Having been natural all my life and knowing the powerful reversibility of my hair, I was completely unfazed by the threat of heat damage.

My 4c coils could not hold a straightening to save their lives, so when I made the conscious decision to get my hair pressed after nearly 4 years, you can imagine how cool my demeanor was as I sat in the salon chair. I had even come to the shop with my hair already washed and blow-dried. Not since I found myself in my best friend’s kitchen right before undergrad graduation a few years back had I even seen a hot comb. I honestly did not even think it would hold, but after extensive research and a rather detailed conversation with a hairdresser at a black hair salon in LA regarding my natural texture, I figured I would give it a chance.

Since I am only used to my hair in its most natural state, each time I get my hair pressed I can hardly recognize myself.

I walked out of the salon feeling brand new, admiring my actual length in every window with full hair flips every chance I got! Heat damage was the furthest thing from my mind. After about three weeks as expected, my curls began to make their way back on the scene, starting with my edges and then my roots. The hairdresser told me I used too much oil in my hair last time and if I decided to come back she would agree to wash it for me. This way, the straight texture would last longer. Feeling a bit arrogant about the versatility and bounce back of my hair, I decided, why not? I made another appointment to see just how straight my hair could get. Part of me underestimated the hand of any hairdresser going up against my curls.

Long story short, I walked out of the shop again with weightless feathery flips and curls that showed off my true length once again.

It lasted for about a month, which was longer than I had anticipated. When I grew tired of it and was ready to wash, the horror that was heat damage quickly ensued. Needless to say, I was absolutely mortified! Scraggly and partially straightened ends with not a real curl in sight was now my nightmare. I immediately blamed myself, contemplating reaching for the scissors as punishment for arrogance and neglect.

I immediately blamed myself, contemplating reaching for the scissors as punishment for arrogance and neglect.

One of my friends had to urge me to find other alternatives, just so I would not cut it. Before I knew it I found myself back on the computer doing the same amount of extensive research for treatments as I had done to find a hair salon in the first place. I watched what felt like a thousand videos and pulled a few protein treatments to counteract the damage. After a few weeks, slowly but surely my curls began to come back but a few ends on the right side of my head were still straight. I knew that there was no coming back for my ends since I hadn’t had a trim in quite some time. I knew they were pretty much dead and gone.

Following acceptance, I began to get innovative with my techniques to manipulate my hair and slowly grow it back. I knew because my ends were straight that they seemed never ending. I took mini perm rods and after twisting my hair I’d put them on the ends to create the illusion of curls.

I knew they were pretty much dead and gone.

To my surprise, everybody liked the end result, including myself.

You would be surprised to see what happens when you get creative and find different ways to counteract the after-effects of heat damage. The first thing to remember is that it is not the end of the world, and there are many ways to combat heat damage. You can freak out initially - you need that time to panic and process what’s going on - but do not stay there.

My advice to you

Calm down, breathe. Put your hair away and place all that energy built up from the panic into your research.

Second, keep in mind that it is going to take some time and it won’t be instant; so practice patience with your hair. It will be hard at first, but I promise it will get easier as you move on number 3. 

Third, take this opportunity to give your hair and your hands a break to try out new protective styles. When your hair is away, you will definitely spend less time worried about it because you won’t even see it, so just go ahead and get the twists, try crochet braids or find a new wig. Try to choose innovation and patience over panic and sheers, in the end it is just another journey, which means another opportunity to learn and be inspired.

You’re beautiful either way, and I can see it from here.

Follow Khadija on Instagram @thepoetessdij and follow her personal blog, The90sAesthetic.com