"Will my hair ever be straight?" - A 3B Curly Head's Guide to Flat Ironing

6:52 AM

After only about two months of ownership, I have finally managed to get my flat iron to make my 3b curly hair straight!

Here are some tips for new flat iron owners who want to get these kinds of results without spending a lot of time practicing:

  • Get a flat iron that's capable of drying and ironing damp hair in one step, like the Conair Wet 2 Straight flat irons (skip the soy protein infused version and go straight for the tourmaline one; infusing is still pretty new, no one really knows how long it lasts or how effective it is vs. good old trusty tourmaline; besides, tourmaline has one purpose and does it well: making the iron slippery and smooth so it's less likely to cause damage... while infusing is kind of overkill; you more than likely have already conditioned your hair PLENTY to prepare it for heat styling and don't really need any extra). This eliminates a lot of margin for error vs. traditional blow drying straight then flat ironing; it reduces the chances of damage because you don't have to use as much heat to straighten it when going from wet to dry hair; and it also reduces the chances of damage from your hair being too dry, since these irons only work while your hair is wet and stop working once it's reached a balanced moisture content. Your stylist is going to say don't flat iron hair wet or you'll damage it - sorry, but in this case I'm going to have say don't listen to them. That is true of a normal flat iron, but not true of the wet 2 straight variety, which are designed to operate on lower heat settings and feature vents to release the steam from your hair.
  • Make sure you treat your hair with protein at least once a week to help combat any damage from anything (not just flat ironing... sun, styling, you name it). I prefer to use hair mayonnaise (Africa's Best recommended) or (my absolute favorite) a cholesterol deep conditioner (Lustrasilk makes an awesome Cholesterol Plus conditioner that is concentrated, thick, and creamy and contains not just cholesterol but protein as well so you can treat your hair in one step). Cholesterol is an excellent addition to your protein treatment - these two ingredients work with each other to help build your hair back up, with the protein providing structure and the cholesterol binding to it.
  • Towel dry your hair well after washing to get as much excess moisture as possible. This will make flat ironing it move a lot faster, and it will also ensure optimal end results since your roots will still be damp even after flat ironing... you want to reduce that dampness as much as possible from your roots, because after ironing it can slip down your hair strands and ruin your work.
  • If you want fluffy, wavy hair: Combine a quarter sized amount of leave in conditioner or oil moisturizer with a dime sized amount of silicone heat protecting/straightening serum in your hands and rub them together to mix, then distribute evenly through your towel dried hair, then flat iron.
  • If you want sleek, straight hair: Combine a quarter sized amount of leave in conditioner or oil moisturizer with a dime sized amount of silicone heat protecting/straightening serum and a dime sized amount of hair dressing (plain Vaseline works in a pinch) in your hands and rub them together to mix, then distribute evenly through towel dried hair, then flat iron.
  • Unless you have baby fine hair, I would recommend starting with a temperature of 350 if you're using a wet 2 straight flat iron. Chances are that's either going to be perfect or you're going to have to take it up a little bit higher, but either way you're not likely to damage your hair the first time you try flat ironing it. It is VERY important that you stick to a minimal temperature when flat ironing wet OR dry hair. Don't try to make it hotter to speed up the process. The more heat you apply, the more you risk permanent damage to your hair, which usually involves the curl not returning to it after being flat ironed. 
  • When flat ironing your hair, if you're using a wet 2 straight flat iron, make sure that you're pressing your hair until you stop hearing it pop/hiss... as long as it is making that noise, your hair is still damp. That sizzling is the water in your damp hair, and even though it sounds scary, it's actually a good noise to hear. Because water can only max out at a certain temperature before it releases itself in the form of steam (which is vented out by the wet 2 straight flat irons), it's actually acting as a sort of coolant and protective barrier for your hair... and once your hair is dry, if the iron is set at a low temperature that just steams and doesn't press it... there's no way it can do damage to your hair. That is why they can get away with claiming that their flat irons do less damage than traditional ones and guarantee it. I don't think most hair stylists have really thought out the whole "don't flat iron your hair wet" philosophy... and I can't really blame them, because the only way I personally knew about what I just described is because I happen to work with computers for a living, and I'm very familiar with how water coolants in desktop towers work. Processors can't take a lot of heat, and water is one of the most effective coolants because it absorbs heat quickly and releases it quickly as well. But the thing is with these wet 2 straight flat irons (that makes them different from traditional ones), is they don't entirely rely on heat to press your hair (which is another reason why you can get away with lower temperature settings). They actually rely a lot on simply controlling the shape of your hair as it dries... the heat is mostly used to simply steam the water away so your hair dries and stays straight. African American women have relied on controlling the shape of their hair while it dries naturally for a long time because their hair is so easily damaged. 
  • Get the flat iron as close to your scalp as you can (but don't burn yourself!). When you are done, go back and press the flat iron as close to your roots as you can again. The idea here is to try to dry as much hair as possible around your roots so the moisture doesn't seep down and ruin the flattened hair below it. Also go over the tips of your hair and make sure that you've gotten all the moisture out of them, or else they will start to curl up.
  • Once you're finished, if you see any frizz or dull spots, polish them up with a little silicone based shine serum OR a tiny dab of hair dressing.

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