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How To Safely Use Heat On Your Natural Hair

by Shellie Reneé

May 2022

Although I know that a lot of naturalistas frown at the mere thought of heat being applied to their hair, I guess I’m a natural rebel at heart because I feel totally different about the topic.

To tell you the truth, back when I was attempting the whole “no heat” thing, I was seeing less results as far as length retention goes because, when hair is wet, it is more fragile.

For me, blow drying my hair on wash days and then avoiding heat until the next wash day has been the way to go because I’ve had to deal with less tangles, knots and my locks have been a lot more manageable overall.

That’s not to say that I’m oblivious to the fact that applying heat comes with its own level of serious risk (you really should only use heat once a week, max).

All I’m saying is, so long as you know what the risks are and you’re intentional about doing all that you can to avoid them, you can have your heat and use it too (if you know what I mean). I’ve got eight ways for you to do exactly that.

Which hair dryer should I use for natural hair?

Again, ever since I started blow drying my hair on wash day, my hair has experienced less breakage which has resulted in more length because it’s been easier to style (I’ll usually blow dry it and then put it into braids and twists and then wear it out 2-3 days a week).

The key is to go with a blow dryer that is kinder to your hair which would be a ceramic or tourmaline one.

Ceramic is cool because it’s designed to evenly distribute heat to your hair, so that your hair dries faster, so that you don’t need to apply heat for a long period of time.

Tourmaline is awesome because it helps to emit infrared heat and negative ions which causes it to be gentler on your hair; plus, the end results can lead to shine and less frizz. If you want some ceramic dryer top-seller recommendations, go here. A list of some of the best tourmaline dryers are right here.

Let Your Hair Air Dry (at Least) 60 Percent First

Unless you’re using an actual steamer (which is great when it comes to adding moisture to your hair, by the way), you shouldn’t be seeing steam coming from your hair whenever you’re blow drying or flat ironing your hair.

If that’s the case, it’s a telltale sign that your styling tools are too hot for your hair and that you’re singeing them in some way.

One of the best ways to avoid this is to allow your hair to dry about 60-65 percent after you wash and condition your hair. That way, there will be less water on your hair for your blow dryer to heat up (makes sense, right?).

Which heat protectants are best to use?

I’m pretty sure it comes as no shock to you that you need to use a thermal heat protectant on your natural hair before you use any kind of heat styling tool. They’re great at providing a barrier between your tresses and the tool that you are using (as a bonus, they help to reduce frizz as well).

My two cents would be to go with a cream-based protectant as opposed to a spray. The reason why is sprays oftentimes aren’t thick enough to give natural curls the amount of coverage that they actually need.

What are the best hair oils when using heat on natural hair?

Here’s something that you may not know. Were you aware that some oils have a relatively high smoking point?

What that basically means is they’re oils that can take a good amount of heat before they actually start to smoke and disintegrate.

Two of them are grapeseed and argan oil. Grapeseed (which has a smoke point of 420F) is good for your hair because it’s loaded with Vitamin E and antioxidants, plus it deeply moisturizes your hair without weighing it down.

Argan oil (which also has a smoke point of 420F) is hair beneficial because it moisturizes your hair and scalp, strengthens your hair’s cuticles and it’s effective at reducing hair breakage.

My recommendation is to combine half of each oil and apply it to your hair (especially your ends) about 15-20 minutes before applying heat to it. That will give the blend enough time to absorb into your hair shaft, so that it doesn’t “sizzle” when you do decide to put heat onto it.

How do you apply heat to your edges and ends?

The most fragile parts of your hair are your edges (they tend to be thinner), ends (they are oldest) — oh, and also your nape.

So, while I know that on “straight hair days”, you probably want those parts to be the straightest, you really need to go really easy on those parts.

Definitely apply light heat, when it comes to your edges, avoid alcohol-based products (it’ll dry your hair out) and make sure to apply a leave-in conditioner on your ends — that will help to give them some extra moisture, so that the heat won’t dry your ends out.

Stop “Over Passing”

Listen, I have moments when I like bone straight hair as much as the next sistah; that doesn’t mean it’s good for me (or you), though.

As far as taking a blow dryer or flat iron to your hair, the general rule ins that you should “pass through it” only one time and definitely no more than twice.

The reason why is because not only does heat break down the keratin (protein) that is in your hair, it can also dry your hair out.

For some tips on how to apply the one-pass rule when using a flat iron, YouTubers Apolonia Pearl (here) and Studio Techilo (here) can totally help you out. Come to think of it, if you want to learn how to safely silk press your hair at home, Sham Bates (here), J MAYO (here) and Kinzey Rae (here) are some other “Tubers” who totally have your back as well.

Clean Your Heat Styling Tools

I would scream this particular point from the mountaintops, if I could! If you’re not cleaning your flat irons on a consistent basis, you are definitely upping your chances for heat damage.

That’s because, between old singed hair and product buildup, it’s a lot easier for your tresses to get stuck to your iron and that can definitely lead to burned hair.

If you’re unsure of how to properly clean a flat iron yourself, YouTuber Angie Ravenel has a video that you can totally hook you up. It’s located right here.

Always Take the “Less Is More” Approach

If you asked a lot of people who’ve experienced heat damage how often they applied heat, I’d be surprised it they said, “every once in a while”.

Just like most things in life, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to blow dryers and flat irons.

So, rather than seeing heat as the enemy, try and take a less as more approach. No more than a couple of times a month should be the general rule and, so long as you do everything that I recommended, you should be able to enjoy heat rather than avoiding it for good. Real talk.