In my article Newbie Natural: 5 Basic Things You Need to Know, I mentioned how there is so much information going round out there you don’t even know where to start your natural hair schooling. As a new returning natural, I am sure you have heard about the No Heat Movement. Like in any discussion, there is both positive and negative talk about whether to apply heat or not to your natural tresses.
All curly, coily or kinky haired ladies understand how helpful it is to keep your hair stretched because of how our hair loves to hug itself causing tangles galore. Straightening has always been the easiest way we knew how to keep our hair manageable, and using heat was always top of that list! Despite it being the laziest method it always gets the job done. However, the question remains, is it worth it?
ACHIEVING A GOOD BLOWDRY
There are many heat-related methods one can use to stretch their hair the basic of it is using a blowdry. The blow dryer uses hot air to dry our hair strands i.e. remove moisture (which our hair dearly needs) to enable it to remain straight.
If you must blow dry your hair then it is essential to protect your hair because if not done properly the expulsion of moisture will dry your hair out which will cause weakness and later breakage.
My recommendation is that you prepare your hair using the following steps:
- Clean: You need your hair to be squeaky clean so wash your hair with a sulfate shampoo or a clarifying shampoo.
- Deep Condition & Detangle: Use a protein conditioner which temporarily fills gaps in your strands rendering your hair strong and reduces breakage. You can follow this up with a moisturizing conditioner.
- Moisturise: It is important that to have enough moisture in your hair. So I recommend that you apply a good leave-in conditioner because you are about to use a heat protectant.
- Protect: The point of adding a heat protectant to your hair is to offset the drying effects of the heat you are about to apply.
- Off The Shelf Heat Protectants: These are usually high in silicones which are sealants. They protect your hair by trapping moisture in your strands so that heating doesn’t entirely dry out your hair.
- Natural Oils: If you want to use oils as your heat protectants, look for oils with high smoke points such as grapeseed oil (251C), soybean oil (257C) safflower oil (265C) and avocado oil (271C)*.
- Apply Heat: Once your hair is well prepped you can now blowdry but it is best to use low heat, and try not to get to the point where smoke is emerging from your hair.
In general, and if you can’t avoid it, you should also limit your use of direct heating tools to about once a month. It’s so that you inflict minimal damage to your hair. Otherwise you only really need to apply heat once every 3-4months when you need to trim your hair or check your length.
NO HEAT STRETCHING ALTERNATIVES
The good news is that you don’t have to go through all that just to stretch your hair. There are many other less risky and gentler methods you can use. For these methods, you can prep your hair in the same way as stated above (minus the protect stage). Ensure that your hair has some form of moisture for easier manipulation. It can either be a light spritz of water, rosewater or aloe vera and/or leave-in conditioner. You can even do a full LOC/LCO for great moisture retention.
The no heat stretch methods are:
- Africa Threading: Our grandmothers used this technique and it has made a resurgence with the no heat movement that is happening now. It involves holding your hair taut while twirling a thread round and round from the base to the tip of the hair. I know it sounds labor intensive but it does give the hair a good gentle stretch especially with little girls.
- Bantu Knots: If you are looking for a stretch with a bit of curl, this is the method you want to use. It tends to be a newbie favorite as you just need your fingers to achieve the style/look.
- Twists: These make for a go-to hairstyle for the lazy natural and give a fairly good stretch. One can either do a two or three strand twists. Personally, I find that they tangle though if left in too long. The flat twist is also another member of this family which provides excellent results as well.
- Roller sets: Naturals with a looser texture particularly enjoy this one. It’s pretty much about using the traditional roller sets when you were relaxed except there is no chemical involved.
- Perm/Flexi Rods: This method has been known to yield good results in type 4a/b/c hair. The challenge though can be sleeping with them overnight as they are hard. One might have to go under a drier to get the hair completely dry if they don’t want to sleep overnight with them.
- Curl Formers: Personally, I have never tried these but I have heard high praise for these especially with long natural hair. They apparently give great stretch and the curls are soft and bouncy.
To better understand the above methods, I found a video by Finally Fiona on YouTube that’s worth watching:
Finally, the decision on whether you should apply heat or not to your hair is solely up to you. As it goes with anything else relating to your hair, research, understand and decide what works best for you.
What is your staple stretch method that works best for you? Which method did you try that didn’t work at all? Which method do you want to try but would like to understand it better? Let us know in the comments section below:
* Source: Will Grapeseed Oil Prevent Heat Damage by Curly Nikki. 2014, October 1st.
Ruth is an architectural student by profession as well as a lifestyle blogger. She is excited about natural hair, skin and nutritional health. She shares her passion with readers on the Just Her Kenya website.