Now that I am nearly natural (relaxer-free) I have started applying heat more frequently to my hair. When I used chemicals to relax my kinks and coils, I could air dry and style – buns, braid/twist outs and updos. If I wanted a sleek, straight look with bounce and body, roller sets were my friend! However, with my texture being so tightly coiled, I find that blow drying is the quickest and best way to stretch my natural hair.
I will qualify this post with the fact that my hair is often hidden in a protective style, like wigs and weaves. I typically only have my hair out for 2-3 weeks between installations so although I do use heat regularly while my hair is “loose” – it still isn’t a daily, weekly or even monthly occurrence. Now back to the topic at hand…
Heat training versus heat damage. Many argue there is no such thing as heat training because anything that loosens or alters your natural texture is considered damage. I disagree for many reasons. One – hair training does not always involve heat. For example, my brother has 4a-b hair (like me). After growing it to shoulder length, he kept it in finger coils, never allowing it to loc. Instead he would have his hair washed, conditioned and retwisted/coiled at the salon every 3-4 weeks. After years of repeating this process, his hair was “trained” to curl. After washing, his strands would spring back into beautiful coily curls, giving the appearance of type 3 hair. However, I knew first hand from cornrowing and twisting his hair during the early days of his hair grown, that his texture was not naturally curly.
As for heat training, I believe it is possible to lightly loosen curl patterns without permanently straightening your hair. Using products that protect strands, not using extremely high temperatures and applying protein based products to help strands revert are all important steps in the heat training process. One of the first long-haired vloggers to discuss her journey with heat training is the late Dominique, aka LongHairDontCare2011 (rest in eternal peace). In summary, she states heat training by lightly blow drying her hair once per month:
Dominique clearly explains she never used heat to change the texture of her hair, instead it just made it more manageable to deal with while styling. Scientifically, although hair is comprised of dead cells, proteins denatured (broken apart) through heat can re-anneal themselves (come back together) when cooled even when outside in a living cell. So, there is no basis that says applying heat permanently damages or straightens hair. I believe how a person’s hair responds to heat depends solely on that individual. How thick, coarse, healthy, porous and processed a person’s hair are all determining factors as to how it will react to regular heat usage. However, I think it is fair to say that heat training does not equal heat damage for everyone.
Heat damage happens in two forms: 1) when you scorch your hair, causing it to immediately break or 2) when your curls and kinks do not revert after washing and sections remain straight and/or thin. Damaged hair usually feels differently – when running your fingers down the strands, it feels rough and dry, even after moisturizing. You will find it does not react to products as the rest of your hair and your hair is not the same curl pattern from root to tip. Although most ladies have various curl patterns throughout their hair, ,most strands themselves have similar texture from scalp to end – damaged hair does not.
If you believe your hair has been permanently changed and is heat damaged, the only way to repair it is to cut! Some ladies are brave enough to let it all go at once, while others have to transition out of heat damage the same way we transition from relaxed hair.