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Let's Talk About It... The Real Cause of Heat Damage

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

The temperature has dropped. The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and everything is pumpkin spice.'Tis the season for blowouts and silk presses, right?

Well, not every natural thinks so. The use of heat is one topic I feel the natural hair community is very divided on.

You have those naturals who have no issue with heat every now and then, so once or twice out of the year they get a silk press and then there's an anti-heat natural peering in the corner like this...

preparing themselves to give them a mouthful about HEAT DAMAGE!

There's a common misconception upon the natural community that heat damage comes from heat alone, but the truth is that heat damage comes from using heat IMPROPERLY.

So let's talk about it! What are the real causes of heat damage? And is all heat bad?

The Main 3 Causes of Heat Damage

Not using a heat protectant

You wouldn't take a dish out of the oven without oven mitts, right? The heat from the pan would burn your hands. In the same way, you do not want to apply heat directly to your hair without first applying a heat protectant.

Good heat protectants slow the rate of water evaporation from your hair, so it is so important to use some form of heat protectant anytime you are applying direct heat to your hair to prevent your hair from losing moisture. Consistently flat-ironing your hair without applying an oil or serum beforehand for protection will consistently dry out your hair and will result in split ends(hair strands that are basically lifeless and dull) or hair breakage.

On top of using a heat protectant, deep conditioning your hair before a silk press is always a good idea to prep your hair with extra moisture before exposing it to direct heat.

Using Excessive Heat

There are many naturals who leave the salon with a silk press and do not know how to maintain their new style. Because of this, they apply excessive heat day after day to their already straightened hair to maintain it.

Hair is very malleable. Once your hair has been pressed out and cooled, it will remain straight. All you really need to do to maintain it is keep it dry. This means to cover your style if there's rain or high humidity outside and prep it at night so it doesn't get ruined in your sleep. Straightening your hair daily after a salon visit is not only unnecessary, but it is damaging and will lead your hair to become dry and brittle, if not completely broken off.

It does not matter how much heat protectant you use if you are consistently frying and manipulating your hair with a flat-iron day after day when it has already been pressed out.

That is an excessive and improper use of heat, especially if you are using a styling tool on the highest heat setting when doing so. This excessive use of heat is depriving your hair of its moisture and striping it of its natural oils.

After a natural gets a silk press and tries to wear their hair curly again, they may notice that their curls are looser or may take a few weeks to snap back. This is NOT heat damage; this is an example of your hair becoming heat trained. This loosened curl pattern is temporary and your curls will bounce back as long as you continue to minimize heat afterwards. Unlike, heat training, heat damage is irreversible. Using excessive heat after a silk press is one way that you can cause heat damage to your hair while it is being heat trained. Learn more about the difference between heat trained and heat damaged hair here.

Once you get your hair straightened at the salon, your style should last you at least a week. Read here to learn some ways to maintain your style without heat after leaving the salon.

Using Heat on Dirty Hair

This is the worse of them all, and even more reason why it is not a good idea to consistently flat-iron your hair after a silk press. When you flat-iron dirty hair, you are baking those dirty particles into your hair.

When can heat be useful?

Believe it or not, there are actually some benefits to using heat on your natural hair.

Here are a few that I can attest to!

Enhance Deep Conditioning

Sitting under a hooded dryer with deep conditioner can help the product to penetrate your strands and evenly supply your hair with the moisture and nutrients it needs, which ultimately leads to healthier hair that is not prone to heat damage. Instead of sitting with your deep conditioner all day to get a good condition, sit under a hooded dryer with it for about 15 minutes and you will get the same or better results.

Reduce Frizz

Diffusing your hair with a blow dryer opposed to letting it air dry will allow your wash 'n go's to last longer and reduce frizz. Sitting under a hooded dryer after putting in a twist or braid out will help the style to hold, reduce frizz and increase moisture. This makes

Low Porosity Hair

Using steam(moist heat) before applying products to your hair can help your strands to better absorb the product. Also, sitting under a hooded dryer with product can produce the same results. Your low porosity hair will thank you for incorporating a little heat into your style and yourself so much time in your routine.


Heat alone will NOT cause your hair to become damaged, and not all uses of heat are bad. It is when you use heat improperly that you put your hair at risk of being heat damaged.

It is also important to add that heat damage is not the only form of damage that natural hair can undergo and if your hair is already damaged from chemicals, harsh styling, lack of moisture, or just overall improper hair care, it is more prone to experiencing damage from heat.

All in all, do not be afraid of heat! Taking good care of your hair, deep conditioning, informing yourself about heat use and using heat properly when used at all will prevent your hair from becoming heat damaged. Maintaining healthy hair habits will prevent your hair from all types of damage. At the end of the day, healthy curls will always bounce back.

So if you are thinking about getting a silk press, go for it! Just keep these precautions in mind. On the other hand let's say you have committed some of the awful heat damaging acts mentioned earlier in this article, and you think your hair is heat damaged. You're probably wondering what now? Do I have to make the big chop to repair heat damaged hair?

The answer is not necessarily!

There are a list of things you can do to get those curls to bounce back.

Read more about it here.

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