Friday, January 25, 2013

Natural Hair Nightmares.... Heat Damage

It's the two words dreaded most by naturalistas alike; the solution usually means cutting hair you worked so hard to grow. It's the reason why most naturals avoid the flat irons and shun the blow dryers.  *Que scary music* Heat Damage. I hate to even talk about it but its a must. It's not as enviable as say single strand knots, but every time we straighten our hair we run the risk of getting heat damage. We will talk about what causes heat damage, how to cope, and ways to prevent it.
Severe Heat Damage Before My
Healthy Hair Journey

What exactly is heat damage?
Heat damage is when the cuticle which is the outer most layer of the hair strand that works as a shell to protect the inner fibers has been damaged. Damaged cuticles tend to split and hair breaks because that protective layer is not in tact. And unfortunately, once its damaged, it cannot be repaired. I also wondered why heat damaged hair lost its curl and drastically differed from the rest of the hair. It's because when the hair has been damaged by heat, it breaks down the hair structure and reduces the hair's elasticity. So the ability for the hair to curl back after that straightening session decreases if heat damage is present.

What causes heat damage?
Heat. Pretty simple. Flat irons, blow dryers, curling irons, hot combs, hot rollers, any styling tool that uses heat to manipulate the hair can cause heat damage. Even the sun's UV rays can cause heat damage that's why a lot of products are now equipped with sunscreen.

Now that you have heat damage, how do you cope?
Depending on the severity of the damage, the only solution is to cut it off. When I've experienced heat damage, I gradually snip it off until its gone. Some naturalistas decide to do a semi or even a big chop to get rid of the damage. If your hair, especially the ends, feels crunchy and brittle even after moisturizing and you see that your ends are splitting, be proactive and cut the damage off. It will do more harm if left alone.
If the damage is not as severe, like my recent bout with heat damage, treating the hair with deep conditioning and good moisturizing products can restore the elasticity and bring back the spring in your curls. Give your hair some TLC. Do hot oil treatments/deep conditioning treatments weekly to restore the hair.
Heat damage can be a nuisance especially for natural ladies who like to wear wash and gos because it is clearly visible. Wearing your hair in sets like braid outs disguise the damage and allows you to gradually cut it away. If you are still unsure, seek professional help from a certified natural hair care stylist.

Slight Heat Damage

Ways to prevent heat damage.
There are a few ways to prevent heat damage but not necessarily eliminate it unless you just say no to all heat. Of course, limiting your hair to the exposure of heat decreases the chances of getting heat damage.
  • Using a heat protectant before you use heat creates a barrier between the heat and your hair cuticle. There are varying views in regards to heat protectants. Some use them, some don't see the point. I use them. When you use a protectant and then apply the heat, the product is what is "burning" and not your hair. Humectants or products that draw moisture to the hair is good to use before you use heat. It allows the hair to absorb as much moisture as possible because the heat will definitely dry it out.
  • Turning down the heat. You really don't need to put the flat iron on 450. The blow dryer can do the same thing on low heat and not high. The higher the heat the more damage done to the hair cuticle.
  • Toss out old products and invest in good ones. Older tools tend to do more damage because you will have to use higher settings to get the same results with a lower setting with newer tools. With newer, good products, you also don't have to do more than one pass or going over the hair with the tool which is important in reducing the chances of getting heat damage.
  • Making sure your hair is healthy before you straighten. If you already have chronic dry, damaged hair, adding heat will create even more damage. Protein treatments before hand will give the hair strands some strength and repair brittle hair.

Have a Super weekend and see you next post!!


  1. Thank you for these tips! Is there any particular brand of protectant you recommend?

  2. You're welcome! I recommend a brand call turn up the heat, tresemme makes a good one. Also argon oil is a great natural heat protectant.



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