Don’t compromise your curls for the sake of the style!
Imagine being able to wear your natural curly or kinky hair straight week after week while still retaining length and avoiding the dreaded heat damage. Let’s face it, some of us prefer not to use relaxers on our hair but we enjoy wearing our hair straight from time to time (or even all the time!) but don’t want to risk our strands.
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When thinking of straightening your natural black hair you must first understand that straight hair is just another hairstyle. People with naturally straight hair will always want to add curls and people with curls will always want to straighten their hair occasionally. It’s human nature! Learning to care for your hair in its natural state should make up the bulk of your hairstyles with straightening only being one of them. This mindset will greatly improve the overall health of your hair!
Now that you have made the decision to get your natural hair straight, you must be prepared. Any styling that involves applying heat to the hair can be damaging but it’s not all doom and gloom! There are certain ways you can arm yourself against heat damage and give you the sleek style you want for that special event whilst not compromising your lovely kinks and curls.
•First things first, pick the best straightener for your needs, a tourmaline ionic one would be the best but a ceramic one will do just as well.
• Before attempting any straightening, the hair should be completely clean and freshly deep conditioned with a penetrating conditioner. Deep conditioning gives hair that added bit of moisture so that it doesn’t dry out completely during the heat styling process. Some low molecular weight conditioners especially those containing cetrimonium bromide will also help combat against heat damage.
• Apply a leave in conditioner as well as a good heat protectant and comb through the length of the hair to evenly distribute the product. Choose a heat protectant with glycerine as this has been shown in studies to prevent excessive moisture loss. A silicone serum heat protectant can also be used in addition for an extra smooth finish.
• Black people have a variety of hair textures which can be straightened in different ways depending on the thickness and the degree of curl. Loosely curled or coiled hair can be straightened and smoothed out with just a roller set on large rollers (Read the article ‘How to cheat at roller setting’). Thicker hair will require a bit more attention and heat.
• It is important to ‘pre – stretch’ the hair before straightening as this gives the best results. For the sleekest results it is best to blow dry damp hair in sections as straight as you can get it on a medium temperature. There is no need to use high heat as this can be damaging to the hair and never blow dry when the hair is dripping wet. You can also pre-stretch the hair by air drying it in large braids or twists but the final results will not be as smooth and you may end up losing more hair to breakage when you come to flat iron the air dried hair.
• Now that the hair is dry and stretched, you can move on to flat ironing or pressing. At this stage you can apply a little more heat protection serum. You must always use a temperature controlled appliance for this part of the straightening. This is why stove heated pressing combs and irons are not recommended as the temperatures can get quite high and literally burn your hair!
• Set your flat iron on a medium temperature (around 315°F/157°C) and beginning from the back in small sections, begin to flat iron or press the hair. Raise or lower the temperature of the appliance slightly as needed and only pass over each section twice. Use the lowest temperature at which you are able to get good results. You want the hair to be straight but left with a bit of body and bounce.
• You will find the ‘comb-chase method’ particularly useful for straightening natural hair leaving you with sleek straight hair from root to tip. What you do is take a small section of hair and run a fine tooth comb or brush down the section using one hand while ‘chasing’ with the flat iron held in the other hand. Be warned, this requires an ability to use both hands at once! Otherwise pick a straightener that comes with a comb already attached.
• Straighten the rest of the hair in this manner then apply a small amount of an anti humectant pomade to keep your hair from reverting before your next wash day. Good ones are Aveda Brilliant Anti-Humectant and Sabino Moisture block.
• To get your hair super flat, wrap it around your head (essentially using your head as 1 big roller) applying bobby pins where necessary to hold the hair in place. Cover your hair in saran wrap (cling film) and sit under a hooded dryer for 10-15 minutes. This is called silk wrapping. Alternatively, wrap your hair overnight in a silk scarf to remove some of the volume.
To save the style at night, you can wrap your hair again or tie it into a loose ponytail or pin it up and cover with a satin scarf or bonnet. Be sure to moisturize your ends daily with a good moisturizer to keep them healthy until your next wash. So there you have it, getting your natural hair straight is not difficult at all and with these tips, you should be able to get a sleek press at home!
Quick tip – If you like the extra sleek (relaxer straight) look then all you have to to is add a bit of coconut oil before or right after flat ironing, coconut oil is not a heat protectant however so don’t treat it as one! Remember, your final results have less to do with the temperature of the heat you use than your technique, styling tools and products and this goes for even the kinkiest of hair types! Read more in-depth information on choosing the right temperature to use.