It is one thing to straighten afro hair, but another thing to do it correctly. Many black women suffer from heat damage, because they constantly apply heat to their hair – even from when they are young.
So before attempting to straighten your curly/coily hair, you should know your options, and how to do it correctly. This will give you the best outcome for good looking and healthy hair.
There are 3 very popular ways to straighten afro hair – blow drying, flat ironing, and relaxer. Each of these methods range in strength and longevity.
3 Ways to Straighten Afro Hair
Curious how to straighten your curly hair? Here are three ways:
#1 Blow Dry
Blow drying is a good way to quickly straighten afro hair. It also has a temporary effect, which would probably last up to a week or two – if the hair is not in contact with humidity.
Black hair is easily damaged and can lose its curl if heat is applied too much on a regular basis. It is best if you blow dry with cool hair, instead of hot air. Blow drying with cool air causes considerably less damage than hot air.
You want to start by washing the hair. Washing the hair produces the best results after blow drying and will help to avoid the hair from smoking if you are using heat.
You should then put a heat protectant on the hair. Heat protectants give your hair an extra layer that will prevent the heat from penetrating the strands too much.
There are heat protectant sprays you can purchase, or other products you can use are: oil (preferably argan or coconut), leave-in conditioner, or shea butter.
You want to start by parting the hair into sections. I like parting in sections of four, keeping the other sections in hair bands until I blow dry them. You want to make sure the hair is detangled before blow drying.
You can use a blow dryer with a comb attachment or comb the hair with a brush while you dry it. For a comb attachment, you want to start at the ends of the hair and work your way up to the roots.
Using a brush instead of an attachment is said to use less heat. An easier way to do this method is to pull the hair first while blow drying it – this is called the tension method.
Using the tension method will straighten out your hair before combing it. You can then comb the hair as you are holding the blow dryer to it, until the hair is straight.
Blow drying with cool air can take longer than with hot air, but it will also prevent burning the skin.
#2 Flat Iron
Flat ironing is another temporary method to straightening afro hair. It should not be done on a regular basis, because the heat can be very hard on the hair.
The effects will wear off if the hair comes into contact with water, so you can not moisturize the hair while you are wearing this style.
There are different kinds of flat irons you can get, but I recommend using ones with titanium or tourmaline plates, because they are extremely smooth which causes less damage to the hair cuticle.
You first want to wash the hair very well. Any dirt or grease that is on your hair when flat ironing will burn.
The shampoo and conditioner you use to prep should be very moisturizing, because you are going to lose a lot of the moisture in your hair when you apply heat.
Usually, drug store shampoos and conditioners dry out the hair. If possible, investing in good quality, natural based products will help your hair to avoid breakage from heat and dryness.
After washing you want to blow dry the hair. Blow drying afro hair is a necessary step because it ensures that the hair will stay straight and not revert back to its natural texture. The better your hair is blow dried, the better your hair will straighten.
Depending on the texture of the hair – whether it is 3a to 4c – you will need to adjust the temperature setting so that you are not applying more or less heat than necessary.
For example, if your hair is 4b then you should use the higher temperature settings. If you use too much heat then your hair will look dry and stiff. Similar to blow drying the hair, it is best to part the hair into sections beforehand.
When you are working on one section, first start from the bottom and work your way up – parting as you go. You can use what is called “the chase method” to get a smoother look, which is combing the hair with a fine toothed comb while flat ironing.
Many people iron the same piece of hair several times, but it is only necessary to do one pass. Going over the hair once with the flat iron will help avoid damage and stiffness.
Also, the ends of the hair are the most prone to breakage so do not go back and straighten them too much.
Wrapping the hair before going to bed at night is also important for keeping the hair straight. A good way to set the hair for night time is to wrap the hair around your head – you can use bobby pins to keep it in place – and use a silk bonnet or scarf to cover the hair.
A relaxer is the most permanent method out of the three. It is not recommended for regular use.
There are two types of relaxers: lye and no-lye. Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, is a potent chemical that works to break down curls. Relaxers with lye work quickly on the hair, which also increases the risk of breakage if not applied by a professional.
No-lye relaxers are made with calcium hydroxide, which can dry out your hair, but is better for people with sensitive scalps.
Relaxers last about 6-12 weeks until needing a touch up.
Relaxers range in strength- usually regular to extra strength. It is important to match the relaxer with your hair type and porosity. It would also be helpful to deep condition the hair after washing it, because the relaxer strips the hair of moisture and natural oils.
Generally, it is best to go to a professional and get this treatment – especially if you have never done one before. A professional hair stylist is trained to know how long to leave the relaxer in, when to caution about using relaxer (i.e. after bleaching), and which relaxer to use for your hair.
However, if you cannot go to a stylist, making sure to follow the directions that are included is very important. Rubbing petroleum jelly along the forehead and back of the neck will keep the relaxer from burning the skin.
To apply the relaxer, you want to separate the hair into sections. The hair must be dry, because a relaxer is not as effective on wet hair.
Then you want to apply the relaxer on the hair section by section until you have distributed it throughout the head. Comb the relaxer through the hair so that it is distributed evenly.
The relaxer starts to work as soon as it is placed on the hair so make sure that you are not leaving it in longer than the directions instruct. After the allotted time has passed you want to wash the hair out immediately with neutralizing shampoo, and apply conditioner.
It would be beneficial to use a hair mask to impart moisture back into the hair.
The Final Word
Straightening the hair is the easy part, but doing it right is the important thing. It is always nice to switch things up, just make sure to follow directions and do everything in moderation.
It is possible to have healthy hair in any of these styles. Not only will using these products properly keep your hair strong when applying heat and chemicals, but it will result in a better looking outcome for your straight look.