As much as I love my natural hair, sometimes I just feel like telling shrinkage to eat it and go back to straightening my hair. The problem is that for most curly haired women, regularly applying heat can be very damaging to our hair.
When I was in my teens, every three months or so my mother and I would have a similar conversation: "Ma, can you please relax my hair? Please." "No. I made a vow that I would never relax my children's hair. When you're an adult and no longer live under my roof, you can do whatever you want to your hair."
I, like many other black girls my age, disliked my hair in its naturally coily form. I didn't feel I looked beautiful. No matter how long I begged, my mother refused to relax my hair, so I did the next best thing. I straightened the life out of it.
All throughout high school and for most of junior high I straightened my hair every single day. The process went like this:
Day 1: My mother would wash and blow-dry my hair. But it wouldn't be straight yet, so...
Day 2: My mother would hot comb my hair. Still not straight.
Day 3: I would use my Chi straightener and straighten my hair on 300 degrees Celsius before school. Finally, bone-straight locks.
I was addicted. I loved the shiny smoothness of my straightened hair. When my hair was curly I didn't feel like myself. I looked different than all of my friends and felt different. And different was bad.
Then it started to break.
Black hair is 91% protein made up of long chains of amino acids. Heat damage did two things to my hair: it reduced the amino acids and caused breaks and cracks in my hair. The first change was a chemical change. When I regularly applied heat to my hair an amino acid called tryptophan was slowly eliminated and the protein make-up of my hair was reduced.
Because too much heat was applied to my hair fibres, the cuticles began to break and chip. The heat drew moisture out of my hair and left it dry and brittle. My hair is very coily and naturally dry . The constant heat was too much for my hair to withstand.
I lost most of my hair before I decided to go heat-free. My hair went from just past shoulder length to a self-made pixie cut in a matter of a year.
When I realized that my hair could not withstand heat in even small doses, I was pissed. "It isn't fair," I thought "how come my sister can straighten her hair without damage but when I do it I loose handfuls of hair?"
At some point I had to get over the jealousy, accept my hair, and love myself through the learning process. There was no point drooling over my sister's hair while mine still needed styling.
Every person who uses heat to style their hair needs to be cognizant of heat damage. Some people are affected in different ways. My hair falls out when I apply heat to it, while my little sister's hair does fine with heat styling once or twice every few months. Listen to your hair. Because I know that my hair does not withstand heat well, I almost never apply heat to my hair. It has been over a year since I even blow-dried these kinky locks.
If you do decide to use heat to style your hair, be sure to use a heat protectant that is right for you. Heat protectants prevent the full transfer of heat from your device to your cuticle. This lessens the amount of proteins lost during the styling process. Heat protectants also coat your hair before styling to guard against breakage during heat styling.
|"Black hair is 91% protein made up of long chains of amino acids"