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:
[Beautiful Collection Color Chart for Grey Coverage and Moisturizing color (safe to use immediately after relaxer treatments)]
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 e-bay.com 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.
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.
2009My 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.