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How to Safely Straighten Natural Hair

• Oct 16, 2011

By Cipriana of

If you have read any of my previous articles you know how I feel about heat. I am not against the use of heat, many naturals use heat successfully for easier detangling sessions or just to get a new look.

Unfortunately going to a salon for a flat iron or a press can be an epic fail since most of these businesses are on a time crunch to make room for more clients, and use higher amounts of heat for faster results.

But unless a salons is burning incense, you should never smell something burning in the air ladies. And just because a salon sells itself as specifically catering to natural hair you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about what temperature settings they use for YOUR hair (a safe temperature will vary depending on the condition, texture, strand thickness, density and porosity), products, quality of tools, etc.

Now if you are trying to nurse your strands to health or gain more length I campaign for no heat because people’s idea of minimum heat varies. In my personal opinion minimum heat use is, at most, once a month, using the lowest setting on heated tool or appliances as possible. But if you know how to use heat on your own hair in a healthy way then anything above that is your own prerogative! (I’m not an anti-heat fanatic but I do love to see women’s hair flourish to whatever hair goals they’ve set). These 12 tips are dedicated to the ladies who prefer a little heat in the kitchen!

1. Try placing your hair in a non-heat stretched style such as braids the night before you are planning to straighten or blow-dry your hair. Then take them down in the morning. This will make your straightening process much easier, and require less heat, since your strands will be semi straight.

2. I know you may love your beloved heat tools, but as a precaution I would suggest discarding most tools after 5–6 years. The temperature setting or gauge is more likely to work incorrectly with age and you may not notice the change until it is too late.

3. Make sure you apply thermal protector on clean hair. Hair that is full of product can change the effects of the thermal protector, and diminish the coverage and protection for your strands.

4. If you are not trying to achieve bone straight hair and are straightening to ease your detangling efforts, skip the usage of heat on your ends. The years I did use heat I would stop about 3–4 inches above my ends and dry stretch the ends with braids or bantu knots. Your ends are the weakest part of your hair (because they are the oldest) so avoid exposing them to heat to reduce the risk of split ends.


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31 Comments on "How to Safely Straighten Natural Hair"

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Another great post…thanks, Cipriana!

I haven’t used direct heat on my hair (irons, etc.) in 8 years but when I did I always tried to stretch my hair as much as possible beforehand, usually through heat-free methods like plaiting or rollersets. I have fine, mostly 4b strands and I was always surprised at how straight I was able to get them simply by stretching; it meant I never had to use high heat. I also never went for “bone-straight”; it looked and moved like straight hair, but kept a lot of its body. I never suffered any heat damage at all.


This is a very good article and the tips are so great! I’ve only learned to cherish my hair as of late and I’m coasting in to my second year fully natural. I only permed by hair because it’s very curly and I wanted to loosen the curl pattern. I’m grateful I learned my lesson and I’m off the creamy crack!

Thank you for such an informative site. I love it!


What kind of heatprotectors do you advise?


I use curlformers before I flat Iorn my hair because I’m able to achieve an almost press & curl style using them; resulting in less usage of heat when I run the flat iron over it after taking out the curlers.

NIa/Chic Working Moms

Great post! Very good tips I’ve never heard of before. I need to straighten next week for a trim so I’ll be bookmarking this for sure!

What a coincidence, I straightened my hair for the first time in a year the same day that this was posted. I set my hair (using curlformers and magnetic rollers) just to get it a bit straighter and then I went over my hair once with the flat iron on a medium temp. Both my setting foam (keracare), flat iron spray protectant(Fantasia IC pink bottle) and curl wax (keracare) protect my hair. My hair isnt super straight, but it’s straight, and I was able to trim better than I have all year. I followed this same method last year and… Read more »

I love roller setting! Okay…maybe I’ve never truly tried another stretching method in order to reduce heat, but I can’t imagine anything working as well as rollersetting. I would set my hair in the biggest rollers possible, have them dry completely, use a heat protectant in small amounts (otherwise my hair ends up looking and feeling limp) and then iron with my GHD in small sections, going over the hair only once, thus having bone straight hair with LOTS of body and movement.


I really like the tip to avoid straightening the ends. I’m definitely going to do that.


But you can also use flexi rods and get the hair pretty much straightened that way as well. “Prettydimples01” just did a great video 10/15/11 on this minus the flake problem from a new product she tried. But it came out gorgeous, and I will definitely be trying this new product.


Hope Morgan

What do you do if you’ve experienced heat damage? Is cutting the hair off the only option?

I’m planning on getting Afro Puffy Twists in November, but am wary and undecided about two things. I know that I need to have my hair “stretched” and believe that I’m going to do that myself (not trusting a salon as the last time I had a Dominican blow out, the woman used high heat and passed the flat iron over my hair and my ends multiple times). But, I haven’t straightened my hair myself in about 3 years and it’s a lot longer than it was the last time I did it!! I used to blow out my hair… Read more »

Simplyonique (think thats the correct spelling) has a great tutorial. Chk her out on youtube


That Henna is Blinging girl!!! 🙂 I love your hair, I’ve followed you indirectly, like when you post on CN or other blogs, You are my hair idol! and honestly inspired me to henna my hair! Do you have a blog Shelli?

I completely forgot that I posted on this link! LOL! Star, yes, I have a blog. It’s It’s always hyperlinked on my name in comments and in the posts on CurlyNikki. Thank you!!! Thanks for the info Tiffannie, though it’s obvious I didn’t see it until now:(. I actually ended up doing the blow out myself following MopTopMaven’s old post. I didn’t fully straighten for the twists, just did a tension blow-out and it worked out fine! I’ll have to remember the Aveda Concept salon in Brooklyn though!! I actually ended up getting my hair pressed in Orange, NJ… Read more »
Hi Shelli, I don’t know of salons in jersey but I live ny and I’m in love with a stylist in Brooklyn. The salon is called Wayne Agassi. It’s and aveda Concept salon. His name is G. You can go by or they have a website just type it in google. I would also suggest using aveda products they are expensive but work well. He straightens my hair with no problem at all. And anytime I need a trim I go to him. I’ve been everywhere in ny even to saks which was way too expensive but the very first… Read more »

What heat protectants do you suggest? Thanks.

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Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I to find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing back and aid others such as you aided me.

Ashley F.

good article, I think having a list of the best heat protectors could be beneficial too.


i flat iron my atural hair the other day now it wont get back to its natural state after washing it. help!!!!!


Unfortunately, that sounds like heat damage. This happened to me before i knew the dangers of blow-drying soaking wet hair.

Avelina Fyke

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[…] according to Black girl with long hair, the proper way is to do what I did but then wait for the hair to be 80% dry before starting to […]


What is the appropriate temperature to use on natural hair?

rina abdusalam



Best heat protectant I’ve used is the Pro Naturals Moroccan Argan oil. It’s not greasy and argan oil is VERY beneficial for hair, especially dry, frizzy or chemically treated hair. Put some on after a shower, blow dry and voila!!


What is a good heat protectant if you have very oily hair?

Gayle Allen
Ok … I’ve only used heat on my hair twice since going natural since 94, mainly because it was short. 4 months ago I washed and deep conditioned it and went to the salon to with lots of Giavonni Leave in conditioner in my hair and let the girl who has been cutting my hair for 6 years blow dry it. She used a round bush with an attachment on the blow dryer; this was done in small sections. My hair was very straight following this. I’m sure there was probably some hair loss but I don’t think it was… Read more »
Angel Christian

Thanks for the such a great tips while straightening.Its very nice tips.


BVery boring and time consuming task going to salon for flatten hair.


Best article and yeah i agree with you this the best way to staighten natural hair at home inplace of wasting money in salon.


If you want to straighten hair then you have to do it at your home by your self.and its very easy and natural tips that make your hair perfect straight.

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