Picking a flat iron to use is such a hard decision. There is no doubt that our increasing dependency on heating tools for our hair has been very damaging, perhaps even more damaging than our use of chemicals (my own claim that is not substantiated by any empirical studies). I have always had a healthy fear of heating tools like curling irons and flat irons, mostly because of a bad incident with a big barrel curling iron and my forehead courtesy of a friend whose name shall not be mentioned. What bugged me was that despite all the time and effort, these irons still did not get all of my hair straight or curled right. In addition, I have seen friends and others lose their hair from breakage, caused by how brittle the extreme temperature makes the hair. I mean really, if you think about it, when we would put oil in our hair, spray on the oil sheen and then let the irons sizzle on our hair, we essentially fried the life out of our hair.
Today, hair recovery products are not just for those who have used relaxers, or color their hair a lot, but there is a growing line for heat-damaged hair. The lesson here is, two-fold, it is important not only to be cautious of what heating tools we use and how often we use them, but it also important to watch the way we use heating tools in our hair.
The tool itself.
There’s been a lot of talk on how ceramic flat irons seal the hair cuticle and this prevents breakage. I can’t claim to know all that about the technical stuff. What I know is, that I was sitting in a hairstylist’s chair and she thought I had a lot of breakage because my hair had been textured (cut into multiple layers and volume taken out) by another stylist unfamilar with black hair. Her recommendation was that she use this Bio Ionic flat iron because it would curb the damage in my hair while allowing her to style it. The flat iron was amazing. My hair had never been so smooth or so manageable in my life. Seriously, my kinky African hair kept the smooth texture for 2 whole weeks!!! During which time, my hair did not dry out and I did not have to keep putting stuff in it to make it look sleek and shiny– apparently the silicone strip and infused oils takes care of that. I don’t mean for this post to be a product placement ad, but I was so amazed by this flat iron that I called the hair salon and the hair stylist halfway across the country to know what she used. Thus my introduction to Bio Ionic. They use a technology that will ” re-hydrate, re-condition and restore moisture balance” in hair. Normally the flat irons run about USD$200, but I was able to find some on Amazon for $50 — I love to shop for bargains! Bio Ionic has a listing on their website of international distributors and while I was unable to find any distributors in Zambia or Nigeria, there’s one in South Africa. I have not regretted this purchase and walk into the beauty shop demanding that they use my flat iron. Whether or not you choose to go with my recommendation, find an iron that will protect and treat your hair while it is styling your hair. Start with one that has ceramic plates and run far away from “cheap hot irons.”
NB: Before I make such “grand” commitments I like to do some homework and read reviews from other customers. Overall there was very positive reviews for this flat iron and in the poor reviews it was pretty clear that most of those individuals had not been using the iron properly and were not protecting their hair before assaulting it with iron smelting temperatures.
As much as I love my flat iron and I know it conditions my hair, I still only use it about once a month or so, not very often. Exposing one’s hair to heating tools every day is still damaging, regardless of the super powers one’s flat iron might possess. Once a week may not be too bad if you’re balancing out the damage with a good conditioner AND using a HEAT PROTECTOR. A number of different brands create heat protectors, Tresemme (did not like this brand, it was sticky and left residue in my hair), Pantene, Redken, Chi, Let’s Jam and an increasing number of ethnic hair products carry a heat protector. I have been trying a number of different brands and while I have yet to settle on one I love, so far I have liked best the generic brand carried by Sally’s Beauty Supply. Now I am not sure that these have made it to Africa. In the meantime, what I would recommend is that, you use a good deep conditioner (I like Dove’s damage therapy line, Olive Oil) and a leave in conditioner and wait until after the hair has been straightened before loading up the grease. Reducing the amount of “frying” will protect your hair shaft. It all comes down to conditioning. Keeping hair well-conditioned (but not over-conditioned), keeps damage at bay and promotes a healthy scalp and healthy hair.
Although this post has talked more about flat irons (and curling irons), the lessons extend also to hair dryers. All around constant exposure to [direct] heat is bad for hair regardless of the texture and type. It is important that you PROTECT your hair!
I was obsessed with flat irons, but went a bit overboard with it and ended up with worse breakage than when I had relaxed hair. In the end I just had to cut it all of- again! Thanks for this piece, really informative!