Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gettin' it Straight...the Natural Way!

Living in a climate with high humidity can be trying for Naturalistas who prefer their curls/kinks straight.   This is one reason I decided to learn to care for my own hair in its natural state when I first moved to TX. The city I lived in was extremely humid as it's located minutes from the Gulf of Mexico.  I felt like I was working against nature.  When I lived in California the climate was much different, more tropical and breezy than humid so when I'd straighten my hair, it would stay straight just from me wrapping it up at night and covering it with a Du-Rag until the next wash day. I'd wear it straight until the natural oils produced from my scalp (sebum) would weigh my hair down and cause it to look oily and greasy. Then I'd style it while straight in either a high pony or wear cornrow braids with beads (Alicia Keys style) for about 10 days, wash it and condition it lightly and wear it curly for a couple of weeks, then do a full wash, deep conditioning treatment, cellophane color treatment (protects ends from splitting and provides a beautiful shine to hair).  I was able to go from straight to curly for years without heat damage. There is no reason to turn to relaxers if wearing your hair straightened is your style of choice. In this post I'll go into detail on the best ways to keep your natural hair healthy when thermally straightening.

Over time, my curls did loosen a bit, however I don't feel my hair was heat damaged. My hair was more heat trained. There is a difference.  In my opinion, from caring for my own hair straight to curly, the difference between the two is heat damage is a result of the hair losing all elasticity.  When its washed it looks relaxed, mostly on the ends while closer to the roots still has texture.  Heat trained hair however still has elasticity. Curls may loosen a bit however this just makes hair more manageable when it is in its natural state.  Heat trained curls and kinks still shrink, heat damaged hair doesn't.  I do not consider this heat damage. I wore my hair from straight to curly from 1996 to mid 2009 without any heat damage.

My process was the same every time I prepared to straighten my hair.  One way I was able to keep my hair healthy was by using only high end Salon quality shampoos, conditioners, and semi-permanent hair coloring glossers, which also come in clear if no color change is desired. These are also beneficial for Naturalista's with permanently color treated hair to use when their color starts to fade or become dull and needs refreshing instead of using permanent dye all over (unless dying hair to cover gray).  Here are the names of a few I've tried on my own hair. These are NOT permanent and only give hair a slight color change depending on the natural color of the persons hair and generally last 8-10 washes.  They are all ammonia, alcohol and peroxide free:


I don't recommend all natural hair products on hair that is being straightened thermally. Most of them if not all are too emollient. Natural products tend to cause hair to revert back to curly/kinky much faster due to the benefits of using them increasing the hairs moisture level.  When you want straight hair, the focus should be cleansing the hair and scalp with products that increase or maintain the hairs strength, retaining elasticity, and providing the hair with a natural shine without the use of hair polishers, hair sheen sprays or glossers. Those types of shine enhancing products do nothing but leave the hair stiff, greasy and stuck together instead of light and full of body so the hair literally blows in the wind.  Moisture is need however their should be a good protein moisture balance so the hair is able to stay straight longer without reverting back to curly/kinky. 

When choosing to wear your hair natural straight, the hair should be prepped well before any heat is applied.  Again, the shampoo and conditioner should do all the work so styling products are not needed for shine or protection from heat.  When I was straightening my hair I used products made specifically for strengthening and retaining my hairs elasticity like the ones shown below:

[Joico Moisture Recovery] is one of the product lines I used most often . Liter sizes will run from $50-$70 per bottle (I purchased these from for $40 for the set including shipping).  Depending on which benefits you are looking for the product to provide you can choose from Joico's line of hair care to address most any issue you have.  This specific line, Moisture Recovery can also be used on Naturally curly hair for added moisture and elasticity as well.  Joico products are pH balanced however they are not all natural. 

 I learned about Matrix Biolage in 2004 after bleaching my medium dark brown hair to blonde, then dying it using Dark and Lovely's Red Hot Mary.  I was looking for a salon brand that specifically addressed the needs of color treated hair.  One stylist at a local salon specializing in hair color recommended Matrix Biolage line for color treated hair (not shown).  After all I did to my hair, bleaching then dying and straightening, I didn't lose one strand to damage.  I was so impressed with the shine and lasting vibrancy to my hair color.  FiberStrong is one of the newer lines from Matrix Biolage I recently purchased on e-bay.  This particular line is great for addressing weak fragile hair in need of repair.  If your hair is already healthy, it still doesn't hurt to use products that are for damaged weak hair to maintain the strength, elasticity, moisture, and shine to your natural hair, straight or curly.  Although Matrix Biolage Fiberstrong is not an all natural product, they are all paraben free.

Cholesterol is what I'd consider to be more of an old school product.  However, no matter how old it may be the benefits of using this conditioner on damaged hair is still very good in my opinion.  I use this conditioner on clients who are usually transitioning from heat damage, slowly removing ends, or transitioning from chemical relaxers.  I've found that this conditioner also provides hair with more elasticity which is a bonus for those dealing with heat damaged ends, especially if processing this conditioner using steam. 

Its been over 4 years since I've thermally straightened my hair and one thing I've noticed is my ability to retain length is much more difficult when keeping my hair in its natural state.  I've found I have to trim more often (I'd probably trim less if I wore more protective styles) due to my curly hair creating knots at the ends which I can't to feel so I snip as needed.  Here are a few photos from when I used to wear my hair straight...



The shine you see in all of the photos of my hair come from the shampoo, conditioner, and cellophane only.  I never used hair glossers, spray sheens, or any other type of shinning products that would weigh my hair down.  There is nothing worse to me than a stiff, greasy, flat ironed hair result. 

 My curls still snapped right back even after flatironing on a bi-weekly basis using the non plug up pressing comb and flatirons.  It wasn't until I switched to using the CHI flat iron and a higher watt blowdryer 1850 to be exact that I began experiencing heat damage.

There is no way to guarantee your hair will not get heat damage from using the process I used when I was wearing my own hair straight but using the aforementioned products or products similar to those can in my opinion dramatically decrease ones chances of getting severe heat damage where all curl/elasticity is lost.  I hope this helps those who want naturally straight hair without using chemical relaxers to know there is another option.  I think afro textured hair is beautiful either way kinky or's most healthy without using relaxers.



  1. Hi Amber! How are you? Love this post! So many naturals need help with the proper process as it pertains to keeping your natural texture in tact when flat ironing. For years I would see naturals say that using heat is a gamble, and was SOOO afraid to flat iron mine because of that. And the first time my natural hair was flat ironed this lady use marcels and a ceramic flat iron on my hair. I had a few strands that were heat damaged from that. I didn't flat iron again for 2.5 years!

    One of the key things that you mentioned in your regimen is that you would wear wash n goes for 10 days. This builds up moisture levels in the hair so that it is more elastic and is more resistant to heat damage. I first heard of this process when I attended a workshop where Anthony Dickey of Hair rules was speaking. When the event was over I walked up to him and ask How can I flat iron my hair without getting heat damage and he said wear wash n goes for a week prior, and be careful. It worked! But I also added protein deep conditioning treatments prior to my sessions and when I wanted to revert my hair back I would use a protein deep conditioner. Also knowing the proper heat setting for your hair type is important it can vary between textures. I have 3 different textures. I would have lower temps on looser textures and higher tempts on tighter but never above 400. And no heat damage. Your straight hair is so healthy looking the shine was amazing!

    1. Hey Chan! I'm blessed as always and trust the same for you Hun. You definitely educated me on something in your comment. I had no idea wearing my hair natural for the days prior to straightening my hair would have made a difference in lessening my chances for heat damage. I just did what I thought made more sense for my hair! I appreciate you for sharing that with me. I'm considering going back to being a straight hair natural...going from curly to straight like I used to. I really feel it helps my hair retain length much better. Be blessed!

    2. Yes it does make sense. I know I stopped being a wash n go girl after 18 months. So hearing someone tell me to wear wash n goes for a week prior was like ooooh okay, makes sense. I modified it, I would just make sure my hair was sprayed down every day and re-plait. Wash n goes for me = tough detangle sessions. Yes I can definitely see how wearing it straight can help with that. I tried that route before locking up my hair, and my ends would always be super dry. I didn't have enough patience to perfect it for my hair type. You know what you're doing so it will be healthy, and still natural! And your braid outs and twist outs will be more stretched! Same to you Amber, Blessings!

  2. Thanks for sharing. It is almost impossible to find info concerning natural hair that is straightened.