretching that long. It’s a lot of work and I have to be even more careful with my hair which takes up a lot of time. Extra time that I don’t want to spend on my hair.

How do you relaxer stretch?

I’m glad you asked. Relaxer stretching isn’t hard but it can be hard to start. If you typically go six to eight weeks between your touch-ups, or even less (yikes!), I'd suggest taking it one week at a time.

After your next relaxer touch-up, go one week longer than you typically go and see how it goes. If it goes well, then go one week longer than that after your next touch-up. Keep doing that until you start to notice negative changes in your hair.

I know I’ve gone too long between my touch-ups when my hair is constantly dry, there is breakage where the relaxed and natural hair meet, and it’s hard for me to style my hair.

12 weeks is my breaking point. I know I can go longer because I have but when I do I’m not able to enjoy my hair as I’d like to. So what’s the point of stretching longer if it’s a lot of hassle.

If you’d like more about relaxer stretching I have several blog posts you can check out

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