Heat: Nappy Hair’s Worse Enemy
Knowing what I now know about heat, I’d never advocate its use to someone who is working toward a napptural mindset. That said, if you’re hell bent on wearing straight hair, I’d much rather see you press it than go back to the caustic chemicals that can burn your scalp and eat your hair out, even if you follow the directions to the letter.
Trichorrhexis nodosa —This is an explosion of the cortex at a single point on the hair. It looks like a tiny white bead on the hair, and can lead to hair breakage. It is a classic sign of cosmetic and chemical over-treatment of the hair. In the example, the cortex was disrupted by an overheated hair dryer
But if your goals are to wear your hair naturally and you want to rock styles that take full advantage of your nappy texture, you’re going to have to give up the heat. Yep…using it can come to no good end…both figuratively and litterally. I speak from experience. I kept trying to go back and forth between
This picture was taken in April 2005, and shows the after effects of pressing comb damage. Twists have no elasticity in spots because I had permanently straightened my hair not only in the front, but this damage shows up in several spots all over the top of my head. My warning to anyone about the damage you can do to your hair with ALL types of heat sources either direct or in direct simply can’t be strong enough. STAY AWAY FROM HEAT! If you don’t, at least know what you potential consequences are so that you aren’t surprised should you experience this type of damange. Just know that results like this cannot be reversed. The only thing you can do is to let it grow out and cut the damange out. I did that and it left my hair horribly uneven and thin in spots for YEARS!
thermally straightened and nappy hair and couldn’t figure out why nappy twisted ends were scraggly, wouldn’t plump up, and had no elasticity. In fact, when I wore my hair natural, it just always looked hopelessly dry and brittle. Then I had an epiphany about heat while reading some posts on Nappturality one day, and it finally hit me like a ton of brick. I’d been looking at permanently burned straight hair, but had never equated it to heat damage. It just never computed. I ran and looked in the mirror and exclaimed, “Wow…I have heat damage.” Duh! From that point on I stopped using pressing combs, flat irons, blow driers or any other means to dry or straighten my hair. Once I did that, stopped using petroleum and mineral oil-based products and switched to water/glycerine based moisturizing ones, my hair began to thrive. Although I haven’t used heat on my hair since Dec. ’05, I’m still dealing with its after affects which are detailed below.
The Dangers of Heat
Quite often, the effects of heat are not always immediately apparent. Scorched hair, burned hair, looser nap patterns and permanently straightened hair comes to mind as immediate visible damage. But even if you don’t realize visible damage, every time you apply heat, something more insidious is going on inside your hair shaft…you’re robbing your hair of precious moisture! Think about it. You’re putting oil and a tool that’s hot enough to burn your skin on your hair. The last time you pressed your hair or had it flat ironed, didn’t you hear that sizzle? What do you think is happening to your hair…especially on the inside? Just because you can’t see the damage, doesn’t mean that there isn’t damage to your entire hair shaft and especially your precisious ends.
Processes like blow drying reduce the moisture content below its normal level and can in themselves be harmful. Hair dryers and other heated appliances first soften the keratin of the hair. If they are too hot, they can actually cause the water in the hair to boil, and tiny bubbles of steam then form inside the softened hair shaft. The hair is thereby weakened, and may break altogether. Invariably, bubble hair is caused by some kind of heating appliance, most often curling irons. These operate somewhere between 120 and 180 °C, roughly speaking. Water boils at 100 °C. If a hot curling iron is put on to wet hair, it boils the water inside the hair. The boiling water softens the keratin of the cortex; then the steam from the boiling water expands and forms tiny bubbles inside the hair. Eventually the hair breaks off, either at or somewhere near a bubble.
Heat Damage Adds Up
Damage is also cumulativeand can’t be reversed. Press once, press twice, press three times, press occasionally…the damage is adding up. So as little or as often as you do this you were, you are in fact slowly but surely damaging your hair. Make no mistake about it, the damaging affects of even the OCCASSIONAL application of heat will eventually catch up to you in the form of dried out hair, mid-shaft breakage and split ends.
There’s never a reason to use heat
Many, many nappies have found ways around having to use heat for any reason on their hair. You can plait your hair up and let it air dry in stead of using a blow dryer. You can do heat free strawsets instead of sitting under a hooded dryer. And, you don’t have to press or blow dry your hair in order to trim it. Get some hair scissors and only use them for cutting hair. Make small to medium-sized twists all over your head. Snip your ends. If you’re not comfortable doing this, then you’ll have to go to a stylist, but everyone knows that stylists can be scissor-happy. You’ll have more control by doing it yourself.
If you’re still not convinced, click here to go to Nappturality.com and visit the heat archives. It’s full of member stories who didn’t know that heat could damage their nappy hair or didn’t think it could happen to them. After you read this, and you do some reasearch on the topic, and you still opt to use heat, then you are making an informed decision.
Pictures of hair damage and accompanying information courtesy of P&G’s online reference manual the World of Hair.