Styling Tools for Natural Hair
The right thermal styling tool, with the best technology, can keep your hair healthy looking – even when you want to mix it up and stray from your natural self.
Even though you've stopped chemically processing your hair, chemistry plays a part in its shine and texture. Plate/barrel surface type, heating coil material and temperature settings each affect how a hair dryer, flat iron, curling iron or hot comb treats your tresses.
Best Heat and Surface Technology for Natural Hair
- Ceramic elements to generate far-infrared warmth
- Tourmaline for negative ions
- Titanium for thick, hard-to-straighten (or curl) types
- Variable heat settings on all your appliances to protect your hair from thermal damage
Ceramic elements used in some hair dryers and styling irons provide even, uniform heat. A ceramic surface won't have “hot spots” which can burn your hair. Also, ceramics use gentle far-infrared waves. These quickly penetrate your hair cuticle and move into its cortex. Each lock warms inside and out, reducing its exposure to potentially damaging heat.
Tourmaline ceramic surfaces emit naturally-occurring negative ions. These charged molecules can help reduce static electricity and keep down frizz. Many people find their hair has a smooth, shiny texture when using tourmaline ceramic styling tools.
Titanium plates and barrels heat up quickly and retain their temperature evenly across their surfaces. You can count on this uniform temperature to avoid any damaging “hot spots” on the surface of your styling iron. Titanium can handle very high temperatures, so use it at lower heat settings to avoid permanent damage to your hair and its natural curl pattern.
Why Use Heat on Natural Hair?
Many people who go natural decide to forego heat of any kind. Oils, conditioners and wash-'n-go styles keep the true curl pattern. Twists, knots and braids are great options for no-heat styling.
For some, natural hair needs help to look good and stay healthy. Single strand knots, breakage along the kinks and curls, disappointing shrinkage and general dryness can often be found at the end of your quest for a healthy head of hair. With all the work you put into becoming and/or staying natural, it's maddening to discover that you don't love the results.
We believe you can be natural without losing your looks. Here are some ways to maintain a healthy relationship with heat to tame your tresses while staying natural and free from chemical straighteners or perms. All of these techniques require that you treat each strand with conditioners, oils and heat protectants.
Before you begin:
- Condition your hair
- Add moisture with a high-quality hair oil
- Detangle well-conditioned hair starting from the bottom and working your way up to the roots
- Detangle with your fingers first
- Use a wide-tooth comb after you've finger-detangled everything you can
- Use a heat protectant before drying or styling with heat
- Remember that kinky/curly hair is delicate: treat it with respect and use low temperatures when drying and styling
- Know and work with your unique hair type; align your expectations with your natural hair's tendencies. Promise not to force it beyond what's healthy
You'll need to experiment to find the optimal temperature that effectively styles your hair. Your goal is to create style while protecting your hair from too much contact with heat. We recommend that you begin with low settings on your hair dryer and styling iron. If you find you need more than two passes to achieve results, raise the temperature by small increments until you find the sweet spot.
If you're inching your tools up to 365 degrees F and beyond, consider revising your style expectations to retain the health and structure of your natural hair.
Use an ionic hair dryer to gently stretch your strands, elongating the natural kinks and curls to achieve length. Work with small sections of hair, clipping the rest back. Hold the bottom of the section and use a concentrator nozzle with a paddle comb or a wide-tooth comb attachment. Start at the top of your strands, moving slowly and steadily down to the ends. Once you find the right temperature for your hair type, one or two passes will be enough to stretch and lengthen your hair.
Straightening kinky, coiled or curly hair without chemicals is possible, depending on your hair's natural texture and shape. Start with the stretching technique above and finish with a tourmaline ceramic flat iron. If you need more than one or two passes to straighten your locks, either slowly raise the temperature (10-20 degrees F at a time) or reconsider the results you want. Pin-straight hair cannot be achieved for all hair types without the possibility of thermal damage and the destruction to your natural curl pattern. Be gentle and be realistic.
Hot combs on low heat can also fashion your hair in a straight direction. Make sure you're using a wide-tooth comb to avoid breakage and that your appliance has a variable heat setting so you can find the right zone for your hair type.
Natural hair may need some kink control and definition for existing curls to look their best. A curling wand with a ceramic tourmaline barrel can do wonders. Remember to use heat protectant, low settings and brief contact with the wand surface to keep your natural hair in shape.
According to some studies, air-drying natural hair can be more damaging than using the controlled heat of a ceramic dryer along with careful technique. In fact, the cool shot feature and low heat settings on some blow-dryers can help you avoid knots, tangles and stress to your curls and kinks.
After shampooing, natural hair can take a day or two to completely dry if left to air-dry. Let's face it – sometimes you need thoroughly dry hair in less time. And sometimes, blow-drying can hasten conditioning and straightening.
Using a dryer on sopping wet hair creates too much heat exposure and isn't an efficient method for drying hair. We recommend towel-drying before using the dryer. Some naturals find that using a tee-shirt instead of a towel keeps the hair smoother and static free.
Once your hair is semi-dry, use a diffuser attachment on your blow-dryer to distribute the air over and around your tresses. Always use a low heat setting or the cool air feature. This is a gentle approach and protects your hair from damage from high heat.
When you want to stretch or straighten your hair, a concentrator nozzle will help direct the airflow to each section.