Heat Training Versus Heat Damage

Heat Training Versus Heat Damage

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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, how to heat train natural hair, heat training natural hair,

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:

Heat Training Natural Hair - Longing 4 Length

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.

  • Interesting read – I really don’t know what I feel or believe since I haven’t given it much thought but I love how you explained it….your brother’s hair is a great example. I need to give it some thought because I can’t continue without heat…..well, I can but I predict it will be eventful.

    • Thanks!!!! I doubt I’ll use high heat/straighten regularly – mainly out of laziness and the fact that I love the look of twist outs but I do think blow drying (even 50%)makes a huge difference on wash days for me and I have yet to see any straight pieces! Lol

  • pee

    So let me understand- you aren’t completely natural yet but are attempting to change you 4ab hair by heat training? Ok if thats what makes you happy great.

    • I think you should go back and re-read the article. Personally, I only wear my hair out for about 2-3 weeks every 3 months, so I’m not attempting anything. Nor am I a hardcore naturalista or anti-relaxer. This article is simply to provide examples and information for those who may be iinterested in the process and to give an example of someone with the longest, healthiest type 4 hair I’ve ever seen who heat trained. If it’s not for you, no problem! But it may be something others would love to learn more about. Just because it’s not something I have personally tried doesn’t mean I look down on those who do use heat regularly. Or who use keratin treatments or relaxers.

  • pee

    So let me understand- you aren’t completely natural yet but are attempting to change you 4ab hair by heat training? Ok if thats what makes you happy great.

  • I think the issue is the perception that heat training and heat damage is not the same when it actually is the same… one just might be slightly better than the other… most of the time it isn’t… or because the intention is the different but the end result is still an altered textured. Most don’t realize it until they stop and see the natural hair growing back. Damage meaning you’re in dire need of a treatment and trim but that’s about it. Every professional hairstylist and frequent heat user would define heat training as someone with healthy hair that’s used to heat styling so it wraps easier but still with a lost of the natural curl pattern.

    • Michelle

      I agree wholeheartedly. Another difference in people’s perception of the two (heat damage vs heat-training) is their own conception of what constitutes healthy hair. For some that means completely au naturale, as in the curl pattern remains completely in tact exactly in the way that it grows out of their head. Others may be more concerned with the appearance of the hair when they seek to define hair as healthy or not. For instance, silky, flowing, shiny hair that’s been blown out at a Dominican Salon looks healthy to some, while others might define that as heat damage. I take a more liberal approach when defining healthy hair as hair that is not actively breaking, but then again, I am relaxed. Of course, it’s one’s own choice what they do with their hair, and even what they decide comprises healthy hair, but heat damage and heat training are essentially the same thing just defined differently based on people’s perceptions of what healthy hair is.

      • If you’re heat training you are training your hair for heat (just like training wheels for a bike). I think it’s possible to use heat with minimal damage sometimes no damage at all but that’s not heat training… that’s just using heat. Once the pattern becomes altered it’s damaged by heat. Of course it’s all about preference but it’s still heat damaged none the less lol.

      • Great discussion and points! I too, lean more liberal when defining “damage.”

  • DaddyIssues29

    I have a lot of experience with heat damage vs heat training. I actually don’t like the word “training” because if your curls loosen enough your hair will actual become damaged; hence you are never “training” your hair to accept the heat. However, to say all curl patterns that have been loosened from heat is damaged isn’t fair. Then we would have to say that all relaxed or texlaxed hair is unhealthy. And we’ve all seem some relaxed girls with thick, luscious, long hair….So for me,

    Heat damage means: Hair that has been damaged by heat. Hair is limp and lifeless. Hair has no elasticity and curls do not “pop”. They are weighed down even by water. Hair is probably dry and ends are split and/or fried. This hair will break off at the demarcation line with new growth. This hair is either straight or hair that is sooo far from it’s original curl pattern that it is not strong enough to support the kinkier curlier new growth.

    Heat Training is when the curl pattern is slightly looser but the hair is still healthy. Curl pattern is visibly looser but hair still has elasticity, moisture, and ends are not fried. This hair will support new growth because it’s structure has not been severely altered. Girls who get Dominican Blowouts, grew up pressing/flat ironing their hair often think they have 3b/3c hair all their life, but typically they just have loosened curl patterns. Keisha Knight Pulliam is a perfect example of this. Heat “trained” hair CAN become damaged, but with protein treatments, deep conditioners, minimizing regular heat usage, and a regular healthy hair routine, it’ll be fine.

    I’m not an expert, I’m just a natural girl with 4a-C hair, who has experienced this. All heat trained hair isn’t damaged, and some “heat damaged” hair is just “trained” or has a looser curl pattern. It all depends on the integrity, structure, and health of the curl pattern and hair overall. It’s all about balance.