- 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
Styling tool usedI've invested a couple of hundred dollars on flat irons even though I use heat only a few times a year. Why? Because:
- I can not afford to have a sub-par flat iron ruin my hair because I tried to save a few dollars.
- Flat irons are evolving into less damaging tools (and I want to take advantage of the newest technology).
***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 UsageIf 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 usageLet'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
Healthy Heat Usage Tip #3: Only use heat following a deep replenishment process (deep conditioning or steam treatment).
Improper use of heatI'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 heatInvesting 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.