Photo Courtesy of Natalie Live
Many curlies avoid heat styling to protect their curls from breakage, frizz, and an altered curl pattern. Avoiding heat styling is the best way to avoid thermal damage, however, there are ways to incorporate heat styling and still have your healthy curls.  Let’s start with the process of heat styling.

What happens when we heat style your hair?

Tonya McKay, cosmetic chemist and Naturally Curly writer, says
, “Application of heat to the hair breaks hydrogen bonds, and the use of tension or pressure allows hair to be re-shaped so that the new hydrogen bonds form to support the new shape (straight or curled).” When heat styling, it is best to thoroughly cleanse your curls, use a heat protectant, and avoid high temperatures (over 400 degrees) to protect your curls from damage.

Before you heat style

Before heat styling, it is best to shampoo and condition your hair to create a fresh slate. Product buildup will cause the hair to weigh down when heat styling. In addition, it can also cause a burnt smell. After you rinse out your conditioner, apply a heat protectant throughout your curls. When I heat style my hair, I use Motions Heat Styled Straight Leave-In Conditioner before blow-drying. It is best to section your thoroughly detangled hair into manageable sections before blow-drying, because it allows you to have more control. Lastly, blow-dry your hair with a comb attachment or a paddle brush for smoother results and to create a great foundation for flat ironing.  If you are flat ironing your hair, apply a heat protectant serum before styling. When I straighten my hair, I use Motions Heat Styled Straight Finish Sealer. When searching for a heat protectant serum, it is important to look for key ingredients like silicones. They will protect your hair during heat use and help moisture retention. Natural oils are not sustainable to high heat and you have to be aware of the temperature of hair tools. 

Read more: Why Oil Doesn't Work as a Heat Protectant

It’s best to use a flat iron with a controllable heat setting. Depending on the width of your strands, the flat iron should not be used any higher than 400 degrees if you would like to avoid heat damage. The finer your stands, the lower the temperature should be.

After you heat style

When shampooing your heat-styled hair, check to see how your curls respond. Do your they revert back to normal? Are they looser, less defined, or frizzier? If your curls are responding different, use a strengthening conditioner to snap your curls back in place. It may take a few wash days for your curls to revert back. If your curls never revert, then you have two options: cut the heat damage from your hair or grow the heat damage out. Once the heat damage is done, there is no turning back. You can look back at your experience to see what you could have done differently and learn from it.

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