Thursday, September 9, 2010

All About Hair: How To Prevent & Recover From Heat Damage

In the beginning of my hair journey, my hair was extremely damaged. The heat from my flat irons, blow-dryers, and pressing combs left my hair lifeless, thin, and full of split ends. Instead of cutting my hair off and starting over, I developed a sound routine and began nursing my hair back to health. 

Heat damage also affect your curl pattern as well, leaving your hair straight in some portions mimicking relaxed hair. Here are are a few tips and tricks to help you prevent and recover from heat damage: 

>> I know this is a very lengthy read, so a PDF is available by clicking on this link

First let's start off with preventing heat damage:  

Invest in the proper tools:

Golden Supreme Heat Tester: One of the best purchases I have made to date, this handy tool allows me to check the temperature of the pressing comb, which ensures that it is at the proper temperature each time I pass the pressing comb through my hair. 

For those that use the napkin method [if the comb tinges a napkin with a yellow tint, it is too hot] keep this in mind: Even though your pressing comb isn't hot enough to tinge your napkin, it may still be too hot for your hair type. This is why investing in a heat tester is ideal. Because I have very thick coarse hair, I use the medium high temp rating on my heat tester. If you have finer hair, you will need to use a lower setting. Experiment with your heat tester to see which setting yields the best results.  

Towel Dry Hair Thoroughly Prior to Air Drying: Blow drying your hair while soaking wet stretches the hair which can lead to loss of elasticity as well as brittleness. Use a microfiber towel to lightly squeeze out the excess water [don't rub the towel on your head, as it can cause splits and breakage] prior to blow drying.  

Exercise the 6-10 Inch Rule: When blow-drying your hair, it's best to hold the dryer 6-10 inches away from your scalp/hair to prevent excess drying. It's also very important to keep the blow dryer moving so that your hair dries evenly and most importantly retains moisture. 

Blow-dry your hair until is 75% percent dry, then allow the hair to air dry naturally or with the assistance of a hooded dryer. Utilizing this method also helps the hair retain additional moisture.

Regular Protein Treatments: If you relax, or use heat regularly it is especially important for you to implement protein treatments at regular intervals. Protein treatments are designed to fortify the hair preventing breakage, as well as correct any issues with elasticity. This is key as chemical and thermal services [pressing, flat ironing] can weaken the structure of your hair causing excessive breakage and shedding. Some of my favorite protein treatments are: Sebastian 2+1 and Dudley's Hair Rebuilder [awesome]. [once every six weeks is recommended]

Watch Porosity Levels: Hair that is overly porous absorbs more heat [and chemicals] versus hair that is less porous and occurs as a result of cuticle damage. This means that your are more likely to experience heat damage if you don't maintain the correct porosity levels. You can use products like Porosity Control, Cellophane's, and even Henna Treatments, as they all temporarily fill in the gaps along the hair shaft which restores normal porosity levels.  [once every six weeks]

Use A Heat Protectant:  Heat protectants are designed to absorb heat [which helps protect the hair], and help prevent the drying damaging effects of thermal styling devices. These products help seal the cuticles which eases combing and protects the hair shaft, as well as eliminates static charge. Spray this on towel dried freshly conditioned hair prior to blow-drying. I recommend Brilliant Damage Control by Aveda, it is absolutely excellent.

Recovering From Heat Damage:

Find A Happy Medium

If you have heat damage, chances are you have used excessive heat or thermal devices improperly. The key to recover from this set back is to minimize your use of heat for about 3-6 months so that you can actually see the extent of the damage. Over time, you may notice that you gain some of your curl pattern back as a result of improved elasticity and the overall health of your hair. This does not mean that you will not have to cut any hair, this just means that you need time to fully assess how much hair needs to go. 

To put this in perspective, upon starting my hair care journey, I had about 8-10 inches of "bone straight" hair. After about 6-8 months, I noticed more of a curl pattern and only about 2-3 inches of "straight" hair versus the 8-10 I started off with. You may recall back in July I trimmed my hair; I cut about 2.5 inches all over which was the last of the heat damaged ends. In a lot of my recent pictures, I have more defined curls vs the older pictures I posted when I first started the site. This is partly attributed to finding better products as well as devising a regimen that allows me to have hair that is properly hydrated, nourished, and fortified [with protein treatments].

As the health of your hair improves, you will start to notice a difference in your curl pattern. This is why certain shampoo's and conditioners are able to enhance your curl pattern, as they are formulated with products to help impart moisture, and temporarily correct issues with elasticity. It is very important that you focus on the elasticity of your hair when caring for it, as this plays a major role in your hair's ability to stretch and revert back to it's natural state.

What To Do If You Have Heat Damage?                                                                                                
  • Completely cut out your use of heat for at least 3-6 months if possible [highly recommended]
  • Deep condition hair once weekly [20-30 minutes] with heat to replenish the moisture levels, repair damaged areas, and improve combability. 
  • Use a reconstructor [a conditioner formulated for damaged hair] once a month to fill in damaged areas along the hair shaft, improve elasticity, and bind areas of the hair shaft together [Dudley's Hair Rebuilder is amazing]
  • If you must style your hair using heat during this recovery period, opt for air drying in lieu of blow drying, and always make sure to use a heat protectant
  • After about 3-6 months, begin to take note of any changes in curl pattern. If there are areas that aren't reverting [this depends on the extent of the damage] you can decide at this time whether to cut the hair gradually, or wait another 3-6 months to note any reversion. 
  • When you make the transition back to using heat, try to limit your thermal styling sessions to twice a month with no touch ups in between. Also use the prevention methods listed in the beginning of this post. 
Products Mentioned In This Post: 
Sebastian 2+1 Treatment - I normally find this product in most professional beauty supply stores

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  1. As always thanks for the advice. I thoroughly enjoy reading every time I visit.

    I just wanted to offer an alternative to blow-drying before pressing if time isn't a factor. My mother always detangled and braided the hair after washing the night before pressing.

    Hair would air dry and be ready for pressing the next day. I'm so used to air drying my hair, I hardly use a blow-dryer.

  2. o wow hun i was just thinking about heat damage your posts are so helpfull

  3. What causes hair to be porous?

  4. @Danielle; You are welcome! I am definitely a proponent of air drying, it's much healthier vs blowdrying! I would definitely prefer this method over using an external heat source if I had the time!

    @Anonymous; thank you very much!

    @Anonymous; Overly porous hair can stem from chemical services [color, relaxers] as well as excessive heat which can damage the cortex.

  5. Great post on heat damage. I got my hair blown out for the first time since May to do a length check, my hair is definitely more healthy and longer to boot ;0) Love your blog as always!

  6. i love this blog! I am at the beginning stages of transitioning... I have absolutely no idea what the "natural" state of my hair looks like... :)

    but this blog is making things so much easier.

    Thanks so much!

  7. Fantastic post!! This same very post is what's keeping me motivated from taking a pair of shears and cutting the 7 inches of straight hair on my head. I'm one month in of not using any heat and it's cool. I have my good hair days and bad hair days.

    I realized that my hair was in terrible need of protein from one of your posts. Yesterday I did the treatment and my hair is WAYYYYYY softer. There's just one prob: My hair has never been the type to air dry and be okay. My ROOTS (which have no heat damage and are all curly) get SUPER frizzy and dry if I don't sit under a hooded dryer. My ends curl roots, not so much. :(

    Even though I constantly twist and use flexi rods for ends, the roots seem to be puffy and dry at times. And the more I touch it, the more it frizzes, so I leave it be, but you can imagine how hurt I was this morning to have beautiful curls on the bottom and thick, dry frizzy hair on the scalp.

    Any suggestions on what I can do to moisturize these roots with something light that's not sticky, super oily, or heavy??? :(

  8. Thanks for putting this info. into pdf form. This Fall,I plan on straightening my hair myself and want to make sure I do things properly with no damage.

  9. Thanks for the porosity tip. When I or a hairdresser would press my hair, we'd always burn our fingers on my hair. It retains A LOT of heat! I've given up the heat, except maybe once a year, but I will keep Porosity Control, etc. in mind.

  10. Usually convert the html source of random blog tips/recipes to pdfs. This is so much quicker. Thanks for taking the time to write the post and add a separate pdf :)

  11. what's always great about natural hair is the versatility of it; you can wear it straight and curly and everything in between. this post is really great because a lot of times people treat their natural hair with the same harshness of their permed hair because natural hair looks healthier. but if anything natural locks need even more love! nothing worse than having a head of hair with permanently burned pieces in the middle of a fro!

    great post, as usual!

  12. Those looking for straight hair might also want to try roller sets. Depending on your hair, and technique, you may be able to forgoe the hooded dryer and let your hair airdry over night. My hair comes out just as nice as if it were blown dry and pressed, w/o the damage.

  13. This post is right on time! I've been transitioning since January and have only straightened my hair once because I'm so afraid of getting heat damage. I'm planning to do a mini-shop in December, so I'll be using these tips to straighten my hair beforehand when I do.

    Thanks for the tips!


  14. Thank you so much for the information! My hair doesn't really have heat damage specifically, but it is damaged.

    Before I went to the caribbean this summer, my hair was BSL full, and growing great. It's something about the weather in the caribbean that messed my hair up. To make matters worse, since it was so hot, I washed my hair down there with different products and flat ironed it. When I came back to the states and washed my hair, it was very thin, shedding excessively, and had severe breakage some places. Some parts of my hair are still healthy, but now it's so thin!

    I was thinking about cutting my hair all one length to SL, but my mom suggested that since some parts are still healthy, why not trim in sections until it all fills back in. I saw that you didn't do a big chop, and waited. Do you suggest that I do the same?

  15. I have been reading up on hair porosity and heat damage, especially in these past couple of weeks. I know that I have heat damaged hair from years of regular pressing and improper use of blow dryers, flat irons, etc. And I'm on month 7 of no heat!! However, after reading about hair porosity, I am still a bit confused on how to tell how porous my hair is and exactly what that means. Do you have any suggestions?

  16. Thanks for posting this, I've been transitioning for more than 6 months from heat damage. I wash my hair once or twice every two weeks, wear protective styles, deep condition, all of it, the front of my hair (where the heat damage is) has reverted a little bit but not much. Anything else I could do?

  17. I purchased the Dudley's Hair Rebulder, and it left my hair rather stiff. Should I have followed with a moisturizing conditioner?

  18. Just found out Sebastian 2+1 has been discontinued...What would you suggest using instead?

  19. @Lipstick Diva; Thank you very much and kudos for the length retention!

    @biancaR; Thank you for the support! I hope to make things easier for you during your transition!

    @LaTisha; Glad I was able to be of some assistance to you sis! Quick question, are you detangling the roots of your hair and smoothing it out with a paddle brush or denman brush? I find that using the denman to go over areas that have been detangled makes for a smoother flatter set. - For moisturizing Karkady Tea Mist by Qhemets is a wonderful option. It's moisturizing, yet doesn't leave your hair with that sticky feeling.

    @ChocolateOrchid; You are more than welcome! Good luck!

    @Napfrocurlzgirl; You're welcome! Definitely keep that in mind if you use heat regularly.

    @petty; You are welcome! I am so glad you found it useful!

    @BreukelensFinest; Ha! You are right about that! Thank you very much for the support sis!

    @BlackBetty; You are right about that! That is actually my preference when I have the time. It makes for more of a smoother press!

    @Closet Confections; Thank you for keeping this in mind! It should definitely help out!

    @Pet said... I am sorry to hear that; I will definitely suggest waiting. Unless you have split ends, which is another beast. I always recommend cutting all splits because they can travel further up the hair shaft causing more breakage and excessive damage.

    @Yvette; Check out this post, it gives a breakdown of porosity!

    @Anonymous; I would suggest deep condition once weekly. It's the elasticity of the hair that needs to be corrected. Also try using products that contain Silk Amino Acids, as that ingredient helps in restoring the hair's natural texture. If after the next 3-6 months you still aren't getting much revision, you may have to cut those areas. As I mentioned in my post most of my curl pattern was restored, however I still had about 2-3 inches of hair I had to let go of. This may be the same in your case if you are following a sound regimen but are experiencing little to no reversion.

    @teachermrw; I have found with this product that it is best to rinse it with warm water [because it's so thick] then follow with a cool rinse. I usually never have to following up with a DC after using this product unless my hair is especially dry. Try adding a bit of cheapie conditioner to it and see how it fairs.

    @pdolbabe; I am still able to find it in most beauty supply stores. I don't have a product that is comparable to this because this is a protein treatment and moisturizing treatment in one. You can use a light protein conditioner formulated for color treated hair [as this has chemical agents that helps repair the holes along the hair shaft] and follow up with a deep conditioner of your choice.

  20. thank you so much for this. i recently went to the salon for the first time in almost 12 years. I had my hair straightened with a hot comb (just the roots) and a straightener.Almost three months later, I noticed my curl pattern had changed. Now when my hair air dries or I twist it, my ends are really straight and a majority of the hair on my head is too straight in comparison to my roots. long story short, I can't wait to use these tips. I was really considering cutting my hair off, but I believe this info will really come in handy. thank you!

  21. I really enjoy your blog it is very insightful &entertaining. This piece is just what I needed. I think that I have heat damage with my natural hair, I haven't flat ironed it since beginning October, do you think it's safe for me to try to straighten it yet, and if it has not recovered yet do u have to cut my hair which is what i am afraid of because my head is not made for short hair.


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