By Chinwe (pictured above) of Hair and Health
When I first went natural years ago, I did not foresee myself using heat regularly, if at all. However, with more and more length came a few changes to my regimen … and a big change in my mindset. While heat was “the enemy” in the earlier part of my natural hair journey, it gradually became a friend (though with caution) starting almost two years ago. It began as a way to experiment with more styling options but eventually served a dual role of facilitating length retention once I started seeing results.
While heat usage is NOT for every natural, I do share this list for those who are considering using it for length retention. The following are four ways I use moderate heat to retain length:
1. To make detangling easier and faster
Prior to incorporating heat into my regimen, detangling would take a maximum of two hours of standing in front of the mirror. With a wide-tooth comb and patience, I would start in the back of my conditioner-soaked hair. However, fatigue and impatience would set in as I gradually made my way to the crown and front area. This process eventually led to breakage of my crown and front strands over time, but incorporating heat into my regimen changed that. Now I detangle on previously straightened hair in under thirty minutes and with less breakage.
2. To decrease knots and tangles in loose styles
Single-strand knots (SSKs) and tangles become prevalent when I choose to wear my hair loose for more than a couple of days. Even if my hair has been stretched via twists or braids, shrinkage quickly sets in allowing for these SSKs and tangles to form. Since incorporating heat into my regimen, I can wear my hair loose (i.e., twist-out, braid-out, or straight) without the worry of knots and tangles forming on my ends.
3. To take a break from protective styling
If you know me, then you know I LOVE wearing twists regularly, but sometimes my edges need a break, and sometimes I do. Twist-outs and braid-outs used to be my favorite options for a break, but as I mentioned above, SSKs and tangles can become problem. When my hair was shorter, I used to be able to wear such styles for a week without any issues. However, as my hair has grown, I can only wear them for a couple of days before knots and tangles take form. Using heat to straighten my hair before twisting for a twist-out keeps knots at bay and allows me to take a 2- to 3‑week break from protective styling.
4. To reduce breakage while styling
Heat and breakage are two words that may sound like they belong to the same family, but when used appropriately AND moderately, heat actually reduces breakage for me. My hair is very kinky and thick in its natural state, and styling it at this length can be difficult sometimes. A little mechanical breakage is almost inevitable, especially if I am on a time crunch. Heat usage, on the other hand, makes styling easier in that the bulk in my hair is minimized and my kinks are temporarily stretched.
Ladies, do you use heat? Has it helped you in any way?