Updated: Jan 6, 2022
You've gotten your hair straighten and you notice a difference in your curls. Is your hair heat damaged? Or is it just becoming heat trained?
Put those scissors down sis, and let's find out the real before you decide to make the big chop!
What is Heat Training?
Heat training is just what it sounds like; it's the process of helping your natural hair adapt to being straightened. The first time you get your hair straightened as a natural, your hair may not be so cooperative. Your hair is strong and those bonds are not easily manipulated, so straightening natural hair for the first time could be a long process. Even after getting your natural hair pressed, just an ounce of humidity or sweat could transform your silky strands right back into a voluminous 'fro.
This is why naturals who plan to get their hair straightened often, ensure that their natural hair is heat trained. This means that they are consistent with getting their hair pressed and practice routines and incorporate products into their routine that will motivate their hair to be more responsive to heat, so that they can get their blowouts with ease and maintain their style for longer periods of time.
This is similar to curl training because in both scenarios the way your hair is consistently worn and manipulated overtime determine how easy it is for your hair to achieve a style and how long it will last in that style. It is possible to be a heat-trained natural and still wear your hair curly; it is all about avoiding habits that could lead to heat damage, practicing healthy hair care and finding a routine that best works for your hair.
Effects of Heat Training
Looser Curl Pattern
One main sign that your hair is becoming heat trained is that you may notice your curl pattern is a bit looser than usual. If you have just washed your hair for the first time after getting it pressed, you may notice that your curls are looser than usual or it is also common that some sections may be different textures than others. This is your hair's way of prepping itself to be straightened again. However, unlike heat damage, if your hair is heat trained you will have to be consistent with straightening it to maintain this new texture.
Within a few weeks of minimizing heat after a blowout, your curls will revert to its natural state. Heat damage is irreversible, but heat trained hair is capable of bouncing back.
Signs of Heat Damage
Heat damage and heat training are both events that significantly manipulate your texture. The main sign of heat trained hair is a looser texture, and though you may see this with heat damage as well, the signs of heat damage can be a bit more severe.
You have Split Ends...
If your hair is heat damaged, you may notice that you now have a lot of split ends. Split ends can result from heat, chemical or styling damage. Split ends occur when the ends of your hair are dried out and weaken beyond repair, so they become split and ragged. They usually appear straight or feel very dry.
Honestly, there is no coming back from split ends. The best thing to do when you have split ends is to cut them off. It is important to get trims frequently to tackle split ends early. If you do not cut off split ends they will travel further up towards the roots of your hair and result in hair breakage or thinning.
You Do These Things Consistently...
Everybody's hair is different, but if you practice these bad heat habits consistently, there's a good chance you might have heat damage or are making your hair more prone to it.
Using Excessive Heat
If you use heat on your hair daily, there's a good chance that your hair is prone to heat damage. With proper maintenance heat styles can last up to a week, so daily heat is unnecessary and extremely damaging to your hair.
Not Using a Heat Protectant
It's always a good idea to prep your hair before applying direct heat. Heat protectant prevents your hair from losing moisture as a result of heat. If your hair loses too much moisture, it will become dry, brittle and weak. If you want to go a step further to ensure your hair is moisturized before getting it flat-ironed, deep condition the day before or the day of. Keeping your hair hydrated is key in maintaining healthy hair and will not only prevent severe heat damage, but promote growth and length retention by reducing breakage.
Flat-ironing Hair without Blow-drying First
When you attempt to straighten wet, damp or tangled natural hair, you are not only making it harder to straighten by consistently flat-ironing tangled pieces, but you now have to use more heat to get it straight and may find yourself applying heat to the same pieces over and over. Blow-drying before flat-ironing does the job of drying and detangling. Blow-drying first will not only prevent you from having to use excessive heat with the flat-iron, but it make your style look smoother and last longer. You can blow dry on a low or cool setting if you would prefer to do so, but do make sure that before you even begin to flat-iron your hair that it is in a dry state and you have gotten most of the kinks out.
You can also use roller setting as alternative to blow-drying your hair. This is a method commonly used in Dominican salons, that works the same if not better than blow drying. With this method, your wet natural hair is detangled and set on rollers. After the rollers are in, you sit under a hooded dryer until your hair has dried so that when you take the rollers out, your natural hair is already stretched and smoothed out. Roller setting is a great way to use less direct heat to achieve your style and makes for a smoother, silkier blowout.
Straightening Dirty Hair
One thing you should never do in any circumstance is flat-iron dirty hair. By doing so, you are sealing dirt into your hair and not only encouraging product build-up, but dirty hair is harder to cooperate, so you will end up applying MORE heat than usual to get your hair straight. Straightening dirty hair is a bad habit that you do not want to start, and if you have, I hope this article encourages you to end that habit immediately. To best prevent heat and styling damage from a silk press, you should always begin on clean, detangled, blown out hair.
Your Hair is Drier than Usual...
Heat has the ability to strip your hair of moisture. If you have made a habit of using high heat on your hair consistently without the use of a heat protectant, you may notice that your hair feels dry even after a wash.
Heat damage has the ability to change the porosity of your hair. If you notice your hair is suddenly high porosity and looses moisture quickly, it can be a sign that you have dried your hair out from using heat improperly.
You are Experiencing Hair Thinning or Breakage...
Unless you have an underlying health condition, you should not be loosing noticeably large portions of hair. Healthy hair sheds, and it is normal to see large amounts of hair coming out after taking out a protective style since hair can trapped in the braids, however, if that is not the case, heat damage could be the cause. Hair thinning or breakage can result from chemical, heat or styling damage. If you have noticed any of the previous signs listed, chances are that you missed them early on and because of all the damage, your hair has weakened to the point of falling out.
This can be an extremely devastating situation, but I want you to know that there is hope. Since the dead hair has already come out on its own, the best thing that you can do in this situation is focus on strengthening your hair and abstaining from heat and high manipulation styling so that your hair can grow back strong and healthy. You can read for more tips here.
What You Can Do About It?
If you think your hair might be heat damaged, there are a few routes you can take to get back your healthy curls. Have a stylist to access the damage and develop a plan. Although starting over is always a good idea, depending on the severity of damage, making the big chop is not the only option. Read this article to learn how to transition from heat damaged hair back to healthy natural curls.