Welcome to NC.com.
First, you and your hair are adorable.
Second, I'm not clear as to whether you currently relax your hair or not? But either way it probably needs a bit more moisture. I like some Pantene
conditioners but the shampoos tend to be a bit harsh. Maybe you could try a more moisturizing shampoo? Lately I like Elasta QP Moisturizing Shampoo
and/or Elasta QP's Shampoo for Relaxed Hair
. You can find both at a beauty supply store for under $5. They're both more gentle than Pantene
For the roughness you might want to try some deep treatments at least once week. A popular one on here is Lustrasilk Cholesterol Plus Shea Butter
. It's only about $3 at the beauty supply store, but I recently found it at Rite Aid as well. A little more $ and a little more natural is Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner
which can be found at health food stores, The Vitamin Shoppe, and/or Whole Foods. If you don't want to spend that then you could try adding olive oil and honey to your regular conditioner, covering your hair with a shower cap(or plastic bag), and letting it sit for 30 minutes or as long as you like.
Also, since you're in chlorinated water a lot you might want to invest in some swimmers' hair products which are specially formulated for the dryness chlorine causes. I know Aubrey Organics
makes a line that I've seen at Whole Foods. Not sure about any others.
I think your leave-ins look pretty good, but gel could be drying.
I'm not sure about your "regimen" - how often you wash or condition, but maybe you could try shampooing only once or twice a week and just conditioner wash in between? I think that way even the Pantene
shampoo might not be too harsh only used once a week or so.
As far as not letting your hair get "too nappy" - ? What's wrong with "nappy" hair?
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle we have to face in getting our hair to grow isn't our hair, it's the one we have in our minds as to how we expect our hair to be. Let your hair do it's own thing. I'm sure it will look lovely on you.
Hope that helps.