By Christina of The Mane Objective
When I first decided to transition my heat damaged hair, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure, two or three months in wasn’t that big of a deal. Most of my hair was still heat damaged, and I could fake a wash n’ go if I needed to. But as the months progressed, and the new hair got bigger, I began running into a wall. Banana clips had become a joke. Scrunchies made my ponytails have alien head syndrome. I was beginning to resent my decision to forgo the heat. I mean, I loved my new thick natural hair (and the length I was getting), but managing those three months in-between flat ironing sessions proved to be a pain.…until I learned how to enjoy my transitioner hair.
We transitioners are in a unique position, where half of our hair will cooperate with common natural styles (like twist and braid-outs), and the damaged half will look stringy, janky, and fall flat. We also have a hesitant-at-best relationship with heat tools (blow dryers, flat irons), because the evidence of their damage is still very much present. Although we covet huge curly-kinky fros and thick tresses of our wholly natural counterparts, there is still much we transitioners can do to enjoy the natural hair journey. We can:
1. Re-Vamp the Twist-Out
Traditional twist-outs just don’t work for me and my transitioning tresses. They also don’t work well for some naturals with looser curl patterns. Instead of having supple, rounded twists, we end up with these flat-looking things that consistently unravel. Fix that problem with a flat-twist bantu hybrid that looks something like this:
Set your hair with your favorite leave-in and holding products. Flat twist each section until you reach the “hanging” part of your hair, then twist normally. Place your index finger at the middle of your twist, and loop the hanging hair around itself until you get a bantu-knot esque shape. Secure with a bobby pin. Make sure your hair is completely dry before taking the style down. Fluff, shake it out (or not), and end up with something like this:
2. Take Braid-Outs to Another Level
One of the challenges for transitioners when attempting braid-outs is the inevitable tapering of the braid. Tapering causes your braid outs to look great on the un-damaged natural hair — leaving a nice wavy, uniform pattern, until you reach the heat or relaxer damage. Because the hair is irreversibly straight and thinner, waves transform down the shaft into these crispy crunchy zig-zag things that throw off the whole style. Alleviate that with a Satin Strip Braid-out! Cut an old satin scarf into strips (or buy a new one just to cut up…it doesn’t matter), set your hair with your favorite leave-in and holding products, and get to work!
As with all styles that involve manipulating or stretching your hair’s texture, make sure it is completely dry before removing the strips. Once dry, you will have a wavy, uniform pattern that will last for up to a week! For more information on Satin Strip Braid-outs, read here or watch my video tutorial.
3. Get Curls to the MAXXXX
If you walk around with big curly hair envy, and can’t wait to see what you’ll look like with a head full of voluminous curls, try a straw set! Straw sets are popular curl-creating options, common with sistas rocking shorter tresses. But even if you have longer hair (and about 3–4 hours), you can achieve amazing curls with a straw set. Even better, it’s a recession-proof alternative to purchasing a boatload of Flexi-Rods or super expensive Curlformers. All you need is drinking straws (I used 90) and bobby pins! For a breakdown on achieving an awesome straw set, click here.
4. Get Creative with Blow-Outs
Blow-outs are a funny sort on transitioner hair. One part of the hair is thick and lion-esque, and the rest looks almost like you flat-ironed it. Remedy that by creating some texture-blending definition within your blow-outs. I recommend creating big bantu-knots with a light styling serum, letting them set for a while, and then releasing them for super cute waves. Just remember to always use a heat protectant, and products that will allow you to retain some moisture within your hair. I recommend Tresemme Heat Tamer Spray ($3.99, Target), Beautiful Textures Curly to Straight Flat Iron Silkener ($5.89, Sally Beauty), and 100% Pure Jojoba Oil ($7.99, Trader Joe’s) to help protect your hair in its blow-dried state.
5. Still Have a Healthy Relationship with Heat
Just because you are transitioning, that doesn’t mean your flat iron is off-limits. I know, this seems counter-intuitive to those like me, with heat damage. Chances are, your hair is heat damaged not because of the flat iron itself, but because of how you used it. Maybe you made too many passes over the same sections of hair. Perhaps you had the temperature up too high. Maybe your heat protectant wasn’t effective enough. Or even, your flat iron is outdated or made of the wrong material. Quite possibly, it was a combination of all of the above.
Before safely re-engaging with heat, check all the parameters above. Make sure your flat iron has an unworn ceramic or tourmaline coating, or is made of either material. These materials conduct heat better, are more effective at straightening at lower temperatures, and decrease the amount of damage done to the hair. Next, check the age of your flat iron. If you have had it for more than 5 years, you may want to look at getting a new one. Using an old flat iron increases the probability of faulty temperature gauges or shortages — meaning that your iron could actually be hotter than what it says, or cooler — causing you to make extra passses.
Next, check your heat protectant. I advise using at least 2 or 3 products that mesh well, don’t cause massive buildup, and can protect your hair along each state of the straightening journey. My picks in this area are Tresemme Heat Tamer Spray (Target, $3.99), ApHogee Keratin & Green Tea Restructurizer spray; which activates best with heat (Sally Beauty, $6.99), and Garnier Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum (Target, $4.79). Lastly in the product department, I am going to make an unpopular recommendation — Ion Straightening Shampoo (Sally Beauty, $6.49). It works by depositing silicones (oh, the humanity!) and polymers onto the hair that weigh it down (although you can’t feel them), making it smoother and working against the hair’s natural tendancy to curl back up. Now, your hair won’t look magically straight, but you will notice significantly shorter blow drying and flat ironing time.
Two more things on this subject matter and I’m out — check your temperature and your method. If you’re a fan of The Natural Haven Bloom like me, then you’ve seen Jc’s article on what happens to hair at each temperature range. Now, each head of hair is different. But as a general rule of thumb, aim to keep your irons in the 300–350F range. I personally straighten at 350 (360 in my crown) — but again, do what works best for your hair without causing damage. Checking your method involves evaluating how you go about straightening your hair. Do you do a series of mini-passes along each section, or 3–4 full passes on each section? To reduce damge, you may fare better if you part your hair in smaller sections, and do 1–2 passes. Now, you’re ready to safely engage in heat styling and not lose all your transitioner progress! For more tips, click here.
What are some other ways transitioners can enjoy their hair?