May 5, 2016

The Difference Between Direct Heat and Indirect Heat for Natural Hair

by Sabrina Perkins of

We discuss the dangers of heat on our hair and often we even use the term "direct heat" but what exactly is direct heat? Is it different from indirect heat? Yes, it is and despite the massive products on the market for straightening hair, if a natural wants bone straight hair without using chemicals then heat will need to be used.


Black women have been applying heat to our hair for decades, but we've been paying a hefty price for it from heat damage to severe dryness. Our desire for straight hair has been less than kind to our delicate tresses and the best way to change our bad habits is to be fully aware of what we are doing. As we back away from harmful haircare practices such as direct heat let's discuss what the two terms actually mean.

What is direct heat?
Heat that is directly touching or coming into contact with the hair, usually used for drying the hair or straightening the natural curl or coil of the hair texture. Examples of typical direct heat styling tools are:

-Flat Iron
-Blow-dryer (without a diffuser)
-Hot Comb
-Wand Curler

These tools although convenient, are harsh on the hair and dry it out so the much needed moisture our hair needs is depleted. They also create heat damage which is irreversible. We should be using direct heat sparingly (once a month or less) as even one application of direct heat can cause heat damage. If using direct heat make sure to use a heat protectant and preferably one with silicones as silicones create a barrier around the hair to protect it from the heat styling tool.

What is indirect heat?
Indirect heat is far less harmful and actually beneficial in many applications. Their benefits usually come in the form of increasing moisture to the hair or drying hair safely. Examples of indirect styling tools are:

-Hooded Dryers
-Soft-bonnet dryers
-Hair Steamers (as long as they are not touching the hair)
-Heating Caps (deep conditioning)

Indirect heat harnesses the benefits of heat for deep conditioning, drying hair or adding moisture back into the strands. This is done without wicking away hair's moisture or breaking the hair off by drying it out to death. Despite being a far less harmful heat tool, they should still be used on the lowest setting possible for the task.

Tips on using direct heat

-Always use the lowest setting
-Do not use direct heat often
-Always use a heat protectant
-Do not use direct heat on damaged hair (it will only make it worse)
-Do use moisturizing products from shampoos to conditioners to stylers to beef up your hair's moisture as direct heat tends to dry it out.

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