For many women, straight hair offers a freedom they haven’t had before – endless styling options, up or down, casual and formal – but be warned. This freedom can come at a price if you don’t take care of your hair before, during, and after straightening.
After all, you’ve just decided to clamp your hair in a flat iron hair straightener that’s as hot as the oven you use to bake meatloaf. Even if all you’re straightening is your beard, believe it or not, it still needs some TLC.
Here’s our guide to nourishing your locks before using a hair straightener, and taking care of them afterwards.
Start in the shower, with a smoothing or moisturising shampoo and conditioner. This moisturises the strands, which prevents dryness during heating and calms down the frizzy bits that could get snapped off by the iron.
Don’t towel dry like crazy – this enhances your natural curl. Instead, pat your hair down gently. You could even try a softer towel, since terrycloth towels tend to promote frizz in their quest to get you totally dry.
When you blow dry, don’t burn your hair. Blow dry on a low or warm setting, not the hottest notch on the block. Keep the dryer about 15 centimetres from your hair.
Blow dry in a downwards direction to prevent frizz and to keep the cuticle of your hair “closed”. The cuticle is the outer layer of your hair shaft, and it is a layer of dead cells that protect the living inner layers from damage. With curly hair, the cells in your cuticle are naturally raised, which is why curly hair is more easily breakable.
Do dry your hair completely. Never use a hair straightener, hot comb, or other straightening techniques on wet or damp hair. First, the steam could cause you serious burns to your scalp, face and arms. Second, wet or damp hair is more vulnerable to heat and breakage, so you could burn your hair itself.
Brush your hair with a natural bristle brush. Two reasons: First, plastic bristles will make your brush fill your hair with static, the opposite of what we’re going for here. Second, natural bristles are softer and more flexible, so there’s less damage to your hair.
You generally shouldn’t add a product and then straighten right away. All products should have time to completely air dry. You also don’t want too much product on your hair because the hair straightener will literally melt the product into your hair follicle, which is bad for you.
But if you do want to use a product to protect your hair from the heat of the hair straightener, try a thermal protectant such as argan oil.
Divide your hair into sections. Don’t just grab a chunk of hair and start straightening. No hair straightener is magic, so it can only straighten one layer at a time, and it can’t get to the middle of a thick chunk. You also want to be able to see your progress as you go, or you’ll end up unnecessarily overheating your hair by going over and over it.
Choose your weapon
Choose a hair straightener with modern ceramic, titanium, tourmaline, or ionising technology. The first hair straighteners used metal and glass in their plates, which can burn your hair. You could be doing everything right but using an appliance that is not up to scratch.
Finishing products. De-frizzers and smoothers are okay. Even hair spray is fine, once your hair has fully cooled down. “Shine” products with silicones and oils are not good because the oil will retain the heat of the straightening and can burn your hair.
When your hair is curly, it requires a lot of moisture – butters, oils, and more. But you can prevent dryness in straight hair with just a small amount of light oil like grapeseed, jojoba, or almond oil.
Comb your hair out with a natural bristle brush. Same reasons as above.
If you want your hair to still be straight the next day, how you wear your hair to bed makes a big difference. Wrap your hair around pin curls or twist-flex rods. You’ll wake up with some loose curls that brush out into straight hair again.
Also, consider trying a satin or silk pillow cover. This doesn’t cause friction with your hair as you move around in your sleep.
When you shower, use a shower cap unless you want to wash out the straight effect.
Same goes for the beach – a shower cap’s not cool, but you should definitely pin it up somehow.
When you work out, use a sweatband to keep your edges flat, and tie your hair up in a bun or braid to keep it away from the sweat.
Try not colouring your hair for a while. Your hair is already being hit with intense heat, so it’s not helpful to add the drying out and stress that comes with colouring your hair.
Quit smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy fast food. Your hair will turn dull and break, the more you fill your body with disgusting chemicals and food preservatives.
Avoid drastic weight loss diets, since these are a common trigger of hair loss. Instead, eat healthily!
Vitamins you can include in your normal diet to help your hair, skin, and energy out include:
- Vitamin B and folic acid: Eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, bananas
- Vitamin A: Carrots, oranges, apples
- Vitamin E: Tomatoes, nuts, spinach
- Zinc: Spinach, cashews, seafood
- Iron: Soy tofu, legumes, broccoli, nuts
- Protein: Eggs, chickpeas, peanut butter, beans
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, nuts, eggs, milk
Hot style tip
If your hair straightener is a dinosaur that will eat your hair for breakfast, you need to look for a new one. You can find out which hair straightener brands Australians are most satisfied with by checking out our customer satisfaction ratings.