Someone Please Call 911: Help for Heat Damaged Hair

Sometimes, it be like that.
 My most recent Black Girl Long Hair Post:

 There is a lot of support for ladies transitioning from relaxers, but I can’t completely identify with their struggles. I wanted to do this post to support the ladies who have managed to steer clear of the creamy crack, but overdosed on the heat. Transitioning in a new crop of hair from the heat damaged stuff can be challenging, frustrating, and discouraging. Hopefully this post will shed some light and provide some help.


My scalp is schizophrenic.

I know somebody out there understands the sheer frustration of having multiple hair textures going on, especially in that transition from heat damaged to 100% healthy hair. Somewhere between my heat damage, new growth, and my scalp's own identity crisis, I have about 4 textures going on in my head. Each texture likes to annoy me in its own special little way -- my super straight left side refuses to naturally curl, my right side forms perfect ringlets (but makes my hair look lopsided, juxtaposed against the left), the front of my hair likes to wave instead of curl...and my crown has a mind of its super-coarse own. With that being said, I have learned that the "n' go" part of a wash n' go is actually a no-go for me.

As I have spent the last 6 or so months transitioning from self-inflicted heat damage (not my proudest moments), I have adopted a styling routine that allows me to coddle and slowly clip my heat damaged ends while playing to my hair’s strengths. Sometimes, I even opt for a style that gives me a sense of pattern uniformity. A successful heat damage transition rests upon understanding the following things about your hair:

·         If your hair is heat damaged, your original curl/texture will not return, no matter what you do. When hair is heat damaged, the protein structures in it are melted – irreversibly. This differs from relaxed hair, where straightness is achieved through a breaking, swelling, and realignment of bonds within the cortex of the hair itself.

·         Although not chemically altered, heat damaged hair is still weaker than your normal, healthy head of hair. In my humble opinion, heat damaged hair may be slightly stronger than relaxed hair. (Please note that this is just my opinion, based upon my own observations of my heat damage vs. those I know with relaxers). This is not to say that you have clearance to treat your heat damage any ol’ kind of way, but more so that your chances for length retention in a successful transition are more likely to occur if the proper steps are taken.

·         Not all hairstyles are meant for heat damage transitioners. Stick to what looks good on you, and what your hair responds best to. That’s the best way to maintain sanity along the ride. A little further down in this post, I’ll discuss what styles have and have not worked for me.

·         Treat your textures differently. My healthy new hair requires a lot more moisture and heavier sealing than the heat damaged stuff does. Therefore, I’ll moisturize with my leave-in spray and seal with something heavy, like Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie. My heat damaged hair has a finer texture, and I can get away with leave-in spray and aloe vera.

Now that we have set the foundation for understanding heat damaged hair, let’s move on to the fun part: styling!

I have attempted many styles – some with success, others with complete failure. But hey, that’s the learning curve. As I mentioned previously, some styles do not look good on heat damaged hair. Those styles for me were:

1.      Mini-Twists: Heat damage hair tends to have a tapering effect. The hair closest to your scalp is generally the thickest, and sections get smaller and smaller as you get closer to the ends of the hair. Mini-twists left me feeling like my hair was thinner than it actually was.

2.      Chunky Braids: Because of the tapering effect mentioned, chunky braids never worked for me. Not to mention my hair is layered, and braids would become progressively shorter the closer I got to my face.

3.      Chunky Twists: Ever notice how healthy, natural hair “stays put” for the most part, when it is twisted… all the way to the ends (a’ la Napptural85)? Heat damaged hair, well at least my heat damaged hair, tends to unravel at the ends – forcing me to use scrunchies. This is fine for a night-time set to get cute waves for the next day, but as a style it doesn’t work for me. I am a full-time Director for a Non-Profit Program. Walking around with multicolored scrunchies is not in my cards.

Styles that do work for heat damaged hair, that blend, conceal, or make the most of my multiple textures have been:

1.      Bantu Knot-Outs: I covered this one a while ago, and you can catch all the detailed instructions here. Sure, they're a pain to sleep in, but the inconvenience pales in comparison to the cute super tight (or super loose, depending on how big your knots are) ringlets you emerge with. Perfect camouflage for multiple textures -- it stretches my more shrink-prone textures while giving definition to my straighter side.

2.      Braid-Outs: Braid out are probably the least complicated of all the prep practices, and will produce anything from tiny crinkles to gentle waves, depending on how small are large your braids are. Just prep with your favorite moisturizing product(s), braid, cover, and undo the next morning!

3.      Flat Twists: Admittedly, I am still trying to master this one. Since flat twisting is just like cornrows (with two pieces of hair instead of three), I pretty much suck at it. Even with my sub-par twisting skills, I manage to get some great, cooperative curly waves all over, instead on just 1/4 of my head.

4.      Flexi-Rods: They are a complete and utter pain to sleep in (worse than the Bantu Knots), and you definitely have to take the time to learn how to get your hair around the rod correctly to achieve the uniform curls you seek. But once you do all that, the result is well worth it.

5.      Buns: The boring bad guy of the bunch. I resort to bunning as my go-to protective style 80% of the time. Sometimes I’ll mix it up and do a hump-thingie in the front, or a flat-twist crown around my hairline. Buns are definitely great for me, and make the transition from work to gym time seamless. I usually wear a twist or braid out on weekends, and use the manufactured texture from those to add some definition to my buns throughout the week.

What are some of your go-to transitioning styles?


  1. This article is speaking to my life!!! I'm such a lazy natural so this is inspiring me to stop straightening all of the time & start learning my hair.

  2. Go for it! E-mail me if you have any questions or concerns!