For those who haven’t heard, I had my natural hair straightened for the first time since completing my transition last month. It looked absolutely gorgeous when finished, but during my next wash day I quickly realized my hair suffered not only some breakage but also HEAT DAMAGE! I was surprised and quite honestly disappointed with myself for quite a few reasons, which I will jump into momentarily. I also want to outline my recovery plan for my heat damage and discuss how this experience made me appreciate my type 4c hair texture in a way I had never before.
In the above photo you see my wet, unmanipulated, product-free, towel dried hair on the left was full of glorious, undefined kinks. I definitely took my texture for granted…but looking at this photo, I appreciate it so much more now that it does not quite do that anymore! On the right my hair after straightening. Also beautiful, but I actually don’t appreciate it much, especially since (for me) it represents damage and I didn’t even get to enjoy it being straight for very long!
In this photo you can see an up close look at one of the areas where the damage is most apparent. There are a few sections of hair where there is absolutely no kink or curl present as you see above, but also my entire head overall feels slightly different and looser. I just wanted to show you a better idea of what heat damage looks like, especially on type 4 hair. So let me get into WHY and HOW I ended up with heat damaged natural hair.
Not Prepping My Hair Correctly
I’ll admit my fault in contributing to suffering from heat damaged hair. Firstly, I didn’t give my hair any protein before applying heat. Not the week before or the wash day of…which is a huge mistake! Honestly, I fell into the trap of thinking that because my hair is “natural” – completely chemical free (no color, bleach, keratin treatment or relaxer) that all the extra precautions I would normally take before using heavy direct heat were unnecessary. WRONG! ApHogee actually has a new deep conditioning mask called Curlific Texture Treatment, which is designed for color treated and/or damaged natural hair. Key protein ingredients include hydrolyzed quinoa, hydrolyzed vegetable protein and keratin amino acids. This product is perfect to apply to your hair before using direct heat to prevent heat damage, rather than treat it retroactively as I am now doing.
I allowed my long-time stylist in New Jersey to straighten my hair, mainly because I was in desperate need of a trim and hadn’t developed that level of trust in anyone else. Although my stylist practices healthy hair care and truly does care personally about my hair, I learned that she is not used to newer techniques when dealing with natural hair. She did detangle and remove shed hair before shampooing and after deep conditioning, and she even did it using my Felicia Leatherwood Detangling Brush. However, she did it on dry hair first, then extremely towel-dried hair without product second. Neither technique works for natural hair. We need extra elasticity provided by water or product, if not both. So by the time we were ready to blow dry, my hair (and scalp) were already stressed.
No Heat Protectant
Okay, by this point I’m sure you are all cringing and saying to yourselves “Well no wonder you ended up with heat damage!” And you are absolutely correct. My only defense is that I mistakenly equated my 4c natural hair with being invincible. After all it was one use in two years, right? No need for a bunch of extra precautions, right? My hair is super resilient, right? WRONG!!! A heat protectant (spray or serum) builds a shield between your strands and the heat tool that aids in the silkening process of straightening your hair but also provides a level of defense! My stylist used an old school pressing wax, which gave my hair bomb shine, but it also prevents reversion by blocking moisture. Not good when we want to prevent heat damage!
Too Many Passes with Uncontrolled Heat
My stylist blow dried my hair first, then trimmed. Then she pressed it with a combination of a hot comb and marcel flat iron. Then she curled it using the pressing wax with a marcel curling iron. Way too much. Wayyyyyy too much. Not only were there too many (unnecessary) passes of heat applied to my hair, it was with tools where we cannot tell the exact temperature. The metal used in old-school irons also doesn’t transfer heat to the hair evenly as titanium or even ceramic plated flat irons do.
Hopefully sharing my experience helps you prevent heat damaging your own coils and curls!