A heated transition. . .
As your curly roots start peeking out of your scalp more and more, it might be time to start thinking of ways to get them to blend with your relaxed hair. As well as heatless, curly options which get the two hair types to meet midway, you can sometimes opt for a straight approach to creating some style cohesion. This does come with its own set of rules.
Don't straighten new growth and relaxed hair at once.
Given the different heat requirements and tolerances, it's dangerous, not to mention impractical, to attempt the two at once. Instead, apply your heat protectant throughout your hair but focus on getting the roots straight before you move onto the rest of the hair.
The relaxed hair will need a buffer against the heat too, particularly the hair just over the border from the natural part, at the line of demarcation.
Once the roots are done, turn down the dryer or iron (and if it's an iron, actually wait for it to cool down first) to a lower setting before you tackle the relaxed ends.
You can still work on your hair in sections – just make sure the roots of each particular section are done before you progress onto the relaxed part.
Do stretch your hair before applying direct heat.
To minimise your hair's exposure to heat, stretch it first either by airdrying it in bantu knots, banding or threadwrapping, or a rollerset under the hood dryer. Since your hair will be straighter from the start, it will require less heat and less tension to straighten, making things easier on you in the short run, as well as safeguarding your tresses in the long run.
Don't heat straighten your hair more than 2x a month.
Anytime you expose your hair to heat beyond a certain temperature, it is damaging.
Small amounts of damage (i.e., the level of damage that occurs during low frequency heat use, short intervals of exposure to heat, use of heat protectants) are sustainable, and probably not even noticeable on your hair. Overdo it, though, and you'll soon see the downsides for your hair.
So resist the temptation to fire up the tongs or blowdryer more than twice a month. If you want to use heat more frequently than this, opt for indirect heat, i.e., under a hood dryer, though this will not be as effective on smoothing the roots.
Do use a concentrator nozzle.
One of the biggest, most damaging errors you can make in trying to heatstyle transitioning hair is not focusing your heat right.
Exposing fragile relaxed hair to a big blast of heat as you try to blowdry curly roots straight is a no-no. You'll be lucky if you try this approach and the relaxed hair doesn't fall right off in your hands.
Instead, always use a concentrator nozzle when blowing out your roots and use a mirror (or two) to make sure you're keeping the dryer pointed right at your roots.
Don't heat straighten hair under 1.5 inches long.
. . . or less than the diameter of the heat implement you are using, whichever is the greater. For example, with a 2-inch flat iron, do not use it on new growth that is shorter than 2 inches long. Using a blowdryer, the hair needs to be longer than than the diameter of the concentrator nozzle, plus a little bit of extra length to reflect the size of the section that actually gets hit by the heat from the concentrator. Use the smallest brush possible, too.
This is vital to avoid excess heat on the relaxed section of your hair, which could cause it to break off at the line of demarcation; the point where your relaxed and natural hair meet. Breakage at this point is the biggest fear of most transitioners, and widely yet wrongly attributed to the transition itself. In fact, breakage in transition is not inevitable – it only occurs when excess strain is inflicted on the already-weakened relaxed hair.
To be extra safe, leave a 20% margin of error (i.e., make sure you have new growth that is at least 20% longer than your straightening tool) to keep your tresses extra safe.
Do use the lowest workable temperature on your hair.
Don't think that because your iron goes to 200 degrees that you absolutely have to use that temperature. Your hair does not need to reach molten state to get straight.
Even if your hair is highly resistant, if you stretch it out well, work in small sections and use a good heat protectant you can use your iron without crossing into the highest temperature range.
The best heat protectants will smooth your hair as well as reducing the impact of the heat, since this sliding mechanism prevents any one section of hair from being over exposed to heat),
Do use a heat protectant.
For blowdrying, make sure you use cetrimonium bromide, cetrimonium chloride, or hydrolysed wheat protein. For flat ironing, use dimethicone. For best results, one of the first two as a leave in, with a dimethicone-rich serum over the top.
Don't blowdry your hair from wet.
Blowdrying hair while it is still wet causes heat bubbles on the inside of the strand which eventually burst, shattering the strand. To avoid this, allow your hair to dry in a rollerset first.
You can airdry your set or sit under the dryer (the hood dryer uses indirect heat which is much gentler than the direct heat of the blowdryer or flat iron). This way you get your hair partially straight with less heat before you use the blowdryer or flat iron. Your relaxed hair, already delicate from the chemicals will be spared the extra strain of excessive heat exposure, and your natural curls will start off on a better foot, too.
Drying the hair in rollers beforehand is the method Dominican stylists have tried and tested over decades. The bonus is you get a head of hair that is extra bouncy and smooth, thanks to the spring and silkiness the rollerset infuses.
Check out the DHA guide to creating the perfect rollerset to master this technique to take you through your transition.
Do keep the exposure times low.
It's applicable to all hair, but transitioning hair in particular: move through the hair as quickly as you can to avoid overexposure to heat.
If your tool of choice is an iron, keep the number of passes to a minimum – try for two or a maximum of three per section. If your hair refuses to get to bone straight, then don't try to force it – it will mean breakage.
If you're using a blowdryer, then practice your roundbrush technique to make sure you can grab and hold a section taut so you only need to hover over it a few times to get it straight. All of this takes practice, so be prepared to spend some time mastering the brush with the blowdryer turned off.
The results. . .
Using these methods, and balancing them out with heatless styles, you can move through your transition with the option of wearing straight looks having its place assured in your stylebook.
|Olivier Lalin |Fromm International|Thowra UK| Naomi Stelrose Photography|
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance