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Curly Nikki

Low Heat Styling Tips for Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202131 Comments
Low Heat Styling Tips for Natural Hair
by NaturallyChelsea of NaturallyCurly

I love my natural hair and the versatility that comes with it — one
day curly, the next day straight. But going from curly to straight can
be a hassle and wash day can leave you anxious as you wait to see if
your curls will revert. Contrary to popular belief, heat is not the worst thing
for your hair—the  improper use of heat is. So if you want to try a new
look, but are a little afraid of heat damage, here are some techniques
to minimize the heat and protect your strands.

Tension blow-drying

We all know that blow-drying can cause a lot of damage, not only
because of the heat, but because of the manipulation. In order to
straighten the hair, it needs to be kept taut. The tighter the curl the
more tautly it needs to be pulled. In order to do this, many women use
some type of brush that causes constant tugging and pulling on the hair
creating split ends and breakage. Tension blow-drying is a more gentle
way to blow-dry the hair that involves simply holding hair taut while
you blow-dry. The hair will dry in the stretched state without the need
for damaging tools.


Many people mistakenly believe that the only way to get a straighter
look is to pull out the good old heat tools, but there is a better
alternative, roller setting. If done correctly you can be left with soft
shiny bouncy curls that can be worn as is or wrapped to make the hair
completely straight.

Flat ironing

The mere mention of the flat iron
has the ability to bring fear into the hearts of many naturals who have
heard the many stories of limp, lifeless, heat damaged hair. But like I
said earlier, it’s all in the technique. When flat ironing, consider
using a heatless method of stretching your hair prior to flat ironing,
like roller setting, banding or braiding your hair. Also, turn down the
heat! There is a nasty rumor going around that tight coils and curls
require a lot of heat to straighten. The truth is, if you use thinner
sections and implement the brush chase method (using a soft boar bristle
brush to smooth out the sectioned hair prior to flat ironing) then the
heat can be evenly distributed to each strand, and the hair will
straighten with less heat. Also, remember that the more passes of the
flat iron over your hair, the greater the chance for damage, so go over a
section slowly (twice if you need to), then keep it moving. Don’t go
over a section repeatedly and most definitely do not ‘touch up’ your
hair in between flat ironing sessions when it begins to revert. Instead,
rock styles like twist and braid outs instead until it’s time to wash

Heat protectant

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good heat protectant
when blow-drying and flat ironing. Many of us have experienced the pain
and discomfort of sunburn from a day spent out in the sun without
sunscreen, so imagine what direct heat can do to your hair. A good heat
protectant contains some kind of ingredient that will create a barrier
between your hair and the heat of the flat iron thus preventing damage.
However, keep in mind that there is no such thing as 100% protection. Be
careful if you choose to use any oils as for heat protection as they
can literally fry the hair.

Do you safely heat style your hair? What are your methods?


  • Davina916 says:

    It adds shine to my hair also, (and my Mom's) I like it.

  • Jessica Coletrain says:

    Good question. One of my friends is a 'straight natural' with long, gorgeous hair and she blow drys and flat irons. I think it's all about the technique that you use and the amount of heat.

  • Jessica Coletrain says:

    I've seen naturals use oils as a heat protectant. It seems like that would 'fry' the hair. Is there a such thing as a natural heat protectant?

  • Jessica Coletrain says:

    I've heard all good things about Silk Elements.

  • SavanahRae says:

    This sounds like a good plan.

  • SavanahRae says:

    I want to flat iron my hair but I'm a) too cheap to invest in something I know I wouldn't use that often and b) too lazy to flat iron my hair. I don't know how I did it when my hair was relaxed. Right now I'm just reading up on the techniques to use and all the tools and products I need.

  • REG says:

    I am only 4 months into transitioning. I roller set my hair and air dry. If I am in a rush I will use a blow drier and flat iron.

  • Jess says:

    I am I guess what you would call a "straight natural"…I flatiron every two weeks, press my edges when they are fuzzy…Iwill wear a twist or braid out if my hair gets too far gone to save with pincurling…I dc everytime Ishampoo…I don't have any heat damage…my hair has always shrinked up all the way (even when I was a kid prior to relaxers…reason why I was scared to go natural at first, fear of breaking and flying blowdryer combs lol)…can some ppls hair be more prone to heat damage than others???

  • LBell says:

    Glad you mentioned rollersetting: Using super-large magnetic rollers on small, wet, and thoroughly detangled sections got my fine 4b strands amazingly straight. As for blowdrying, I discovered the tension method by accident when I was trying to get more stretch out of a twistout. When I blowdry (about 4 times a year if that) that's the method I use. I haven't put any kind of iron to my hair since 2003.

  • KitKat says:

    I was just going to say this post should ease any nerves about straightening natural hair, there are so many options and techniques.

  • Safarascurls says:

    I don't use any heat on my hair but I like that this article put everything together especially helpful for a new natural.

  • Sydney says:

    I'm going to try the twists before the blow dry too! I think that may be a wonderful alternative to using the tooth attachment so often.

  • Sydney says:

    Love IC Fantasia! What kind of rollers do you use for your roller set? What products do you use to set the hair? I'd love to try it.

  • Sydney says:

    I used to blow dry and flat iron my (4a) hair every two weeks. Then back in February 2011 I decided I wanted to give my hair a heat break and see if I could get past my mid back growth plateau. For 9 months I did braid outs and wore it in an up do and in about Oct 2011 I went back to straightening with the blow dryer and flat iron. In January I began using curl formers and did that for a few months and then for 3 months due to a hectic schedule I went back to straight hair for easy mornings. I am now taking another heat break and am planning on straightening my hair next month to trim off a few split ends, fairy knots, and even things out. I found a heat protectant that I adore! It is by IC fantasia{adtype}&sst=423de263-93ac-1a88-6323-000035744db4 and it works wonders. I usually shampoo (sulfate free of course), co-wash/detangle, DT (with steam) then I apply loads of Lacio Lacio as my leave in. I then spray my head all over with the IC fantasia and tension blow dry section by section, only using the tooth attachment a few times per section to get out any snaggles. I then flat iron on low low heat using a fine tooth comb to first comb each small section then I flat iron it only making one pass per section. Once my head is done, I use the flat iron to make spiral curls on all my ends and I am good to go. I definitely love going curly but I also love when my hair is long and straight. It's nice to be able to go back and forth without damage to the curl pattern. A good leave in and a heat protectant are key!

  • ss says:

    A friend of mine swore by her Conair! But, girlfriend had 3c 4a hair. A little bit of moisture can help straighten the hair, but you know your hair best. I think the key is using a heat protectant, not using repeated passes & limiting exposure to the heat.
    Remember the MaxiGilde flat iron? I wanted one of those so badly : o)

  • ss says:

    My hair is not long enough yet to flat iron regularly – but when I do, I plan to do the "overnight DC" method. Right now, I may rollerset under a bonnet dryer now and then.
    I only flat iron when I want to trim my ends.
    Sally Beauty Supply has a DC called Silk Elements which some bloggers leave on overnight and rinse out in the morning prior to heat styling. Some swear that ultra hydrated and conditioned hair is the key to silky long lasting straight styles.
    I've also heard that not "overdrying", using a "chase comb", and flat ironing thin sections are techniques to minimize heat damage.

  • Landry says:

    I don't blow dry or flat iron at all–I do sit under a hooded dryer because I don't like to wait days for my hair to dry. I sit under a hood dryer once a week when after I wash, condition, and either braid or twist my hair. I have not incurred any damage.

  • missmajestic says:

    great post. I was a pro at rollersetting my relaxed hair and I can't wait to try it on my natural hair when I gets longer.

  • Shashou says:

    I know since I decided to go natural last January 2011 I've only used heat on my hair 3 times. Usually blow drying. But the method I use, since I have super coily hair, is to first detangle when wet and then moisterize. I'll put my hair in atleast 4 sections. And blow dry my hair with a wide tooth comb. I don't use a brush, as mention, because of the constant pulling and tugging. If using the wide tooth comb I still get the blow out needed to do whatever style I may be wanting to do, with out the crazy extra manipulation of using a brush.

  • Angela B. says:

    I only flat iron twice a year at the most. When I do, I use a heat protectant (Tresemme heat protection spray or CHI Iron Guard) and tension blow dry. I've never stretched and dried my hair in twists prior to blowdrying. I'm going to try this next time instead of blowdrying damp hair.

  • kitka says:

    I use a few heat protectants when flat-ironing: Sebasatian Potion #9 conditioner (lots of silicones), Blow Dry Addict heat protectant, and GVP Chi Silk infusion. I recently changed my blow-dry method from blow-drying wet hair with a comb attachment, to tension blow-drying hair that's stretched in twists and about 85% dry. My hair no longer feels parched and my ends are not brittle and fuzzy. Next time I flat iron I will definitely reduce the heat.

  • kitka says:

    You can roller set to stretch your hair as an alternative to blow drying before flat ironing. I've heard that a lot of Dominican salons use this method (and maybe even the blow dryer too lol).

  • Kimberly KaleidoscopicSoul Eph says:

    i love this article extremely helpful

  • NancyM says:

    I'm transitioning (18 months so far). I roller set my hair and air dry or use a hooded dryer every week. The roller set allows me to easily put my hair in buns or ponytails, which are my staple transitioning styles. I don't blow dry at all and only flat iron a couple of times a year. When I do flat iron I use IC Fantasia Heat Protection serum or grapeseed oil which is a natural heat protectant.

  • Gwenn4ya says:

    I have been contemplating blow drying my hair and flat ironing it, but all the talk of heat damage scares the mess out of me. I know it will grow back if I have to cut it off, but I've been putting in some major hard work here! I want to get it done professionally at my two year mark, but it's really not that big of a deal if I don't….decisions, decisions!

  • Sheer Genius says:

    I just saw a video about a girl who roller sets her hair to get is straight, thought it was interesting may have to try.

  • Gaye Glasspie says:

    Great info…the only time my hair was flat ironed, I had it done professionally. I don't want no trouble, lol

  • Megan M. says:

    I always stretch my hair before flat ironing by braiding and letting it air dry over night. I reapply heat protectant even though my leave in has it in it (Jane Carter revitalizing leave in conditioner) I like to be safe than sorry. I blow dry when I do my hair late or at nght and it is always tension method. I always thought rolling setting was for the style not prior to straighting?

  • Davina916 says:

    I let my hair air dry until it's about 85% dry, then I blow dry with comb attachment, after using Silk Elements heat protector. I only blow dry twice a year.

  • Derika says:

    I heat styled my hair Sunday night. I used a blow dryer with a wide tooth comb and I didn't fully dry it. I let it air dry some. I normally don't heat style but I did it to clip my ends since I'm transitioning.

  • Breena B Well says:

    Has anyone used a steam iron such as a wet dry flat iron? It uses steam to straighten I think. Do you still have to use a heat protectant? Isn't steam supposed to be good for the hair?

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