There is a popular belief that when you constantly use heat to straighten it your hair, eventually your hair will begin to retain the straightness. When this happens, some would say that the hair has been "heat-trained". Well, there is no such thing as heat-trained hair. What many do not realize is that the so-called heat-trained hair is a sign of severe heat damage to the hair. If your hair is in this condition, it's not "heat-trained"; it's damaged!
What is Heat Damage?
Heat, at minimal intensity and frequency, is not bad. As we know, too much of anything can be bad and heat styling is no exception. Some may reason that the hair is just a bunch of dead cells. What's the worst you could do to an already dead cell? To grasp how heat can damage the hair, it is necessary to understand the structure of the hair.
Each hair strand is made up of keratin, a protein. These keratins are held together by a number of bonds - disulfide bonds, hydrogen bonds, and weak Van der Waal forces. The hydrogen bonds can easily be broken and reformed by heat or moisture. This breaking up and reforming of the hydrogen bonds is what accounts for the ability of the hair to revert to its natural texture after it has been stretched. That is why your hair can temporarily take up the shape of a twist after you've loosened it, to give you a twist-out.
Here's what happens when you apply heat to your hair. The heat breaks up these hydrogen bonds, so the hair straightens. But after a while (especially if you live in an area with a humid climate), your formerly straight hair gradually puffs up. This is because the hydrogen bonds are starting to reform. When you sprinkle some water on the hair, it coils back up to its original texture. Excessive use of heating tools during styling weakens the hydrogen bonds. Let's face it: who wouldn't get tired of the constant breaking up and reforming? When the bonds get permanently altered to the point that the hair loses its original curl pattern, then heat damage has occurred.
How to Avoid Heat Damage
Here are three key ways that you can avoid heat damage to your hair.
1. Keep off heat
As much as possible, reduce your use of heat. Cut down on the blow dryer. Let go of the flat iron. This might mean that you'd also have to let go of certain hairstyles that may require the use of heat. It's a sacrifice worth making for the health of your hair.
2. Use a heat protectant
If you're the expressive type that loves to explore various hairstyles, you probably can't do without straightening your hair. Before you apply heat to your hair, be sure to use a heat protectant. A heat protectant is just what the name implies - a product that protects your hair from heat. The work of a heat protectant is to shield your hair from the high temperature that could damage the cuticles. Opt for heat protectants with ingredients like silicones, hydrolyzed wheat protein. These are known for their high resistance to heat.
3. Condition your hair
Before you go in with the flat iron, you should make sure your hair is properly hydrated. A deep conditioning treatment is necessary before heat styling. Deep conditioning gives your hair an intensive moisture infusion and helps mitigate the effects of the high temperature.
It takes time for your curls to bounce back after heat damage, so remember that prevention is always better than cure