Sometimes heat damage sneaks up on you, and by the time you realize the extent of the issue, it’s so extreme that a haircut seems like your only solution. Heat damage is not technically reversible, so getting rid of the damaged hair is sometimes a painful-but-necessary step in restoring your hair’s health.
But you don’t need to leap straight to grabbing the scissors and chopping your damaged hair off. You may still be able to save those curls or tide yourself over until the damage grows out!
Here are a few tricks to try before cutting off your heat damage.
Lower the heat
If your hair is already heat damaged, then adding more heat is only going to make the situation worse. If your blow dryer or flat iron is your BFF, it may be hard to take a complete break, but that’s really the best route for the sake of your hair.
If you absolutely can’t take a break from the heat, then lower it. Stick to 350 degrees or less, and drastically reduce the frequency with which you use heat tools. Always use a heat protectant before you apply heat to your hair.
Your hair is made of protein, and heat can alter the structure of the proteins in the hair, resulting in a different texture (i.e. those long, stringy bits”>. Protein treatments, such as the ApHogee 2 Step Protein Treatment, help reconstruct the hair cuticle and encourage your old curl pattern to come back. Some curlies can be sensitive to protein treatments, so make sure to follow the directions carefully. Always follow with a great conditioner.
Deep conditioning is always important for curly hair, but you should step up the intensity when your hair is damaged. Opt for a rich, nourishing deep conditioner, like the tgin Honey Miracle Hair Mask or the Soultanicals Afrotastic Curl Elastic Deep Conditioning Treat. Increase the conditioner’s level of penetration by warming the mask before you apply it to your hair, using a steamer, or using a hair dryer attachment. Deep condition 2-3 times weekly until you see results.
Hair stylist April Kayganich of Austin, Texas swears by a stand-alone Olaplex treatment for her clients with heat damage.
“Olaplex is a bond building treatment that helps to add disulfide bonds to the hair and crosslink any damaged bonds to make the hair healthier again,” she explained to NaturallyCurly.
“It won’t be remedied in just one treatment however. It depends on the degree of damage.”
You have to go to a salon professional to get an Olaplex treatment done.
“Olaplex #1 is mixed with water and applied to the hair. After 5 minutes, you will add the Olaplex #2 to the hair as well, comb through and let sit for 20 minutes,” April said.
“You will also have to do Olaplex #3 treatments weekly at home and you can purchase through Sephora’s website or Olaplex’s website.”
Dusting vs. cutting
Another trick is to dust the ends of your hair rather than cutting them. “Dusting” means removing only the split ends of the hair. It’s much less drastic than cutting your hair or even trimming it; it’s subtle enough that you can’t tell any hair has been cut at all.
The ends of your hair are typically the most damaged, and that’s also where the heat damage is most visible. If you leave the split ends, the damage will also travel up the hair shaft, so it’s better to get rid of the ends if possible. By dusting rather than cutting the hair, you don’t have to lose any length. As your hair grows out, you can continue trimming it bit by bit until all of the damage is gone.
If you don’t want to cut off the damage and need something to tide you over while you grow it out, protective styles are your friend. This is a great time to experiment with braids, locs, weaves, and wigs. Just make sure that you also continue to nourish and rebuild your hair underneath!
If you’ve had heat damage, did you cut it off or not? How did it work out?