When I was relaxing my hair, probably the biggest thing I did that kept it from staying healthy was the amount of flat-ironing required daily to keep my bangs from getting wavy and curling up into themselves. When I went natural, I heard so many stories of heat damage on natural hair — including the favorite tale of the curls that never curled back after an unprotected heat session. As it turns out, there are many ways to incorporate heat into your hair regimen that aren't harmful at all. In fact, some heat treatments even come with hair benefits that can prevent tangling and keep your hair from breaking.
My first blow out happened a year after I went natural. I was craving length retention in a serious way and once I saw it, I had to have it. At first, I was nervous every time I blew out my hair; I was terrified that my curls wouldn't bounce back and it would become dry and broken, just like the hair I had hacked off had. Most of my natural gal pals weren't applying any heat on their hair, so I had to turn to the internet for tips to safely apply heat to my hair.
My hair tangles almost immediately when wet which means that I usually get caught preparing for a twist out or braid out on soaking wet hair. That's not ideal, since hair is more fragile when wet, but if I were to let it air dry then, I'm going to be kneading through the same knots I just got out in my deep condition. That's why I incorporate a blow-out on freshly washed hair — not only am I gearing up for some serious length retention, but I'm also keeping those knots at a minimum therefore keeping my hair detangled for longer.
The truth is, heat is only bad when you ignore the basic dos and don'ts of heat styling. Heat can be your bestest friend in a hot oil treatment, deep protein conditioner, and styling — for whatever reason my hair can stand heat way more than it can stand being in tight braids. To get the benefits and not the baggage of heat, follow these do's and don'ts and please, listen to your 'fro.
1. Don't Get Too Close
One of the biggest hair mistakes I've made since being natural was using a blowdryer directly on my hair. Sure, it was only once, but my hair was not pleased with me. Keep a safe distance between your heat and your hair to avoid damaging and ruining your curl pattern.
2. If You Can't Stand The Heat, DO Get Out of The Bathroom
For naturals, using a low or cool setting is the best way to reduce the chances of getting heat damage. According to Black Girl Long Hair's excellent guide to heat styling, an ionic blow- dryer has the ability to break up water which allows hair to dry quicker. Purchase a blow-dryer with at least more than two settings — natural hair needs something more than "High" and "Low."
3. Don't Ignore Present Hair Woes
Ladies, know your limits. If your 'fro is suffering from serious split ends and/or dryage, do not even attempt to get a blow-dryer anywhere near it. Heat can zap some of the moisture out of your locks. Avoid applying heat on damaged hair because only healthy hair will benefit from heat styling.
4. Do Section Your Hair
Section your hair in small segments and dry them one at a time. This helps avoid overheating, which often happens when applying heat on large clumps of hair.
5. Do Start With A Clean Slate
Heat styling works best on clean, freshly detangled hair. For one, you get to keep the style longer, so you apply heat less often. Plus, any product you've already applied can have a weird reaction to the heat, drying out your strands, making them prone to breakage.
6. Do Wear Protection
You wouldn't go out into a blizzard without a coat or lay out in the sun for hours without applying SPF, right? The same goes for your hair when blasting it with heat. Apply a hair sealant to your curls before you flip the on switch. The sealant will act as a barrier between those fragile coils and the heat which will significantly decrease the chances of heat damage and seal in the moisture that heat can strip away. This is essential when heat styling for any hair type, not just kinky girls.
7. Don't Stick Around In One Spot
Your blow-dryer should be in constant motion — the last thing you ever want to do is use focus on one patch of hair with direct heat on it. While it may dry your hair quicker it will also be a quicker road to split ends. Speaking of, you should never focus the heat directly on your ends. The hair down there is already more dried out and prone to breaking.
Image: Giphy; Kristin Collins Jackson; jamelah e./Flickr