African-American Hair Texture

Woman with african hair
Photo: Hanna Kuprevich/Shutterstock
Q: How can I change the texture of my hair?
I am an African-American female and it's been over 6 months since I have gotten any color treatment in my hair. During my last treatment I got blonde highlights, which was fine, until I put in my usual home perm about 3 weeks later. Since then I have been experiencing extreme hair thinning. I am presently washing my hair 4-6 times a week. I am going into my 3rd week of using a hair re-constructor. I only do this once a week. I use 2 types of leave-in conditioner before applying setting lotion. I am trying to stay away from curling irons.
Between the hair re-constructor and conditioners, something has to be working. Because when I wash my hair I don't see as much hair shed. I have been experiencing new growth and have changed my home perm product that includes a leave in conditioner. I usually wait about 8 weeks before putting a relaxer in my hair due to my hair being so fine and having experienced so much damage in the past.
I know that it is in my best interest to allow a professional to do my hair. However, I like to exercise and my hair style goes away quick (when I am done, my entire head is wet) and attempting to go to a salon more than once a week is way too expensive for my budget. My routine is to wash my hair, condition it, apply setting lotion and roll my hair. When I style my hair, my curls are there. But by the time I get to my destination (work, etc.) my hair style is history and my curls go completely away, giving me a frizzy look. Each time that I take a break, I find myself trying to style my hair or at least make myself look descent for the time being.
Thanks for your help in advance.

A: I'm afraid that this may not be what you want to hear, but is sounds like you've "worn out" your hair, and therefore its ability to hold a curl. When the hair is repeatedly subjected to chemical processes, they can take a toll on the hair. From what you describe, I can see that in the desire to look good, you've had some pretty drastic services. In order for an African-American woman to get blonde highlights in her hair, there has to be some significant chemical processing to lighten the pigment sufficiently.
When you describe the blonde highlighting followed by a home perm three weeks later, (you also mentioned waiting and using a relaxer every 8 weeks, but I am not sure if you aren't simply meaning the home perm you mentioned previously) all on fine hair, I can only cringe. Many people don't realize that the effects of chemical processes on the hair are cumulative.
A hair color, perm, or a relaxer service that works beautifully on the hair the first time, will still take a toll on the hair. Subsequent services repeated on the hair can have an increasingly harsh effect, as the hair becomes more porous and more damaged by prior services.
This is why most retouch services involve applying the product only to the new growth of the hair. With some products, even a slight overlap onto previously treated hair can weaken it sufficiently to make the hair irreparable. And even if the products are gentler, repeated exposure can result in building up the damage level of the hair.
I can't specifically say the cause of your problem, but there is definitely sign that your hair has been damaged by the repeated chemical processes. The only solution is going to be to change your styling habits until your hair can get back to a healthier state.
While multiple visits to a salon may not be financial feasible for you, I will encourage you to visit your local salon and talk to them about the condition your hair is in. Have the stylist help you plan out a new course of action for dealing with your hair. Explain your needs and your restrictions (both time-wise and financial) and he/she can help you find an approach that you can hopefully live with while your hair grows healthy lengths again.
Some reasonable alternatives for you may be a braid style (which many people love for the purpose of allowing their hair to grow out), or perhaps a hairpiece accessory or wig (which would be already styled and can be cared for with relative ease, and can be taken off when you exercise to avoid need for excessive restyling).
Whatever you decide to do, the bottom line is it sounds like you need to give yourself time to regrow some healthy hair. Your local stylist will be better able to help you diagnose specifics since he/she can actually physically examine the hair and determine the needs you have.