But as anyone with natural hair knows, maintaining hair health is of the utmost importanceâ€”and that includes reducing the amount of heat you use. To achieve a straight style, however, many naturals will have to both blow-dry and flat iron to get the look. Call it a follicular catch-22.
To find out how to safely straighten natural strands, we reached out to trichologist Bridgette Hill and natural hair experts Jamila Powell and Jessica Houston. Keep reading for their ultimate blow-dry/flat iron playbook.
Meet the Expert
- Bridgette Hill is a certified trichologist and the founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis.
- Jamila Powell is the founder of Naturally Drenched and owner of Maggie Rose Salon.
- Jessica Houston is the vice president of operations at BeautyBeez and natural hair expert.
Should You Blow Dry Natural Hair Before Flat Ironing?
If you have curls or kinks and are looking for a smooth silk press or sleek blowout, you're going to want to get your hair totally dry before taking a flat iron to itâ€”and that requires blow-drying.
"While air drying will work great for curly or kinky hair in its natural state, to flat iron curly or kinky hair the outcome would not be a silky and shiny finish," says Houston. "If you are intending to flat iron your naturally curly or kinky hair, it should be blown out as much as possible to avoid any tangling and frizz. Blow-drying on curly or kinky hair would also make the flat ironing process a lot easier."
Who Should Avoid Blow Drying Before Flat Ironing?
If your natural hair is type 1 or type 2, there's no need to plug in your dryer before turning on your flat iron. "When using heat to restructure or straighten hair, natural hair textures that are loose waves or straight are, more likely than not, able to allow their hair to air dry 100 percent, and flat iron in sections," says Hill. "These hair textures would benefit from skipping the blow- drying step, reducing the hair fibersâ€™ exposure to unnecessary manipulation and heat." She suggests the Dyson Airwrap ($550), which "allows wavy and straight textures to go from wet to smooth using one tool."
Second, is your hair relaxed? If so, there's no need to blow dry before ironing it. A better bet is for you to wrap your hair while wet and sit under a hooded or bonnet dryer until it's nearly dry. Once it's completely dry, then you can feel free to further straighten it with a flat iron.
You should also step away from the blow dryer if your hair isn't in its best health. "If you have damaged hair or are in need of a haircut due to split ends, you should avoid blow-drying your hair before flat ironing it since your hair is much more sensitive to damage," says Powell. "Whenever possible, it's best to avoid using direct heat on your hair to keep it healthy and strong."
How to Safely Blow Out Hair at Home
Do the Prep Work
It's important to give your blowout or silk press a strong foundation, and that starts before you even hit the shower. "Before blow-drying and flat ironing hair, itâ€™s really important to prep the hair," says Powell.
While your hair is still dirty, Hill suggests applying "a pre-shampoo scalp treatment for the health and protection of the scalp," followed by a pre-shampoo oil or mask (still on dry hair). "Allow this to process for a minimum of 15 minutesâ€”the more time, the better," she says.
Then you're ready to wash. "I use a moisturizing shampoo and I will always do a hair mask to make sure my hair is hydrated and protected," says Powell. "After showering, Iâ€™ll use a leave-in conditioner, followed by a heat protectant."
Spray Your Heat Protectant, Then Detangle
All three of our experts stressed the importance of using a heat protectant before you start drying. "If you will be blow drying before flat ironing, you will need a lightweight thermal spray or leave-in spray," says Houston. "While using heat, avoid using any products that may be too thick to avoid weighing down the hair." Then, detangle the hair and section it off into smaller sections
Powell recommends Mizani's Thermasmooth Smooth Guard Serum, "the perfect option for anyone with curly hair. The anti-frizz serum will help heat tools easily glide through hairâ€”a must for anyone with natural hair."
Time to Blow Dry
After detangling, it's time to blow dry; all our experts recommend dividing your hair into sections, using styling clips to hold each section in place as you work.
"Itâ€™s dependent on how much hair you have, but I usually do four sections," says Powell. "With each section, I do tension drying with the blow dryer. Essentially, you gently pull the hair away from the head and wave the blowdryer about 1-2 inches away from the hair in up and down motions."
"Afterward, Iâ€™ll use either a comb attachment with the dryer, or Iâ€™ll use a paddle brush with a nozzle on the dryer to blow out the hair and get it as straight as possible. I find that this is the best way to get a perfect canvas for the flat iron."
Use the "warm" or "cool" setting on your blow drier to minimize the amount of heat on the hair, says Houston.
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