7 Ways to Stronger, Longer, Healthier Hair: Part 4 (Heat Damage)

 ***Photo Provide by: Dashae Davis***

Hey ladies welcome back! We are knee deep into the seven ways to get your hair from neck length to waist length, so it’s only right that we are forced to face one of our biggest oppressors…heat damage! With the standard of beauty predominately being that of bone-straight hair, it makes sense that many women have turned to heat styling such as rollers sets, blow outs, silk presses, curling wands, and the infamous flat irons to accomplish this look. Kinky hair and curly hair have so often been frowned upon and view as less than that even now with many facets of the beauty world embracing our textures to some extent, we still feel the need to straighten it. Or for some who are like me, we just like to see the full length of our hair and feel the weight of it on our backs every once in a while.

So what is heat damage? According to the website CurlyNikki.com, heat damage is when the hair is heated to a point where the protein bonds are permanently changed causing the curls not to revert back to their original pattern. Not only does your hair not revert back, it becomes hard to keep the moisture levels up to par in your hair and this can lead to all kinds of dryness and yes breakage. Luckily, there are several thing you can do to avoid heat damage which will aid in keeping the length of your hair healthy. However, keep in mind that there is always a chance of heat damage occurring any time you use heat… so just like sex educators say…the best protection is abstinence!

The first layer of protection for your hair is to deep condition it. A deep conditioner will impart moisture into your hair which can help protect your strands from the heat. Always look for a conditioner that contains conditioning alcohols and other conditioning agents like cetrimonium bromide in the top five ingredients.

The second thing is to use a heat protectant after you apply your leave in. A heat protectant is meant to do exactly what it sounds like…protect your hair from the damaging effects of various heating tools. Heat protectants are formulated with ingredients that are used to disperse heat evenly and quickly to prevent damage. You should look for products that contain silicones, polymers and hydrolyzed protein. According to The Brightest Blub in the Box, PVP/DMAPA is the best ingredient to protect against heat. So if you are out shopping for a protectant be sure to turn it over and look for these ingredients on the back of the bottle.

No matter how much you deep condition or how much protectant you spray on your hair, the temperature setting you use will have a major impact on whether your hair ends up damaged. Many heat protectants claim to protect all the way up to 450 degrees, but this is an extreme temperature and honestly the higher the temperature you use the greater the chances to end up with limp, fried hair that will eventually have to be chopped off. I personally never go above 380 because this is not only well below what Tresemme Thermal Creations says it protectants against, it’s also the temperature that doesn’t leave my hair hot to the touch afterwards or smelling like brunt rubber. If you are seeing a lot of smoke as your run the iron down your hair or smelling a strong burnt smell, there is a good chance that your temperature is too high. According to Curly Nikki, the protein bonds in hair begins to break down (permanent damage) between the temperatures of 419 and 455…so I would advise you to use a temperature below 419 to be on the safe side.

You should also be very choosey about what flat irons you use when straightening. All flat irons are not created equal and some will leave your hair falling out in your hands. Always look for ceramic flat irons. These irons help disperse heat quickly and evenly which protects your hair. You should also look for irons that along with ceramic says they are ionic and tourmaline. These irons give off negative ions to get you smoother, shiner, frizz free hair. You also need to buy flat irons that show you the actual temperature and not just numbers or an on-off button. This will allow you to know exactly how much heat you are putting on your hair and adjust it according to your hair needs.

So now that you have a great conditioner, heat protectant and flat iron you should be able to flat iron as often as you like…right? On the contrary, how often you use heat will also determine the health of your hair.  Even when your hair is protected there is still some degree of heat reaching it. If you flat iron every week then eventually you will see changes in your hair from the breakdown of proteins caused by the heat. Also flat ironing in the summer is not a good idea because your hair will revert a lot quicker which will only make you want to apply more heat to force it to lay straight. Learn to embrace your hair texture and try wearing your hair in natural styles during the summer months. Then only flat iron once or twice during the winter time. I flat ironed once this year and will not do it again until the beginning of next year. This helps keep my hair from being heat styled too often.

Lastly, remember that everyone’s hair is different. Some people might flat iron often and never see heat damage; however you might do it once and damage your entire head. The key is weighing your desire for straight hair against your desire for healthy long hair. When I flat iron, I don’t crank the temperature up because I know I don’t want to damage my hair. Instead I settle for the fluffier straight look instead of a bone-straight look. This allows me to see the length of my hair without subjecting my hair to well above the 400 degree temperature that it would take to get it bone-straight. Just remember our hair was made to be gloriously kinky…the sooner we accept that the sooner we will see straight hair as a fun way to switch it up ever blue moon instead of the standard of beauty.


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