August 12, 2015

Overcome Heat Damage in Natural Hair

by Michelle Thames of

The phrase, 'heat damage' is a something that we all fear in the Natural Hair community! I recently interviewed natural hair vlogger Elle at Curls Unbothered about her experiences with Heat Damage.

1. How long have you dealt with heat damage?
I went “natural” in 2010, my sophomore year of college which for me meant removing all heated appliances from my regimen. I grew tired of having to straighten my edges and roots everyday because I was sweating every time I stepped outside. From 2010 to 2012, I did not let a single morsel of direct heat touch my hair. NO blowdryers, flat irons, curl irons/wands NOTHING! I decided in October 2012 for my first alumni homecoming appearance (HU!) I would straighten my hair, and that was the beginning of the end. I wish I had taken pictures of my hair back then, it grew from shoulder length to mid back length! I was completely amazed and quite frankly feeling myself to the highest degree. I got so many compliments on my hair (its health and growth) that I decided to keep it straight for “a little while longer.” Well, that little while turned into a full year in which I straightened my hair once a week which included:
  • Blow-drying on the HIGHEST heat setting my CHI blowdryer could achieve
  • Flat ironing on 450 degrees sans heat protectant or deep conditioning
During that year of straight hair I didn’t experience any breakage and my hair continued to grow but my curls slowly diminished. I washed my hair one day and thought to myself “I’m tired of straight hair I’m going back curly,” only to realize I had no curls left. Thus, my heat damage journey was born!

2. What steps did you take to combat your heat damage?
When my brain finally clicked that my hair was pretty much damaged, I finally decided to put all my heating tools away (for the second time). I got on YouTube and researched protein treatments that would possibly help to repair my hair. I went to Sally Beauty and purchased the perm rods that I thought mimicked my curl pattern best and I got to work. I committed myself to only doing perm rod sets, deep conditioning every wash day and consistent protein treatments and trims. 
The protein treatment that I began my journey with was the Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment . This really helped in strengthening my weak hair and I even saw some of my curls trying to bounce back. Through research I found another protein treatment option called Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (Amazon) which is what I’ve been using since. 
It is also important to note that I did get trims on a consistent basis. I would get trims every 8-12 weeks allowing the stylist to take between 1/2 inch to an inch each time. I did straighten my hair to get it trimmed, but I was much more knowledgeable on how to properly heat style my hair so that I didn’t cause further damage.

3. What advice would you give naturalista’s dealing with heat damage?
My biggest piece of advice to those dealing with heat damage is be patient. While the situation can see dire and unrepairable things ALWAYS change over time. If you want to work with heat damaged natural hair you have to be patient and committed. I am over two years in and I am still dealing with heat damaged areas. It is also good to remember that hair grows back!
Any other advice?
I’m ALLLLL about low manipulation hair styles! For those who know me or are following me on any social media platforms I am all about the twists! Doing hair styles that don’t require a ton of brushing or combing really aides in length retention. So if you have heat damaged hair, doing protective styles like braids, twists, perm/flexi rod sets will really help in the transition.
You can Find Elle on YouTube as CurlsUnbothed

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