Are You Sure Your Hair’s Really Heat Damaged?

natural hair

Straightening your hair regularly can cause heat damage. There’s no doubt about it. The use of flat irons and blow dryers can melt the cuticles of the hair causing what’s commonly known as heat damage.

For some time now, I’ve also seen the term “heat training” being used for hair that’s normally curly or kinky but is kept in a straight state or easily straightened due to the use of flat irons or blow dryers.

Regardless to if you call curly hair that no longer wants to curl heat damaged or heat trained, I’d like you to think about the ladies who you see who appear to have damage. When you don’t really know how a lady handles her hair and assume, I have a question for you. “Is it really heat damage?”

It’s easy to assume that a person has heat damage when they wear curly styles but some areas of the hair appear to be straighter than others. Let’s assume that it’s not a difference of hair types on one individual head. Let’s also assume that this person does not use heat to style or care for their hair at all. Then, what do you call it?

I submit to you that you can “train” your hair to be straight (stretched out or straighter than it normally would be) without using heat. Anything that breaks the protein bonds of the hair strand (even temporarily), can cause hair that normally curls lose elasticity and appear different than it naturally grows from the scalp.

hat damage vs straight trained hair

“Straight” Trained Hair Inconsistent Curls

Hair can appear heat damaged when the curls are inconsistent. The curls may appear to be lacking in uniformity like in the first photo above. It appears to be “heat damaged” or “heat trained” but at the time that photo was taken, I had not been using heat to straighten my fine natural hair. Something else was going on here.

Here are some ways that hair can become “Straight trained.” (that is the new hair term of the day ladies and gentleman):

– Constantly pulling it back in a ponytail
– Constantly slicking the edges of the hair down with gel
– Constantly braiding the hair (especially small braids) to stretch it

Notice each of these ways of “straight training” hair ends with “constantly?”  That’s because while it is possible to damage hair by flat ironing it just once, it is not possible to “straight train” the hair by just styling your hair in one of these ways just once. The temporary break down of the curls come with styling consistently or constantly in one of the ways mentioned above.

How To Un-Straight Train Your Hair

I’ve been accused of having heat damaged hair. When in a twist out or braid out, the hairs appear visibly less curly than their neighboring hairs. It’s then automatically conclude that I’ve damaged my hair with heat.

I can only laugh at the conclusions since I know my hair and how I care for it. I do not use heat on my hair (except during the deep conditioning process). Oh wait. I did flat iron it once in 4 years (as of the original writing of this post) but the straight areas were there before and after that momentous event.

There’s also more than one texture of hair on my head (most of us have that issue). The sides and the nape area are much less curly than the rest of the hairs on my head. It’s always been like that. The curls there are very loose as opposed to the hair in the crown area. When I wore my hair slicked back for an extended period of time or repetitively, it got temporarily “straight trained.”

If you have hair that tends to get “straight trained” due to how you’ve styled it, what I’ve found helps to “revive” the curl is to do weekly protein and deep conditioning treatments until the curls come back the way they normally grow out of your head. In my case, some are curlier than others.

While heat training/heat damage is real, it’s not always the cause of straighter hairs on a predominantly curly head of hair. You may be experiencing this “straight training” simply by how you style your hair daily. If that’s the case, first stop styling it constantly in a way that pulls your hair straight. Then, utilize protein and moisture regularly but in a balanced way. Find the right type of protein for your strands and be sure to balance out that treatment with a deep conditioning/moisturizing session.

hair tips for all hair types

Do you never (or almost never) use heat on your hair but it appears to be “straight trained?”

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Article originally published on November 11, 2013 when this blog was Radiant Brown Beauty. This version has been updated for clarity and to provide additional information.

Michelle Smith
Michelle is a Christian special needs mom residing in the NYC area who shares useful tips to grow and maintain fine natural hair. She's a published author and Creator of Fine Natural Hair and Faith, inspiring others with faith for living along side knowledge on how to care for their "crown."

5 thoughts on “Are You Sure Your Hair’s Really Heat Damaged?

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS…..I NEVER STRAIGHTEN MY HAIR, BUT I DID FOR MY NIECE’S WEDDING THIS PAST SEPTEMBER. WHEN I WASHED MY HAIR BACK MY CURLS DID NOT REVERT BACK. SO I DID THE PULL BACK BUN AND TWO STRAND TWISTS…I THOUGHT I WAS HELPING, BUT ALL THE WHILE CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROBLEM…THANK YOU SO MUCH

    1. You’re welcome. The only way to really know is to just let your hair be in its normal state after doing protein treatments for a few weeks. Sometimes the curls just come back on their own

  2. Definitely. My hair is kinky but the back I can literally brush straight. It’s just a different texture back there.

    I never used any kind of heat either and I don’t use gel/holding products.

    That’s why it’s good to know your hair and its behaviors. What may be the case for someone else doesn’t always relate to you.

  3. As a woman with very naturally curly hair, I gave up the use of the hair dryer and rollers years ago, as they’ve been proven to be not good for the hair, at all. I’m better off for it.

  4. This was very interesting and yes I can see people comig to the conclusion without really knowing the whole story. I guess we are conditioned to believe this. Great article

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