Friday, March 1, 2013

Heat Use & Length Retention: A Curly Girl's 3 Year Journey


Transitioning Hair                 All Natural Hair 

T and I both began our transition from relaxed to natural around the same time. My last relaxer was in July 2009. Her last relaxer was in September 2009. We both did a long term transition. I cared for her hair mostly during the first half of her transition. T transitioned for 2 years without a "big chop" also known as "cutting off all of the relaxed hair". I transitioned for 15 months before cutting off about 5'' of relaxed hair.

We both did the same deep conditioning treatments. We had basically the same hair care done over the weekend (wash, deep condition, proper detangle, and style). We figured out what worked best for us over the last year or so--and tailor-made our hair care to suit that.

The one major difference between our hair care is the use of heat. T was flat ironing her hair every two weeks (I had to hide the flat iron often so that she wouldn't "touch up" in between). I flat ironed my hair maybe once every 3 or 4 months. 

What difference did this make?

My ends required less trimming--hers often became thin and see through, requiring a proper trim to get rid of hair that would (and did) split and/or break.

Her coils present as "looser" than I recall them being when she was a toddler. I strongly believe this change in her curl pattern is a direct result of her heat usage. 

Her length retention is not where it could be. Due to the trims that are required (thanks to thinned out ends) she hasn't kept all of the length that she grew. We'd rather healthy hair over long hair, so we don't hesitate to trim off any thinned ends. The 4 pictures below show recent pictures of our flat ironed hair (T's hair is the 2 pictures on the left, and my hair shows on the 2 pictures from the right). Her hair length falls to bra strap length. My hair length skims approximately 3'' below bra strap length. We will need to break out the measuring tape next time, because I don't feel that the "body part markers" accurately explain lengths, especially when some folks have longer torsos, neck, etc than others. However, just an eagle's eye view tells me that my hair hangs approximately 3'' longer than hers (could that be the same 3'' lost due to thinned out, heat altered ends?) Maybe.

We have an article posted on heat use, and the effects of different temperatures on hair. Damage may not be so obvious at first, but would be evident with enhanced vision (probably under a microscope). But no fear, the damage would become evident sooner than later to the naked eye. Split ends, thinned ends/hair shaft, loose curls, breakage, dull and lackluster hair are a few signs of damage done by constant use of heat (even with heat protectant).


I believe that consistent use of heat (flat iron/blow drying) on coily hair will thin out the hair, hinder length retention, and hamper with health of the coils (elasticity, moisture, strength, density, porosity, etc).

Will I use heat again? Extremely limited, but yes. I have unwittingly discovered a mindset of loving my hair in it's actual texture (aka: I've fallen in love with my hair)! I've also fallen in love with air dried braidouts, twistouts, and two strand twists. Alternating between these styling options have left me with little time to contemplate the 3 hour ordeal of flat ironing and damaging my hair. I understand the love for straight hair. It's the styling that many of us had for so many years! There is a psychological factor behind many curly haired beauties "need" to lay the hair down. Understandably so.

We often exchange the health, strength and length of our hair with the need to see it lay down flat. Whether it's laid down by chemical, heat methods, or pulled back tension hairstyles. Each way will always sacrifice the health of hair. An unfortunate truth is that many folks (including salon professionals) do not know how to properly use heat tools, and how to care for hair that has been exposed to heat.

If the goal for 2013 is length retention (growing long, healthy tresses), then heat may need to be placed on the "back burner" (pun intended). I'm definitely limiting my heat use to even less than 4 times a year (possibly down to 2 times a year). T's heat use plans are down from 2x a month to once every 6 weeks. We will continue to keep track of heat use and length retention, and post updates once a significant time has passed.

Heat Free Styling Will Maximize Healthy Hair Benefits: KEEP ME CURLY

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