I like to define myself as the rebel in the curly hair community. Don't get me wrong, I love my curls, but most of all I like the fact that curly hair is so versatile. I can easily pull off a straight style the same way I can rock a cascade of curls.
It took me a bit of time to master the ability to mold my hair as I want it to be. Here are my ultimate and fool-proof secrets to wearing your hair straight, with the least amount of damage possible (and if you already saw my hair, you know it's possible to have extremely long healthy hair even if you straighten it).
1. Prep the hair: Use a protein deep conditioner prior to straightening the hair. My favorite is the Living Proof Recovery Mask or the Briogeo Repair Don't Despair Mask. This will fill the gaps in the hair cortex, making the hair more resistant.
2. Be sure that your hair has the proper amount of moisture too! Hair that is too saturated in proteins can be hard and breaks more easily, so maintain a good balance in your daily routine and use proteins when you need an heavy duty protection.
3. Use an effective leave-in: Search a leave-in that is water based to add moisture (aka elasticity) to the strands before straightening it. My favorite is the Living Proof PHD Leave In. It has also heat protection in it!
4. Use a heat protectant: This step is extremely crucial. It's important to understand what are the ingredients that give us protection against heat: silicones (yes!) are the most effective, and allow also your brush to glide through the hair minimizing breakage. Then proteins (soy protein, keratin, wheat... You got it!), and ceramides. My favorite heat protectant is the Alterna Bamboo Heat Protectant, or if you are on a budget, the Tresemmé Thermal Creations Heat Protectant.
5. Detangle: Make sure your hair is 100% tangle-free before starting! The tugging and ripping on tangled hair is the first cause of breakage! Detangle your hair in the shower after letting the conditioner sit for a while.
6. Use quality appliances: Choose a blow dryer that has a nozzle (is there still someone that doesn't use a nozzle?!), a good wattage (from 1800w to 2400w is perfect), ions and infrared heat. If you can splurge, the T3's are the best out there. If you live in Europe or you want a cheaper alternative, try the Sony Protect Hair Dryer. It has a "temperature protect" setting that allows you never to use too much heat on the hair!
7. Invest in a good brush: Choose a ceramic round brush. The best one you can find is one that changes color when the temperature is too high. Ceramic brushes smooth hair better than boar bristle brushes, with less heat. Buy two brushes, a big one for larger sections, and a small one for details and the front part.
8. Dry the hair 80% of the way before using the brush: You can save your hair a bit of heat putting it in a microfiber towel and letting it dry that way, or blast the hair with cold to warm heat, paying attention not to tangle it. Wet hair doesn't hold the shape, and you have to spend more time on every strand, tugging and heating it, which equals more damage.
9. 4 sections: I divide the hair in half at ear level, and then the section in other two parts, right and left. It keeps your wet hair away from the dried hair and allows you to be more ordinate. Feel free to try more sections if your hair is curlier! Start always from the bottom and make your way up to the top.
10. Dry stubborn areas (like bangs) first: If you let them dry too much, they will curl and they will never be super straight. So attack those bangs first, then pin curl them away. It's also useful to use your small brush for this areas.
11. Use the lowest heat temperature possible: Start with cold hair (fine hair can be molded also with cold hair!) and if that doesn't work, increase the heat gradually.
12. Dry every section 100%: Never go to the next section unless you are sure the hair you are working on is perfectly dry. Have you already experienced the "straight hair to poofy hair in minutes" situation after you straighten it? It's because your hair still had too much moisture in it which allowed them to swell once you finished your hard work: not a pretty look!
13. Blast hair with cold air to lock the style in place and remove the last humidity. Dry the scalp if you sweated during the process (hey, it's a good arm workout).
14. Seal the hair with a serum or oil: I like pure argan oil, just a drop.
1. Use a flat iron: This is a big no-no. Blowdryers use lower temperatures to give you the same results. It's just a matter of practicing and right tools (brushes...). Save the flat iron for little touch up's (like stubborn hairline curls) but don't use it on the whole head.
2. Use water based products the days after: Water will revert the hair back to curly. Make sure the products you are using on your straight hair are water free (that means oil based or silicone based). Stay also away from humectants and glycerin.
3. Wash your hair more than 2x week when straightening: Try to extend your style with dry shampoos so that you don't stress your hair too much.
4. Pretend too much: You know your hair. If you have baby fine bleached hair, don't think you wont ruin your hair straightening it. You will. So be honest with your hair and know if you can actually do it.
5. Over-stress your hair: Choose one of many evils. If you want to wear straight styles often, forget the bleached look, the colored hair. Colored and bleached hair are already super fragile, so you can't use the same amount of heat of someone with virgin hair.
6. Forget about heatless options: If you have time, you can use one of this method to straighten your hair without heat: Curl Formers, wraps, curlers...
7. Concentrate all the heat on the ends: Dry the roots first, leave the ends for last, and don't over brush them. Your ends are the most fragile part of your hair!
8. Hate silicones: I am all about silicone free products for my curls (aka CG method) but when it comes to straightening hair, I enjoy the protection they give me. So don't be afraid to use them (you can easily wash them out with a bit of shampoo).
9. Forget that it's YOUR hair. YOU decide how to wear it. Don't let anyone tell you that you are not "natural" because you want to play with your hair.
Nora Huber (YouTube: Shalimarcat) shared with us her commandments on straightening fine, wavy-curly hair without using a flat iron. Follow on her on Instagram here.