Heat, bleach, or environmentally damaged hair does not have to be final.

Having heat and color damaged hair is no fun.

iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Curly hair can be challenging enough even when hair is totally healthy, so adding any kind of damage, whether from heat, environmental exposure or bleaching, is sure to up the difficulty level by at least a hundred.

Trying to repair fried hair can be a painstaking process and may take many weeks (or even months) to undo, but be patient and try to manage your expectations. There is every reason to believe that your hair will be healthy again given lots of love and time.

Heat damage

Heat damage is literally the bogeyman of the natural hair community and using heat improperly is one of the quickest ways for healthy hair to become fried hair. This explains why so many naturals are deathly afraid of it and avoid the use of heat styling tools or are very conservative when doing so. It can be heartbreaking to go through heat damage, but all is not lost.

According to Nadling Pollard of Salon Pressure in Chicago, it may be possible to undo heat damage provided that the damage is not severe. However, this is not always feasible. Any strands of your curly hair that has been irreversibly damaged will remain straight and unless you plan to transition from heat damage over time, your best bet is to trim and move on. Prevention is always better than trying to fix the problem after the fact, and this is ever more so in the case of heat damage. Ensure you use a heat protectant product such as Cantu Therma Heat Protectant to prevent damage before it happens, and follow these tips for safely straightening your hair.

Environmental damage

The environment in which we exist can play a role in the overall health of our hair. Extremes in temperature can dry our hair out severely and hard water will not only affect the look and feel of one's hair, but will also impact how well products are absorbed and by extension how well they work on our hair. Deep condition your hair frequently if you are in the sun a lot or if you are frequently in extremely hot or extremely cold conditions. If your products suddenly stop working for your hair, test your water to see if it could be the culprit and use a filter if it is. Combat dryness brought on by environmental factors by using a deep conditioner such as MYHoneyChild Olive You Deep Conditioner.

Bleach damage

Bleach (hydrogen peroxide) is used to lighten hair, but that's not all it does. Bleach opens the cuticles of the hair in order to allow pigment molecules to enter the shaft and change the color of the hair. Open cuticles result in hair that is constantly and rapidly losing moisture. This leaves the hair dry, weak, inelastic, and brittle. You will need to stay on top of your regular trims because bleached hair is likely to suffer many of split ends as the integrity of the strand is weakened during the bleaching process. You will need to repair the hair's integrity and restore its moisture content in order to restore health. Curly Hair Solutions Treatment Shampoo is a great product for color treated hair because it helps to restore the hair's elasticity and maintain color vibrancy for a longer period of time so that you'll need to subject your hair to the bleaching process less often.

Have an aggressive plan of attack

Pay attention as you embark on your rehabilitation journey so that you can see how your hair responds to the methods and products you employ. Follow these general steps to undo any damage that may have been done to your hair.

  1. Trim split ends for any area that has thinned and feathered significantly.
  2. Use a protein treatment to help restore the hair's protein structure that has been broken down.
  3. Hydratherma Naturals Amino Plus Protein Deep Conditioning Treatment Follow your protein treatment with deep conditioning moisture treatments to counter the moisture loss.
  4. Use pH balanced products to encourage the hair's cuticle to close. Apple cider vinegar rinses are also helpful for this. Closed cuticles also reduce frizz and increase shine.
  5. Layer your products on to encourage moisture into the hair.
  6. Seal your moisturizers in using oils.
  7. Be patient. The road to recovery is long, but your hair will recover given time and care.

How do you deal with heat damage?

Share with us how you nursed your hair back to health and how long it took you to do so in the comments below.

Vanessa Osbourne

A type 4 naturalista born and raised in Jamaica who is currently adjusting to keeping her natural hair healthy in the cold and beautiful city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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