Every woman who gets chemical services on her hair knows about the dreaded In-Between Time. As hair starts to grow out, roots get exposed, showing the world that her hair is not actually the same color or texture people have been seeing for the past few weeks. And while the awkwardness of mismatched roots alone can be enough to drive some ladies back to the salon, the problems associated with mismatched textures can be even worse! Contrasts between permed, texturized, or relaxed hair and new growth can cause serious breakage and damage.
Yet going back to a stylist for every hair touch-up can be expensive and even damaging, as salons use very strong chemicals that, when overlapped with previously processed lengths, can break down hair even further. So what’s the remedy? Well, here are some surefire tips.
Have a Plan
Never jump into getting chemical services without outlining a plan for keeping your locks healthy. Discuss your options with your stylist or someone else who has intimate knowledge of your hair and its behavior. Things you will want to nail down include:
- How long do I actually plan to wear this style or get this service? Strange as it may sound, start at the end for best results. If you plan to wear your relaxer, perm, or hair color for the rest of your life, your approach will be slightly different than if it is just a short-term experiment. Having an exit strategy will help you focus on the long-term health of your hair.
- How often will I need to touch up my hair? This depends on several factors, including the natural color, texture, thickness, and durability of your own hair, as well as the strength and endurance of the product applied to it. If you are making radical changes and have very strong, resilient hair, you can possibly stand more frequent touch-ups, though it is still not recommended. On the other hand, if your tresses are fine, weak, or damaged already - or if the changes you have in mind are very subtle – you can likely get away with more infrequent tune-ups.
- What lifestyle changes will I need to make in order to make this process last? For perms and relaxers, swimming, visiting water parks, and walking in the rain are pretty much out of the question. Some hair colors may require you to use special hair products to prevent fading. Know what you have to do to stave off the touch-up monster as long as you can – and then make sure you can live with that!
Do the Right Thing
Your action plan should also take into account a few other nearly-universal guidelines. For example, you should make sure to start off with a high-quality product that has been proven to last. Perms, relaxers, or texturizers should be from a trusted brand that does not revert easily or require whole-head applications after the first one. Hair dyes should endure just as long as you need them to (see our guide to hair dyes for info on how long different formulas stay vibrant).
Also make sure to schedule chemical applications as far apart as possible. Again, this will depend on how quickly your hair grows out and how dramatic the changes you’ve made are, but aim for relaxer, texturizer, or perm touch-ups no more than 3 or 4 times per year. This may sound impossible, since most home kits advise touch-ups every 6 to 8 weeks, but applying chemicals that often is simply asking to fry hair and damage the scalp. Also, paying for touch-ups to less than an inch of hair (most women’s locks grow about ? to ¼” per month) is really a waste of your hard-earned money. Instead, wait a bit longer for hair to realize ½ to 1 inch of growth, and then get your chemical services; you’ll get the most bang for your buck. If your hair reverts quickly or grows out very fast, consider ditching the home kits altogether and opting for: (A) a high-quality salon treatment that will last longer, (B) a hairstyle more in line with your own natural hair type, or (C) a weave that achieves the same look without the same damage.
To make that new color or texture last at home in the in-between times, try any of these low-cost, easy methods:
- Purchase an at-home hair color kit that approximately matches the hue your hair has been dyed. Use just a portion of the bottle and an old toothbrush to work the new dye onto the roots and then blend it down the shaft of the hair. Some hair dye brands now offer kits exclusively meant for touch-ups, so investigate those.
- Stretch out a permanent wave with a roller set on tiny rods; this will maintain the illusion of dense curls until it is time for a touch-up. Twist-outs and braid-outs can help extend the look of a texturizer, creating looser spirals without going full-on curly.
- Try a hair-color stick small enough to carry in your purse. Simply wet hair at the roots and glide on the crayon-like touch-up stick, and your roots and grays will blend right in with your new color. (Note: These hair color tips will not work if your natural hair is dark and must be lightened before depositing the new color. In these cases, it is best to consult your stylist for bleaching and dyeing.)
- Consider touching up hair dye with temporary hair color or “hair paint” if your salon visit is just a few days away. These can come in spray or “mascara” forms – no need to wet hair!
- Straighten kinky roots between relaxers with a simple blow-out and press or flat iron. Alternatively, you can braid or twist hair to give it a rest from the daily dry combing and styling that help lead to pre-touch-up breakage in the first place.
In the end, it’s all about understanding your hair and what it will and won’t do, and what it needs. Be gentle with your locks, and they will reward you by growing healthy, long and strong…be rough with them, and they will return the favor.
Take care of yourselves,