Do you know that girl who can comb her hair aggressively with a fine tooth comb, bleach it before placing her flat iron at the highest temperature and yet still have a beautiful full head of hair on her head? Hair is very specific to each individual and what works for one person can be a poison chalice for another.
Every single time you apply heat, your hair becomes damaged. This also applies when you assume the best precautions (i.e conditioning hair first so it can be softer, using an appropriate heat protectant, using the least amount of heat with the fewest passes possible and not using heat repeatedly in a short period).
The type of damage hair has to sustain as a direct result of heat includes:
- loss of water from the hair shaft
— restructuring of the protein within the cortex
— damage and loss of amino acids (mainly tryptophan) within the cortex (J Cosmet Sci, pp15-27, 2011)
— possible surface damage to the hair cuticle (J Cosmet Sci, pp13-27, 2004)
The first two on the list are generally reversible once the heat is removed and hair is washed. However, the second two are permanent imprints. In order for hair to be heat-treated and remain on your head for years after, it must be able to withstand this damage.
There are those of us, who know without doubt, heat is not for us. This is usually characterized by experience with breakage during or immediately after even the tamest heat session. Which naturals need to be weary of heat? Here are the three key indicators
1. Fine individual strands.
Let me go on the record and say that hair in general is not inherently weak. A single strand of my own very fine hair has carried around 80 times its own weight! The issue with fine hair is that it simply breaks easily when stressed (Arch Derm Res pp 499–505, 2007). The process of heat straightening will require stretching and combing in addition to the actual effects of heat on the hair strand. This all creates a storm for fine hair which is less likely to withstand the stress. The finer your hair, the more cautious you should be with heat especially if you fall into the next category too.
2. Kinky hair
Kinks and curls are two different things. Kinks in hair represent a point where hair is stressed and much like fine hair, this also means that kinky hair is more susceptible to breaking. If you have ever seen those tiny wisps of hair (little c‑shaped coils) on your clothes or floor when combing, it is likely that you have kinky hair and should be wary of heat. If you have very kinky hair but have never seen those wisps, then it is likely that you have thick individual strands and you may be ok with heat.
3. Bleached and Permanent Hair Colour (not henna)
The process of bleaching or giving hair permanent colour causes significant damage to the hair cuticle and cortex. While some can still straighten their color-treated hair without ill effects, if you happen to also have fine individual strands and kinky hair in addition to the bleach/colour, then you should be very careful when applying heat to the mix.
Ladies, do you fall into any of these 3 categories? What is your stance on heat?