Photo Courtesy of Natalie Live
Heat damage is the enemy of progress in the natural hair community. No curly girl ever wants to hear that her hair has heat damage. When I was relaxed, I put heat on my hair every single day. I had no idea that I was damaging my hair by doing this. Now that I look back, it wasn’t the best idea to be treating my hair this way, which is why my hair would never retain length past a certain point. My hair was brittle and would always break off. Now I seldom use heat and always apply a heat protectant when blow-drying my hair to prevent heat damage. I also never flat iron or straighten my hair myself; I only go to my stylist for that service. 

People often ask me if heat damage can be reversed. I’ve heard so many tips and tricks on how to possibly reverse heat damage from using beer on your hair to protein treatments to revert your curls. To answer your questions, we spoke with one of my favorite stylists, Nadling Pollard of Salon Pressure in Chicago, to ask her all about heat damage.

What causes heat damage? 

Pollard: “Heat damage is caused when a person uses heat styling tools that are either too hot or repeatedly uses heat styling tools on the same section of hair. If you use very high heat settings such as 400-450 degrees, then you should only press the hair a maximum of two times. Thermal styling your hair midweek can also cause heat damage, which is why it should be avoided. I advise my clients that if they need to use heat again during the week, pick one day midweek when they feel they need to look a particular way or style to use heat and don’t do it again. Using minimal to no heat during the week will help to avoid heat damage while styling at home.”

Can heat damage be reversed?

Pollard: “Heat damage can be addressed if it’s not too severe. When the cuticle layer of the hair strand is scorched or overdressed, it won’t curl up as if it were untouched. Some of the curls can be revived if the over processing is minimal. This can be done through professional protein treatments, but know that this process may not fix your hair completely. If you still have stringy bits of hair that won’t curl, then you will eventually have to cut them off.”

What is “heat training?”

Pollard: “Heat training” can happen without scorching or singeing the hair but must be done by a very thoughtful and careful stylist. Heat training is the loosening of one’s natural curl pattern through the regular application of heat. It will require some consecutive visits to your local professional and you should take a break by getting a set style to renew your curl pattern.” 

Loosening the curl pattern by repeatedly using heat is just another form of heat damage, even if the popular term is "heat training." I have never tried it, but everyone is different and some curly girls have done this and liked the results.

Have you experienced heat damage? Did you consult with a stylist to revive your hair?

What's next?

These are the the 5 telltale signs of heat damage.

NaturallyCurly writer Charlene Walton decided not to cut her heat damage, this is why.

Follow these three steps to help prevent heat damage

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