One thing that most naturals will proudly profess is how much they love the versatility of natural hair! Due to a manner of manipulation, natural hair can go from its big, curly montage to a drapery of silk. If you decide to wear both styles it's one thing that you should be gravely aware of: heat damage!
The initial thought when straightening natural hair is to get it as bone straight as possible. Many will go to great lengths to ensure the process of straightening is not done in vain. I agree, I want my hair style to last even in this Florida humidity! Some of us use more than one heating tool during this single process to include a blow dryer, pressing comb, flat iron, and curling iron. Not to mention, the continuous styling over the next few days to ensure our hair stays straight!
Sadly, using just one of these tools subjects our hair to the possibility of heat damage. It is much easier for naturals to identify when their strands have been heat damaged because the hair looses curl definition and appears straight. Heat damage occurs when the protective layer called the cuticle has been worn away leaving the hair shaft and fibers exposed. Using excessive heat can also cause the chemical formation of our hair to be altered as the elasticity in our hair is lost due to dryness.
What are your experiences with heat damage?
Use products that serve as barriers
Post detangling, instead of using a body towel to blot the hair dry, use a microfiber towel and wring excess water from each braid. Allow the hair to air dry for approximately 20 minutes. Then unbraid each section individually and evenly distribute a dollop amount of protective product throughout. Retwisting or rebraiding this section will help to elongate the strands and make for a shorter blow drying period. Using products that contain glycerin or propylene glycol are suggested as these ingredients fight against water evaporation. Considering I'll be using a more natural approach, when I straighten I will use grape seed oil! It can stand up to 420 degrees!
Use the low heat setting on the blow dryer
Using the highest heat setting causes water on your strands to evaporate quickly, technically removing all moisture in a flash. This rapid removal of moisture causes the hair cuticle to crack similar to cracked lips in the winter. After evenly applying a heat protective product, attach a nozzle to the blow dryer and use the low heat to create the straight hair style. Follow up with a swipe of cool air to encourage those limp hairs to plump up! Additionally, be sure you pick the best blow dryer for your hair type!
Turn down the heating dial
Mrs. Cerise informed me that my goal when blow drying shouldn't be to get my hair straight, but rather dry my hair. She suggested that I only spend 5 minutes at the most to blow dry my hair. After this timing if my hair is still moist, wait it out until it air dries. Applying heat to wet hair causes bubbles in the strand that burst and cause more damage. No, thank you! She also informed me that if I smell my hair, the dial is up too high! And, if you have an iron that doesn't have a gauge use a moist towel to pass through the flat iron prior to applying to hair.
Accept that natural hair has volume
If you plan to straighten your hair, be aware that it's just like asking a 5 year old to sit still! Although the child (your hair) will listen at first, eventually he or she will go back to talking just as your hair will revert back to its curls! Straightening the hair is a temporary chemical change and as we all know water reverses this change. Therefore, body vapors (sweat), humidity, showering, and even some products will cause the big hair effect! In the best health of your hair, don't run to your nearest heating tool! Instead, keep your hair wrapped up as soon as you get home and only wear it down when in the company of others.
Refrain from styling with heating tools
Perhaps you've experienced heat damage or possibly want to prevent it from happening, the most obvious precaution to take is eradicate heating tools all together. Go with a no-heat regimen, increase protein intake and turn to hair styles that require air drying versus blow drying or hood dryers. Turn to protective styles that are doubly pleasing: heat-safe and exposure-safe, such as The Twisted Frenchie, The Smiling Frenchie, The Stega, braid-outs, roller sets and rod sets.