Thursday, December 26, 2013

Avoiding Heat Damage

Hey, HHJs!  Since I went natural, I have had a fear of heat damage.  As a result, I avoided heat straightening my hair altogether.   However, this summer I figured that my fear was silly and that I simply needed to get over it.  It has taken me a good 6 months, but I am finally straightening my hair.

As with anything else, I immediately started to research the best tips to prevent heat damage.  Here is some of what I already knew from healthy hair journey and what I’ve learned:

  1. Moisturize and your hair before applying any heat.  This may seem counterintuitive because water reverts straightened hair, but it is important to keep the hair moisturized because using heat will evaporate water from your cuticle.  When too much moisture evaporates from the hair or if the moisture evaporates too quickly, it can cause the hair to become brittle and crack.  Moisture also helps absorb and dissipate heat through the hair.  Thus, a good moisturizing conditioner is important.
  1. Strengthen your hair before applying heat.  Use protein to reinforce your hair strands.  Heat damage comes from a loss of structural integrity to the hair strand, which is made up of protein. 
  1. Make sure your hair is thoroughly clean before applying heat.  You would not want to bake in any dirt that is sitting on your hair.  Also, clean hair heats more slowly than dirty hair.
  1. Buy Reputable Heat Tools.  It is good to be frugal, but don’t be so cheap that you burn all of your hair off in the process.  Your flat iron should have a temperature gauge on it so that you can adjust it to the proper setting.  Your blow dryer should have multiple settings, including low and cool.

  1. Use heat tools on the lowest setting possible.  If your hair is unhealthy you should not be using heat; but, even if it is healthy, you have to be careful.  Healthy hair normally burns at about 450 degrees, but damage and scorching can occur at lower temperatures.  This risk is increased if you have fine strands.  JC of The Natural Haven has an interesting article on what happens to the hair at various temperatures.  Based on her article, the hair's structure begins to change at 320-347 degrees, well before burning.
  1. Minimize the amount of heat used.  If possible, do not use a blow dryer and a flat iron.  Rather, airdry first, then use a flat iron.  Blow dryers “flash dry” the hair, which can make the hair dry, brittle and more prone to cracking.  Doubling up on heat also increases the risk of heat damage.  Also, limit the amount of passes that you do with the flat iron and try not to keep the flat iron on your hair for more than 3-4 seconds.  I’m sure you’ve seen the Youtube video of the girl, who did not know this lesson (if not, here it is).
  1. Use heat protectant.  Christina of The Mane Objective has an article with a good list of heat protectant ingredients.  Beauty Brains also talks about what to look for in a heat protectant for blow drying vs. a heat protectant for flat ironing. For blow drying, look for glycerin and propylene glycol because they slow water evaporation, and hydrolyzed wheat protein polysiloxane copolymer (a protein-silicone hybrid) because it decreases the risk of cracking.  For flat ironing, look for conditioners that can penetrate the hair strand, like cetrimonium chloride.

  2. Take Your Time.  Thoroughly detangle beforehand, which will make straightening easier and it will ensure that you do not rip your strands if using a comb attachment.  Make sure your hair is dry before using the flat iron so that you do not boil your strands from the inside.  
What tips do you have for healthy heat styling and avoiding heat damage?

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