Simple Tips to Wash and Care for Relaxed Hair

Washing and caring for your hair the right way after a relaxer can help keep your tresses healthy and strong.

Updated December 21, 2023
woman with relaxed hair smiling

Although relaxers are very popular, they can leave hair in a fragile state — so it's important to take good care of your relaxed tresses. Get basics about the treatment as well as easy tips to follow when washing and caring for your relaxed hair. 

Basics About Relaxers

A relaxer is a permanent hair straightening treatment that "relaxes" natural curls, coils, and waves. Relaxers have been around since the early 20th century and are used by many in the Black and Brown community to achieve long-lasting, sleek hairstyles. Hair relaxers can be done at home or in a salon. 

Relaxed hair is different from natural hair in that it remains in a straightened state even when washed and blow-dried. The treatment can last up to three to six months depending on your hair care regimen.

Quick Tip

Although relaxers are essentially permanent, the new growth that you see growing out of your scalp is your original hair texture. Every 6 to 12 weeks is acceptable to get a touch-up, depending on how fast your hair grows.

Before Getting a Relaxer

There are a few things to watch for before getting the treatment. It can be tempting to scratch your scalp (especially when it's dry!), but you should avoid doing that, washing your hair, or working out three to four days before getting a relaxer. All of these can cause irritation.

On the last wash before your relaxer, consider using a clarifying shampoo and treating hair with a deep conditioner or protein treatment. 

Also, be sure to remove any braids or extensions about a week before getting a relaxer. 

Washing Hair After a Relaxer 

Cleansing the hair is important, but there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to washing relaxed hair. 

How Soon to Wash Hair After a Relaxer 

After the relaxer is rinsed out with warm water, your hair needs to be shampooed with a neutralizing shampoo, then conditioned and dried. You won't need to wash your hair again for at least a week. 

getting hair washed in a salon

Steps to Take On the First Regular Wash Day

On the first wash day after getting a relaxer, your hair will need extra moisture and protection as it adjusts to the new chemical treatment.

  1. Use a pre-shampoo treatment first to ensure your hair stays strong and healthy. Apply a protein-infused conditioner, pure coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil to your entire hair and scalp before shampooing.
  2. Let this sit for 30-45 minutes (or according to the instructions) and then shampoo. This pre-shampoo treatment will prevent unnecessary breakage with the first shampoo and will leave hair with extra moisture and protection.
Quick Tip

You may also want to follow up your first shampoo with a deep-conditioning treatment made for chemically treated hair (like Paul Mitchell's Bond Rx Treatment). Make sure you concentrate the conditioning treatment on the ends of the hair and leave it on for at least 10-15 minutes.

Washing Regimen for Relaxed Hair

After you wash relaxed hair for the first time, try to wait a week between each wash, if possible, to prolong the life of your relaxer. Use gentle moisturizing shampoos made specifically for chemically-treated hair, such as Awapuhi Moisturizing Lather Shampoo or Cantu's Moisturizing Cream Shampoo.

Rinse and repeat the shampooing process while washing your hair. Repeating the shampoo application is especially important if you have thick hair.

It's important to remember relaxed hair is in a fragile state and should be handled very carefully. You should take the following precautions when you wash relaxed hair:

  • Make sure to comb hair completely with a wide tooth comb before applying shampoo. This will detangle and remove any knots.
  • Never vigorously scrub your hair while shampooing, or put your hair in a ball on top of your head, as this can cause breakage and knot up your hair.
  • Never rub hair dry with a towel. Squeeze out excess water and pat dry with a soft towel and then use a t-shirt or paper towel to squeeze out excess water. This will prevent damage and minimize frizz.
Quick Tip

If you wash your hair too soon after getting a relaxer, you probably will not see any immediate consequences. And if you do see anything a bit abnormal, it would be dryness and frizz.


You should always use a conditioner after washing relaxed hair. If you don't have time to leave a deep-conditioning treatment on the hair for at least 10 minutes, try an intense moisturizing conditioner or leave-in conditioner. A product like Aphogee Pro-Vitamin leave-in conditioner works specifically with the texture and style of African American hair.

If you feel your hair looks dry in between washes, apply a leave-in conditioner instead of over-washing. You don't need to wash out leave-in conditioning treatments, so they can provide hair with all-day moisture in between washes.

applying leave-in conditioner to relaxed hair

Protein Treatments 

Protein-based conditioner or a protein treatment can greatly benefit relaxed hair. However, protein treatments should only be used once a month, as too much protein can actually have a counter-effect on hair and make it weaker.

Styling Hair After a Relaxer

You can style your hair normally after a relaxer, but it can help to take extra care to help protect it. 

  • You may consider avoiding or limiting the use of heat tools or heat styling since that can cause additional damage to the hair. Relaxers can actually make it easier to ditch the hot tools that are used to style your hair. 
  • Protective styles like box braids, bantu knots, weaves, twists, and others can help keep your hair healthy after relaxers.

More Hair Care Tips for Relaxed Hair

To keep your relaxed hair looking beautiful and healthy, a few more tips can help:

  • Get regular trims to keep the dry ends at bay.
  • You may also want to protect your hair at night, covering it or investing in a satin pillowcase. 

The Right Hair Care

Relaxers can be an effective method of getting difficult-to-style hair straight, sleek, and more manageable. However, it can be very damaging to hair, especially if you do the treatment too often. It's important not to wash relaxed hair too often as it will prevent the treatment from lasting as long as it should.

If you have any questions or concerns about relaxing your hair, always consult a haircare professional. However, the right care will keep your relaxer from fading and keep your hair healthy and beautiful. 

Simple Tips to Wash and Care for Relaxed Hair