Are You Sure Your Hair’s Really Heat Damaged?

Last updated on August 19th, 2022 at 04:25 pm

Straightening natural hair regularly can cause heat damaged curly hair. There’s no doubt about it. The use of flat irons and blow dryers can melt the cuticles of the hair causing what’s called heat damage.

natural hair

Another term that you may see is “heat training.” I believe these words are being used by those who may not want to accept that this so called training is actually hair that’s been damaged by heat.

Hair that’s normally curly or kinky but is kept in a straight state or easily straightened due to the use of flat irons and/or blow dryers is most likely heat damaged natural hair and not just heat trained.

Regardless of if you have heat damaged curly hair or you call it hair that just doesn’t want to curl, heat damaged or heat trained, I’d like you to think about the ladies 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 damaged curly hair?”

It’s easy to assume that a person has heat damage when they wear curly styles. However, 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?

Heat Trained Straight Hair or Something Else?

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 to lose its elasticity. As a result, it will appear differently than it naturally grows from your scalp. Enter…. heat damaged curly hair!

heat damage vs straight trained hair

“Straight” Trained Hair and 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.

My hair 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 your hair back into a ponytail
– Consistently slicking the edges of your hair down with gel
– Constantly braiding your hair (especially small braids) to stretch it

Notice each of these ways of “straight training” hair ends with “constantly” or “consistently?”  

That’s because while it is possible to create heat damage with flat irons even one time, it is not possible to “straight train” the hair by just styling your hair in one of the ways above just once.

The temporary break down of curls comes with styling consistently or constantly in one of the ways mentioned above.

My Hair Isn’t Heat Trained or Heat Damaged

I’ve had people think my natural hair has heat damage. 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 have heat damaged hair.

I can only laugh at the conclusions since I know my hair and how I care for it. As of the writing of this article, I had not use heat on my hair. The exception is during the deep conditioning process).

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.

My hair was temporarily “straight trained” when I wore it slicked back for an extended period of time.

How To Un-Straight Train Your Hair

If you have hair that tends to be straight due to how you style it, what’s helpful to “revive” the curl is to do weekly protein and deep conditioning treatments. Do these until your curls return to how y 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, try these steps:

First, stop styling it constantly in a way that pulls your hair straight.

Then, utilize protein and moisture regularly.

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 avoid putting heat on your natural hair but it appears you now have heat damaged curly hair or is it “straight trained?”

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.

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11 Comments

  1. Hey! I’ve got bra strap length 4a/4b natural hair and I’m in the Army, I have to wear my hair pulled back everyday for work. I started just putting my hair in faux locs or box braids, but now my entire crown is in tight loose waves and super frizzy. I’ve started doing mini twists now to help but I think it’ll be a lost cause until I get out…
    Would you happen to have any tips?

    1. Hi Whitney… first of thank you for your service! As for the frizziness, it could be for a few reasons… The hairs appear shorter because there’s actually breakage happening from the locs/braids. If there’s too much tension in that area, this is highly likely.
      How about flat twists? You can use flaxseed or aloe vera gel which has not as much hold (and more importantly no alcohol). Twisting in this manner will help keep that frizzy hair at bay (don’t forget to tie it down when you sleep). Also, while you would have to do your hair at least every 3 days, how about doing buns for a bit? not too tight and changing the position of the bun (securing with a satin or silk scrunchie). I like this method because you can set the bun with some leave in conditioner and a little gel, tie it down at night and it should last a few days at a time.

      Lastly, do you do protein treatments at all? I know some naturals shy away from protein and go all in on deep conditioning but protein is just as essential. You’ll just want to make sure you are using it when you actually need and then using the right type of protein. I personally use silk protein products because they seem to be quite balanced and don’t make my hair hard.

      I hope this helps!

  2. I think I have heat damage. I have long afro hair (not too thick not too thin either) I would say very resistant. My hairdresser only braids my natural hair after blowdrying it so its more manageable. I never had a problem with the blow-dry. My hair always turned to its natural state. Lately, I’ve been wearing more protecting styles like (cornrows) and last time I went for a trim my hairdresser blowdried my hair again and has not recovered since (it’s been a couple of weeks). It looks like my hair has lost its structure and texture. I don’t know what to do now… I am thinking in getting a serious cut.

    1. Have you ever considered ditching the hairdresser for a bit? All that blow drying to make what she calls “manageable” hair hair a damaging. Especially if you do it a few times a month. Don’t get me wrong. I blow dry but I use a reverse air dryer and only 1x maybe 2x every other month

  3. 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

      1. Bianca Arianne Johnson says:

        Thank you so much for sharing this! I was about ready to give up on my hair. Your hair looked exactly the way mine does today, same texture and all. I don’t straighten it much either. Can you recommend a protein treatment and moisturizer for our hair type?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. pretti Uneekhair says:

    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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