Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Using Heat and Mainting Healthy Hair Part 2

Let's continue on in the conversation about heat usage and healthy hair shall we?  As you recall from my last post, I brought up the subject of heat usage in an effort to understand if we can incorporate heat into our regimens in a powerful way.  Using heat (for good and not evil) isn't an easy task.  We all know those who have fallen as casualties to the destructive powers of heat.  We don't want to be one of them so let's take a moment to identify some of the factors that cause/create heat damage.
  • Styling tool used
  • Frequency of heat usage
  • Ineffective protection of the hair from heat 
  • Lack of replenishment (rebuilding of) the hair before/after heat usage
  • Improper use of heat
Now here's the good part where we dissect each of these factors one by one.

Styling tool used
 I've invested a couple of hundred dollars on flat irons even though I use heat only a few times a year.  Why?  Because:
  1.  I can not afford to have a sub-par flat iron ruin my hair because I tried to save a few dollars. 
  2. Flat irons are evolving into less damaging tools (and I want to take advantage of the newest technology).
When I use my Sedu ceramic iron, my hair feels smoother & silkier than with my old flat iron.  Does this mean that my hair is healthier when I use my Sedu?  Possibly. But what's really more important is that because my hair feels better when I use this quality iron, I tend to avoid using it again because the need isn't as great.  Even though I love my Sedu, I still  purchased a titanium flat iron because (allegedly) titanium is said to be smoother (when viewed under a microscope) than ceramic.  My search for the perfect flat iron plates may continue, but for now, I won't blindly close my eyes to the dangers of heat and use it inappropriately just because they claim to be healthier for the hair.

***side note:  Those of us who visit salons may notice that our hair feels  really healthy after getting it straightened.  One thing to note is that it's very likely that your stylist uses a quality flat iron on your hair which can create a smoother, silkier result. Quality does matter. ***

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #1:  Go for the best tools you can afford

Frequency of Heat Usage
If you break out your flat/curing iron more than once every week, you are asking, no begging, for heat ravaged hair.  It's inevitable.  Let's think about this for one minute.  Hot metal plates, which can easily burn our skin is applied (with pressure) to our hair strand.  This initial use of heat may have the ability to seal the top layer of the cuticle layer down.  Steam rises as the moisture in our hair evaporates.  Then.....three days later.....you put your hair through the same process again.  Your hair is probably already straightened from the first instance, now you're doing it again to "freshen up" the style.  That is a huge risk to your hair.  I remember the days when girls would break out their flat iron to bump their ends every morning.  No wonder everyone was walking around with perpetual neck length hair.  All the ladies I talked to with (healthy hair) used heat every week or every two weeks.  Breaking out the flat iron between wash days was a no-no!  Honestly, I don't think using heat every week is a good idea but some people are able to do it.  Like Phoenix mentioned in the comments in part 1 of this post.  Those of us who relax our hair shouldn't have the need to use direct heat for at least the first 2 or so months post relaxer.  Any heat usage before that may be considered overkill.

Healthy Heat Usage Tip# 2:  The flat/curling iron is a SEALING TOOL, not a styling tool.  Use it as a styling aid and heat damage will become your new best friend.

Lack of Replenishment before/after heat usage
Let's say you're someone who visits the salon every week or two weeks for your wash and style.  Chances are, you are getting a deep condition (under a hooded dryer) with every visit.  If you're like our friend Toni, you may even be receiving steam treatments when you deep condition.  When I was introduced to the Mircromist steamer, my hair faired beautifully after my blow dry and flat iron session.  In fact,  Marie promised me that if I visited her regularly, she could have my hair at a healthy waist length in no time.  Why?  Because she would take the time to nurture my hair with each session prior to the heat styling.  The heat styling would then become a method of sealing all of the high quality products into my strands.  For those of us who don't put in the work of fortifying the strands ahead of time, using heat on the hair can will be highly destructive. 

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #3:  Only use heat following a deep replenishment process (deep conditioning or steam treatment).

Improper use of heat
I've mention several times that our heat irons should be used as sealing tools.  But I don't want you to get all excited about  what I like to call "reckless sealing."  The iron shouldn't be doing all of the work.  You've got to do all you can to seal your hair prior, during and after, so your iron doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting. There are a myriad of ways to help your iron do it's a job.  Rinsing with cold water, apple cider vinegar, and even acid water will help seal the cuticles before the drying process.  When using the iron, opt for additional tension (the chase method as seen in this video) and more pressure versus turning the temperature dial higher.  Also realize that bone straight hair can be achieved with the help of the iron and other techniques like wrapping the hair, or tying it under a scarf to manage bulk.  So basically, don't look to your sealing tool to do all of the work. 

**p.s. I know some of y'all are wondering about this "acid water" I mentioned earlier. Acid water is the newest addition to my hair regimen (as of this afternoon).  Once I've had a chance to play with it for a few days, I'll post my thoughts.**

Healthy Heat Usage Tip #4:  Seal your hair prior to flat ironing and leverage tension so less heat is required to achieve desired results.

Ineffective protection from heat
Investing in quality "sealing tools" is one thing, but getting the best in heat protectants is the holy grail of effective heat usage.  Heat protectants have two main purposes including "protecting the hair from heat" and helping to promote that smooth, silky feeling.  I'm here to challenge our way of thinking about heat protectants which I will now refer to as heat-activated strengtheners.  If the product you are using isn't a heat activated strengthener.....toss it.  For the longest, I used Gleau whenever I flat ironed.  Was it the best choice, who knows? But I used it because I knew that whatever product I utilized would be seared into the hair strand through the use of heat.  The heat protectors in my arsenal were not heat-activated strengtheners so I chose to go without.   It wasn't until my salon visit with Marie that I finally found a heat activated strengthener that, I thought, was worth using. 

Ladies can I introduce you to my homie, Kerastase Fibre Architecte?

Seriously, my hair never felt as silky and soft and when I left Marie's chair when she first introduced Fibre Architecte to me.  Then I learned that this product contained a Pro-Keratin complex, wheat protein, and ceramides (the holy trinity of healthy hair).  I didn't even bat an eye at the $40.00 price point.  The cost meant absolutely nothing to me because this product manifested itself as a perfect heat-activated strengthener.  Each time I used heat, my hair would be receiving reinforcement beyond what occurred during the wash and condition. Along with the Fibre Architecte, I also snatched up the Ciment Thermique Heat Activated Reconstructor Milk.  This product feels like a thick moisturizer. You can apply to wet/damp hair before using a blow dryer for added strengthening.  Since I don't normally blow dry, I use it as a moisturizer when I notice some breakage.  I also use it on my hair before apply the Fibre-Architecte so I have two layers of heat-activated strengthening.  For now, these are my strengtheners of choice.  If I find something more powerful, I will certainly let you all know.    

 Healthy Heat Usage Tip #5:  Your hair deserves the best, use quality heat-activated strengtheners!

When we visit salons regularly for heat styling, they tend to use quality products to replenish the hair and they may even do a decent job of protecting the hair from heat.  What I think they miss is when it comes to improper use of heat.  Sometimes the tension used is excessive along with a high temperature setting.  Hence the long term damage and thinning one experiences.  With these tips mentioned perhaps you can incorporate the good while eliminating the destructive parts of heat usage.  I'm hoping to give you some things to consider if you choose to use heat from time to time as a part of your regimen.  To be honest, some people do o.k. with heat as long as the rules are being followed.  And of course, you can also give your hair a break from heat as necessary. If your hair does better when the strands are sealed, consider these healthy heat usage tips as a part of the road map on your amazing hair journey.

Safe travels.

  1. I absolutely love your site! You always have the most informative and helpful posts, and this one is no different :) I really want to try that Kerastase Fibre Architecte...

  2. Love the info! I blow dry and curl my hair 1x a week. I have relaxed hair. I always deep condition, only use heat on clean hair, and balance protein with moisture. I use heat protectant in both processes as well and I have thriving hair so it can be done!

  3. man have i been looking forward to part two! great information!

  4. Very informative post! I definitely think we tend to forget to fortify our strands before AND after using heat. Thanks for the advice =)

  5. Brilliant! And you have just given me the BIGGEST compliment, thank you so much!
    I love the way in which you set out how heat can be beneficial in a hair journey, just like a good stylist that actually cares about the health of ones hair. I myself have a GHD flat iron, which cost me around $200 and I do not regret it for one second. Having a high quality product really does make a difference even if used minimally. At the end of the day one's hair responds to the hands laid upon it, and most of the time it's your own hands. Thus if we handle with love, care and patience, rewards are to be reaped.

  6. Part 2 was right on time! I will be instituting "Project Give Heat a Try" during my next relaxer stretch and these tips will be a great guide. Thanks for the great info!

  7. Very good information~I love your site!!!

  8. Hey there! I follow this blog, and really love reading your posts. My blog (an Angel's Ringlets) has awarded Relaxed Hair Health with the Awesome Blogger award. We share a little info about your blog with our readers. Thanks for all you do! And don't forget to check out the link: http://angelsringlets.blogspot.com/2012/06/awesome-blogger-award-recipient-isme.html

  9. Hi Nadege,
    This is an excellent post. Heat is usually viewed as the enemy, but if used properly, healthy hair can be maintained. I use heat regularly, but with much of the tips, techniques and products you mentioned in your post. Most times I air dry, use a good quality flat iron (Cloud 9), Kerastase heat-activated products, Fibre Architecte and a heat protectant.

  10. Hi Nadge,

    I was wondering about the Kerastase products you mentioned. Can you tell me if they contain parabens or cones? I found the article to be really great, and would like to find a good protecting product.

  11. Hi Nadge,

    I was wondering about the Kerastase products you mentioned. Can you tell me if they contain parabens or cones? I found the article to be really great, and would like to find a good protecting product.

  12. You mentioned that we shouldn't need to use direct heat until two months post relaxer.
    I have very short (pixie cut) relaxed hair, which I am now deciding (after a few years) to grow back out. It seems that with very short hair, it is almost impossible not to look a frizzy mess if I don't flat iron my hair once a week about a month or so after my relaxer. Does anyone have any tips on styling very short relaxed hair with out heat???
    i've looked everywhere and I can't find any -.-

  13. You are so amazing ! Thanks so much for writing and sharing with us these awesome tips.
    I couldn't agree more with whatever was mentioned.
    I was traumatized about using heat on my hair until I stumbled upon this. Great write up !