Have you have recently decided to ditch the hair straighteners and go natural? If yes, congratulations! You may find that hair will need some extra TLC before you start to see healthy, bouncy curls or waves. Your hair will go through a transitioning period, where you will have to repair the damage caused by long-term heat styling, which means you may not see your natural texture until your hair is healthier, but be patient.
Why does heat styling damage hair?
Heat will damage hair with long term use. Styling with high temperatures on a regular basis will start to break down the protein structure in the hair, making it weak and prone to breakages.
All hair is made up of alpha-keratin which is a protein. Our hair is curly because of the amino acids contained within the keratin proteins called cysteines, which link to each other by disulfide bonds. The more disulfide bonds the curlier the hair. When you disrupt the protein structure of your hair with the application of heat or chemical relaxers, this is known as “denaturing” the protein.
Is denaturing reversible?
In most cases, denaturing is reversible, although in some cases, cutting the damaged hair off is the only way to get your hair back to being healthy. As soon as damage starts to appear, stop using heat and start repairing, if you don’t, the damage may become irreversible. Look out for the signs of heat damage:
- Hair feels rough and dry
- Hair is not shiny and looks dull in appearance
- Your natural hair texture fails to return to natural state after washing, usually seen by sections of hair having a straight, rigid appearance
- Excessive split ends
Repairing the damage
- Trim the ends
Aim to cut off as much, if not all, of the damaged hair. If the damage is past your ends and you don’t want the big chop, give your ends a good trim and get rid of as many split ends as you can.
- Use a shampoo to start
Always start the first steps to becoming natural with a shampoo wash. This is important, because it will remove all buildup and completely cleanse the hair. Once all the buildup is removed, your conditioning and deep treatment products will work more effectively.
- Use a protein conditioner
If your hair is damaged you will need a conditioner which will fill in the weak points of your strands. Heat damage will leave microscopic holes in the hair strand’s structure, leaving it weak and prone to breaking. Think of a protein conditioner as a filler for these holes, temporarily repairing the damage, making the strands stronger.
- Deep treatments
Take time to treat your hair too a deep condition. You can use a protein treatment, or opt for a deep treatment without added protein. Heat damaged hair is thirsty hair and using a deep treatment will maximise the moisture retained in the hair strands, ensuring your hair stays conditioned and softer for longer. Keep using your daily conditioner and aim to do a treatment once a week to start after you shampoo for maximum hydration.
If your hair still isn’t feeling moisturised, you can chose to do an oil treatment too. Apply an oil to your scalp and hair and cover in a plastic cap for 30 minutes before rinsing.
- Use a leave-in conditioner
Make sure your hair stays protected and nourished all day by applying a good leave-in before you style. You can seal with an oil to ensure no moisture is lost throughout the day.
- Be gentle
Detangle and style your hair when wet. Your hair is at it’s strongest and most flexible when wet and will cope with styling better than dry hair. Air dry your hair to ensure no heat is put on the strands. Your hair will not repair if you continue using heat.
- You will need patience
Repairing heat damaged hair will not happen overnight. Keep with the treatments as doing a deep conditioning treatment once, will not be enough. Completely cut out any heat styling and treat your hair carefully and you will soon start to see happy, healthy curls.