I think it's safe to say that one of the biggest fears that a natural has when straightening their hair is heat damage - the thought that months or even years of trying to get healthy hair could be spoiled by getting straightener happy is actually pretty scary, as silly as it might sound! So I wanted to share how I manage to straighten my hair without getting any heat damage and keep my coils in tact!
1. Wash hair and use moisturising protein conditioner
Start with clean hair as you don't want to be pressing old dirt into the hair cuticles. Using a moisturising deep conditioner with protein will help to not only add moisture and help to reduce dryness after straightening, but the protein will also help to strengthen the hair and make it more resilient.
Use the LOC method to seal in moisture and prevent dryness - I would recommend using an oil like coconut oil that has a high burning point.
2. Stretch hair without heat first
Stretching hair prior to straightening will make less work for you to do with the straighteners.
Make sure your hair is fully dry before removing braids/bands or it will just shrink back up once you remove them. I tend to leave my braids in overnight and continue with the process the next morning. Once you take out your braids/bands/bantu knots/ whatever, brush out your hair before straightening.
If you don't have that kind of time or just prefer to stretch hair using a blowdryer then make sure you apply a silicone based heat protectant first, which will coat the hair to protect it from the heat. The tension method is a good way to go as it reduces the manipulation of the hair so there is less chance of breakage.
3. Set your straightener to a temperature your hair can handle
Ideally you want to have the temperature as low as possible so that you can still achieve straight hair but not burn your hair to a crisp! Some people's hair can handle more heat than others and usually fine hair is more fragile than thick hair BUT no-one knows your hair better than you! If your straighteners have no heat dial like my GHDs then this step goes out the window - you just have to make sure you can do everything else possible to protect your hair.
4. Section hair into small parts
5. Apply a silicone based heat protectant
6. Use the comb-chase method to straighten sections with 1-2 passes
You want to pass through your hair with the straighteners the minimum amount of times necessary. Don't hold the straighteners in any one section too long or you're likely to fry your hair, but don't take it too fast or your hair won't get the full effect of the straighteners (yeah I know, kind of confusing right?).
7. Finish off with a little bit of oil
I usually finish off by rubbing a small amount of coconut oil in my hands and smoothing it through my hair, particularly focusing on the ends to give some extra shine and prevent frizz.
8. Maintain hair throughout the week with minimal heat
DAY TIME: From experience I have found that a simple bun can preserve straightness during the day when outside, especially when the weather is less than ideal. Also I think the number one rule is to ALWAYS have an umbrella (or a hood)!
NIGHT TIME: Wrap hair at night or put it into two loose canerows or braids with a headscarf.
SHOWER TIME: Wear a headscarf or shower cap to protect hair from any water droplets and the humid air in the bathroom to prevent it from reverting.
9. Returning back to kinky curly coily
Wash hair and use a protein treatment to deep condition with and rebuild/strengthen the hair after the heat use. This should help to put some spring back in your hair and hopefully you'll see minimal damage!
Here's how my straight hair came out a couple of weeks ago following these steps:
Apologies for the photo quality - I was at home left my camera at uni :(
After 1 week:
Still pretty straight but the ends and the edges near the front and at the back were starting to get a bit frizzy. I only ran the straighteners through once during the week, so I'd say it held up pretty well!