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Scared To Straighten Your Natural Hair? Let's Debunk The Heat Damage Myths

The fear of heat damage has been instilled in me since I went natural six years ago. Since then, I vowed to take my hair health seriously and put that above all else, unfortunately, straightening my hair didn’t seem to align. People will constantly tell me, “Don’t straighten your hair, it’ll mess up your curls.” I heard this so much that it made me nervous every time I had to do it.


However, I would also see other naturals wear their hair straight, only for it to revert right back to its tight curly pattern. It made me curious, and I started to ask different natural hair stylists whether the myth was true. They all responded, “You can, but not too much.”

In case you're like I was and are a little hesitant about applying heat to your hair out of fear of damage, I want to debunk a lot of the hair-straightening myths so you don’t have to be afraid to switch up your style every now and then. Here’s the truth about heat on natural hair and how to prevent damage.

How often can you flat iron natural hair without damaging it?

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​Straightening Your Hair Isn’t Bad

Don’t listen to the naysayers, the only person you should listen to is your stylist. If you’re considering switching up your curly hairstyles for something sleekier, your stylist will guide you and give you tips on the best way to do that.

One of the benefits of natural hair is that it’s typically stronger and has high elasticity to fight breakage and damage. Plus, natural hair is versatile and not confined to just one style or look. In fact, my hairstylist, Aliya Abbey of Mane Mastery, says:

“One myth that I tend to see when it comes to natural hair is we need to stay away from all heat – blow drying and straightening. While some naturals prefer to avoid heat completely, it can actually work against you. Stretching the hair for trims gives more precision and a better look at the overall health of the strands, whereas curls can camouflage split ends and damage.”

​There’s No Specific Rule Book

Generally, there are best practices for maintaining healthy hair, but truth be told, it’s not one size fits all. Hair texture, porosity, health, etc., all play a role in what you can do and how to do it. What may work for you may not work for others, and vice versa. Aliya continues, “Some hair strands can withstand more heat than others.”

It’s important to know your hair so you can create a routine and plan that works best for you.

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​Moderation and Minimization Are Key

As I mentioned before, too much of anything can be bad for you. When thinking of straightening your hair, protective styles, etc., it’s important to be aware of how often you're manipulating your hair. In general, a lot of naturals can’t keep our hands out of our hair, it kinda comes with the territory.

Implementing a low-manipulation routine can minimize breakage, create stronger hair strands, and promote hair growth. It’s not always what you do but how much you’re doing it. In terms of how often you should straighten your hair, Aliya adds that “straightening more than two times a month could cause weakness in the hair."

Use the Right Tools

I used to think all heat tools were the same. I've always based healthy straightening practices on technique. While that's true, the tools you use are just as important. The cheaper blow dryers and flat irons tend to overheat your hair or not straighten your hair well enough. When it comes to flat irons, it is best to get one where you can control the heat via temperature instead of high and low. This will allow you to see how much heat you're putting on your hair and have control.

On the other hand, if the blow dryer or flat iron isn't of quality, it will require you to pass through your strands more than necessary and possibly burn your hair. "Heat damage is caused by tools that are too hot, tools that are being passed by a section of hair too many times, and/or dehydrated hair. It's important to take note of the type of tools being used and the frequency of straightening. Don't forget to steam and hydrate!"

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​Heat Damage Is Preventable

One last fact about straightening natural hair is that heat damage is preventable, not inevitable. There are a few ways to avoid heat damage, one being steam and deep conditioning your hair. Doing this not only makes the strands more hydrated but also stronger.

Secondly, using a heat protectant is important. It creates a barrier between hair and heat exposure to protect your strands.

Lastly, have a professional do it. If you don't know what you're doing, get someone who does. Using the right care and technique can save you and your hair a lot of stress. Seeing a stylist who specializes in natural hair and silk presses can promote strong, healthy hair and avoid heat damage.

Don't be like me and let the unnecessary fear of heat deter you from your versatility. As long as you prioritize your hair health, you'll be okay. I follow the exact same routine with the help of my stylist, and my hair thickness, elasticity, and health have never been compromised.

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Featured image by Deagreez/Getty Images

 

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