Why Haven't I Reached My Hair Goals?

I've been obsessing on and on about my ends.  I'm not sure what I should or shouldn't be doing with them over this stretch, but I feel as if I've tried everything since my first set back in 2013.  And yet, in 2015 I am still not satisfied with the ends of my hair and can't seem to get them under control.  With all the things I've learned about hair care over the years, you would think that this is a hurdle that I should be able to overcome with a few tweaks here and there.  But here I am two years later still trying to figure out what I need to be doing to preserve my ends so that I can retain more length.  After much thought, I've decided that the best thing to do is to sit down, pull back, and do a big picture assessment of what I've been doing with my hair since the dreaded set back of 2013.  Below you'll find a bunch of length checks and a review of my hair care ups and downs from March 2013 to April 2015.

March 2013 is where it all began -- I had my first set back.  After relaxing my hair, I had to cut a few inches off of the ends of my hair due to thinning ends.  I'm pretty sure that it was breakage because the thinning was only at my ends. 

My first attempt at a fix was to avoid heat for the next stretch, which I did with my No Heat Challenge.  I didn't use any heat for 11 or 13 weeks and I wore either a bun or a low manipulations style that kept my hair off of my shoulders.  At the end of that no heat challenge my ends looked decent.  

After my No Heat Challenge.
And for my July 2013 Relaxer Update/Length Check my ends still looked promising and I retained length (see picture above)!  My "No Heat Challenge" was a success and I was motivated to continue on this path of limiting heat with more of a purpose.

This next stretch things started out so well.  I was continued using my No Heat Regimen and I started experimenting with new products.  I found myself using a sulfate free shampoo that did not agree with my hair.  But I still felt like I was on a good path with my hair until I randomly had a stressful wash day with a lot of tangles.  At the time I felt like the detangling struggle of that wash day was going to lead to my next set back, which it did.  However after re-watching the video of that stressful wash day, how I blow dried my hair with a denman brush contributed to the damage.  At the time I thought it was getting rid of shed hairs, but it was breaking my hair too...
After my stressful wash day.
By the time my November 2013 Relaxer happened, I was so annoyed with the return of these thinning ends that I made a bunch of changes to my regimen: weekly oil pre-poos, protein on my ends, moisturize and seal more often and limiting my relaxer stretches to 12-14 weeks.  

After this I decided to change my regimen.
Over the next stretch, I followed my rules, but I also wasn't shy about doing roller sets and drying under a hooded dryer as I explained in my February 2014 Relaxer Update.  Thankfully, my ends seemed to do well under these circumstances.  I was pleased.  It looked like my new regimen was working.

So, I continued with my new regimen and had fun with my roller sets.  Even when I got pregnant and lazy, I did my best to maintain my hair care routine.  But at the end of this stretch, my hair was ok.  My hair was still a bit thin at the ends, but I wasn't doing my weekly deep conditioning treatments, so it was bit expected.  And I was happy that it really hadn't gotten any worse.

Still being pregnant and unmotivated, I kept doing what I could to keep up with my hair regimen, but I was using more heat and not deep conditioning as often.  By the time my July 2014 Relaxer Update rolled in, I would have been happy with whatever.  But to my surprise my hair overall was so much thicker than normal and I was pretty sure it was all of those pregnancy hormones that saved the day.  I was so distracted and happy about that that I forgot all about my thin ends.

Things were going so well, until the postpartum shedding rolled in.  And my focus shifted from my ends to my edges.  But once, I got that back under control, I found myself with much longer hair...

...But I was/am still dealing with those pesky thin ends at my April 2015 Relaxer Update.

Now here I am today hoping that I'm not singing the same old song with my next relaxer.  Right now, I'm focused on my hair and its progress.  Initially I wasn't sure about what I want to do.  But after sitting down to review my hair journey, I think some things pretty clearly work for my hair and my ends:
  1. More Protein - every other week. 
  2. Weekly Deep Conditioning.
  3. Limiting Heat Usage (but if I'm going to use it go for the hooded dryer over the blow dryer).
  4. Focus on the protein-moisture balance of my ends, they need more protein than the rest of my hair.  
  5. Continue pre-pooing with oils and applying them to my ends throughout the week.
  6. Avoid Relaxer Runoff - hold my ends away from the rest of my hair when rinsing the relaxer out.  I did this with my April 2015 relaxer and I think it may help.
What do you think?

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