We tell you the tools, products and techniques to use when you want a change of pace
While straightening your hair is considered taboo in many curly circles, some curlyheads enjoy a sleek style as a temporary tweak.
If you're considering the straight look once in a while for something different, know there will be consequences. Just how dire are those consequences? Stylists say it depends on the tools and products you use, as well as the techniques. Whenever you flatten textured tresses, it takes time, deep treatments and a lot of tender, loving care for your curls to bounce back.
"Anytime you straighten your hair, it will affect your curls," says Ethan Shaw, a stylist with James Allan Salon in Austin, Texas. "If you want to do it once a month, great. But remember not to let it turn into a vicious cycle because the more you straighten your hair, the less good it's going to look when it's curly. It's a trade off."
For those who want the option of wearing their hair straight, stylists say there are must-follow rules for straightening success. Here, they share their secrets to straightening your textured tresses without wreaking too much havoc on your hair.
Stylists are quick to remind curlies to keep the hair as healthy as possible, especially when it's exposed to intense blasts of heat from a blow dryer or flat iron. One of the critical protectants is a deep-conditioning treatment. Do it often and be consistent (once a week or once a month, depending on the needs of your texture). Aside from treatments, as well as your daily conditioner, stylists recommend using a heat-protectant spray before blowouts. Products with silicones will make it even easier, stylists say. But remember silicones are cosmetic — a quick, but very temporary, fix!
"Anti-frizz serums help smooth the cuticle out fast and prevent frizz," says Stanley of New York's Christopher Stanley Salon, noting that he uses KMS Silk Sheen and Ecru Silk Nectar Serum for his client's blowouts. "Silicone-based products can be hard to dis-tribute through the hair when it's wet, though. A little bit goes an awful long way, so if you put too much it can make your hair look greasy. I usually apply a dab of the product directly to each section for a blowout."
Whatever straightening product you choose, make sure you apply it evenly to your textured tresses— including the back, crown and underneath at the nape of the neck.
"You can also use a heat-protectant, leave-in spray, layered with a straightening gel or serum from the mid-shaft to the ends to protect the hair from heat damage," says Jeanie Syfu, lead TRESemmé Stylist for Bravo TV's reality show "Project Runway."
A big round brush is another important component of a quick, smooth blowout. Stylists suggest choosing a brush with a combination of boar and nylon bristles to make the straightening process the easiest.
"The nylon bristle will help grip the hair and the boar bristle helps to smooth it," Shaw explains.
"The brush needs to give the hair a little tension so you can pull the curl out all the way to the ends," adds Syfu.
While Stanley always has a Mason Pearson brush on hand, he prefers the Mebco Pro Spin Ionic brush for blowouts.
"The brush dries the hair really quickly," Stanley says, "and when you're drying curly hair straight you want to work as fast as possible because once the hair starts drying on its own, it's a lost cause without smoothing it out."
A common problem is choosing a round brush that's simply not big enough for a stick-straight blowout, Stanley says. "You really want to use a brush with at least a two-inch barrel," he recommends.
THE BLOW DRYER
And when choosing a blow dryer, pick a powerful one with at least 1800 watts, multiple heat settings and always use a nozzle attachment— but not too close!
"If you put the nozzle right on the brush when blowing your hair straight, it puts way too much direct heat on your hair," Shaw says. "Aim to keep the concentrated nozzle about an inch away from your hair."
One of the secrets to minimize heat damage, according to Syfu, is to apply your straightening product, then pull your hair back in a ponytail and let it air-dry about 60 percent before sectioning and blowing it out.
"It's less damaging because you're not going completely wet to dry, and you get faster re-sults," Syfu says. To create a straight style with some movement, Syfu also suggests this technique:
"Wrap the hair with the brush around the head in one direction, and start to blow it dry following the nozzle all the way around — almost like using the shape of the head as a roller," she explains. "After drying in one direction, put the hair on the opposite side of the head and dry it the other way. It won't be totally flat to the head, so you'll get really beautiful movement. Then, you can go in and touch up the ends when it's needed."
Meanwhile, Stanley suggests starting blowouts from the front and work your way back. "If you spend so much time blowing out the back, by the time you get to the front it's dry and you have to re-wet it," Stanley explains. "Then, usually you don't allow yourself enough time to do the front — but the front is what people see and what matters most."
THE FLAT IRON
The flat iron is a useful tool in straightening, but it can also be the most destructive to curly hair. Don't use it if you don't have to, Shaw says.
"Any flat iron you put on your hair will damage it," he says. "If you're planning to flat-iron your hair, try blowing it out first. Nobody is wearing their hair completely straight anymore, so you can have a little more body in your hair from blowing it out. Then, only on the very top layer, smooth it with a flat iron, but be very conscious of having that flat iron on your hair for as little time as possible."
And if you must use an iron, choose one with ceramic plates, according to Stanley. And even still, go easy on the pressure. One of the most common mistakes women make with the flat iron is to clamp down too hard on the ends of the hair. Big mistake.
"Start out with tight pressure on the iron near the top of the scalp, then as you get close to the ends release the pressure a bit or you'll fry the ends, and the ends are usually not the problem." Stanley says.
If you're only straightening once in a while, stylists say it likely won't be so tough to bring your curls back to life as long as you follow the rules and don't overdo it. And like anything new, it takes practice so be patient.
"It's not something you're going to learn in five minutes before you go out the door," Stanley cautions. "You really have to sit with a glass of wine with some music and practice. It's tricky to learn how to maneuver the brush and the blow dryer and section out your hair. It's time consuming more than anything else."