A Guide to Straightening Transitioning and Natural Hair Safely

Whether you are transitioning or natural, caution should be taken when applying heat to your hair.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional flat iron or press, but you can overdo it and alter your curl pattern permanently.

And if you are transitioning, it can accelerate breakage — which may cut your transition shorter than you desire.

Here are some tips to ensure your hair stays healthy during your heat application

1) Deep Condition First

Deep conditioning strengthens the hair and should be done before any sort of major application like heat styling and even coloring the hair.  It’s all about giving your hair that strength prior to applying any heat.

Let the deep conditioner sit on your hair for at least 30 minutes, and to get the maximum benefit, sit under the dryer with a plastic cap on.

2) Blow Dry on The Coolest Setting Possible

When preparing to straighten your hair, blow dry on a cool to medium setting.  The cooler the better, of course.

3) Always Use a Heat Protectant

Apply this to your hair before straightening to add a layer of protection on your hair.  Some people use it before blow drying and flat ironing just to be safe.

If you want to go the more natural route, grapeseed oil is also a great protectant and can typically be found at most health food stores like Whole Foods.

I would recommend buying the salon-grade protectants that you can find at Sally’s or other professional beauty supply stores.

4)  Minimize Heat Exposure

If you’re transitioning, heat is really the enemy, so if you must use it, try to keep it down to 1-2 times per month if you can.

Heat not only makes your delicate, transitioning hair brittle, but you can dry it out and alter your natural hair pattern as well.

If you’re natural, you may find that you can straighten more often, but I would still recommend limiting the amount of heat exposure as much as you can because you can get heat damage and ruin your curl pattern.

You will know when this happens because your hair will not curl up anymore.  It will look straight or semi straight like processed hair.  Sometimes you can nurse the curls back by shampooing and deep conditioning, but if the damage is too severe you’ll need to trim it off.

How often you can flat iron/press is really up to your individual hair and how much heat you use, so just be careful.

5) Watch The Temperature

Never, ever buy a flat iron that does not have a temperature control.  If you want to keep from altering your curl pattern, try not to exceed 350 degrees.  In fact, go as low as possible.  If you can straighten your hair at 300 or 325 degrees, then that’s even better.

6) Don’t Go Bone Straight

Aim for a semi-straight look.  No, it won’t last as long but you will protect your precious tresses. :)

You may want your hair as straight as possible, but going over and over the same strands with the flat iron can ruin your natural curl pattern.

Press your hair in small sections and only go over it once.  Avoid using repeated heat applications on the same section of hair.

7) Avoid Dominican Blowouts!

I know they straighten better than anything in the hairstyling world, but I’ve heard so many horror stories about ruined curl patterns after getting one of these treatments.  This is just way, way too much heat for both transitioners and naturals.

Yes, there are always the exceptions and not every person has damage from these blowouts, but let’s just say I’ve heard of many more people who suffered damage than those who didn’t.

Now, if you are a natural who plans to wear your hair straight all the time, then loss of curl pattern may not be a concern.  However, if you want to go back and forth between curly and straight, be careful with excessive heat treatments.   And always make sure a protectant is used.

8) Use Ceramic and Tourmaline-Ceramic Products

Yes, these flat irons are going to cost you a little more, but they will lessen the chance of damage and work better.  Look for the labels that say 100% ceramic.

The coating on the cheaper flat irons will often wear off, and that’s a surefire way to damage your hair.  Trust me, this is one area where you probably want to splurge.

NOTE:  I am not a flat iron expert.  Just like with products, you have to experiment and see what works for your hair.  I can tell you that a lot of naturals seem to prefer the Sedu brand.  They make a very good quality, Tourmaline Ceramic flat iron with a temperature control.  Just please be careful and use at your own risk.

Comments

  1. says

    I just stumbled upon your website and I absolutely LOVE THIS! I have been natural for over two years now….yet…my hair is STILL straight! There are some curls when I wash it but I feel as if I have ruined my curl pattern because I have straightened it so much during the transition period. I’m 19 years old in college and it’s hard because I don’t have a lot of money to buy the right products. I just really wanted some advice…will i never get my curl pattern back? Should I cut off everything and start again? My hair is about to my shoulders but it doesn’t curl any more like it used to when I was younger before I got my first relaxer. It is really frustrating. PLEASE HELP!! :)

    • lisa says

      Hi Kiah

      Yeah sounds like to me you may have permanent heat damage. I have a friend who straightened her hair weekly and wanted to start wearing natural styles so she had to start over and trim her hair off. Have you tried deep conditioning? Sometimes that can bring the curl pattern back, but if you try that and it’s still straight, your hair has probably been permanently altered.

      • Osa says

        Hello dear,
        I just wanted to ask you for some advice. For 3 years I have been using almost full weaves(keeping some hair out in front), now I have decided to let alot more of my hair out , so I have about 5 tracks in. However I am terrified that my hair will break off or stop growing. First of all I left more hair out because when I finally took out all of my natural hair out and straightened it , it was not as thick as I remembered. I wanted to be able to feel my scalp and deep condition( coconut oil, deep masque treatment) and wash it. My hair has no more chemicals in it, but I want to straighten it 4 times a month, wash and deep condition every week but blow dry on cool and straighten on 350. Will my hair have serious damage due to this method? I love the extensions because it helps my hair lay done and move opposed to being light and not very thick. Am I going to kill my hair!?

        • rina says

          Honey, be sure of one thing with so much heat going on in your head youre going to end as bald as mr potato head, i know is tuff but it will worth it, trust a complete stranger who has been in the same position, im pretty sure we dont have the same curl pattern but that doesnt matter heat is BAD

  2. Ke'Spre Gray says

    I am seventeen and i am transitioning again for the second time and i want to know what to do so i can be completely successful this time and wont need to start a third time

  3. Destiny Wallace says

    Are the ceramic flat irons better than th Milstan irons? They appear to give the same results pretty much. Thank you.

  4. Sandra says

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for the tips, advice and suggestions on transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair. I had my last relaxer early November 2012 and I decided that I am going natural. I am very excited about this transition.
    The only thing is that I have scanty hair growth on my edges due to 2 decades of relaxer. Because of this, I don’t want to braid my hair instead I will like to twist my hair and gradually cut off the relaxed hair over time. Do you think that the twist is a good option for my situation with scanty edges?

    I’m currently applying castor oil on my edges and I am noticing some difference so hopefully, I will get my edges back.
    Thanks again for all your advice. Cheers!!!

    Sandra

    • lisa says

      Hi Sandra

      Yes, twists, twist outs and rod sets are great options. You can wear a silk headband to jazz up your rod sets and they will be easier on your edges too. Also, depending on how long your hair is you can pin the twists back into a bun and once again add a head band for style points. :)

  5. Sandra says

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for your quick response. I am going to start twist my hair or do the rod set till I get to my natural hair. I bought the Carol’s Daughter Transitioning Kit and it works like magic!!! I cannot wait to explore in the world of natural hair:)

  6. Makaila says

    Hi Lisa,

    My last relaxer was in November 2012 and I’ve decided to go natural. I cut my hair back in August and its grown a bit but its still too short to like wear a ponytail. I really want to succeed at this so would the rod set style be a good option for me, being that I’m just starting the transition and have short hair? I havent had a trim since August, should that be done as well?

  7. Jessica says

    How do you feel about straigtening or pressing combs? Im 2 months without a relaxer and my hair seems to be thinning to me at the ends. So im considering transitioning, but this is really all new to me. Hopefully I will only press it once a month but my hair is too unmanageable when it gets kinky and thicker. So hopefully i can do that until i fully transition or otherwise I may go back to a relaxer.

    • lisa says

      Heat no matter what you use can be the enemy for transitioning hair. I would highly recommend doing it with bantu knots, straw sets, rod sets and other styles that require no heat. If you do press, make sure you use a heat protectant.

      • Tiara says

        I guess my biggest concern is, I’m all for going natural. Trying to embrace my natural hair. But what fun is it? Is there really any type of cute hairstyles for 4b/c hair? I’ve seen none. Like the twist outs are great but not much of an option when your hair is stuck at nape of the neck length.

  8. Miah says

    Hi Lisa,
    I am currently transitioning as of april 2012…My regimen is deep conditioning and I straighten once per month at the hairdresser. My hair has grown tremendously thus far but lately I’ve noticed excessive shedding. My stylist attributes it to the weather (because it’s winter), wool scarfs/hats/sweaters, and partially too the transition. While she seems to be unconcerned, I am extremely concerned! I have started taking complete vitamins twice per day, but I was wondering if ypu had any suggestions for products that could decrease or stop shedding during th process? I was researching Biotion shampoo….what do you think? Also I have alot of premature graying, and therefore I rinse my roots once per month as well….do you have any suggestions for natural dyes? And what is your take on weaves while transitioning? My hair is half natural and half relaxed so natural styles are not an option as of yet.

  9. Celia Shaw says

    Hi Lisa, I have very short hair and considering transition. My hair is particularly short at the back and the sides are trimmed quite low. I visit the gym up to 4 times per week and I am quite nervous about the thought of walking around with a nappy afro! Are you able to give me some transitioning advice in terms of how to take care of my hair after a gym session, and can you advise me on any particular products I can use for the shorter parts of my hair to keep it in check as the relaxer grows out
    Thank you :-)

  10. says

    Heyy..im 22 years old never had a perm November of 2011-April 2012 I started to get a silk wrap everymonth I don’t know what exactly the lady would put in my hair but I know I would sit umder a steamer then she would flat iron it when the weather changes I usually wear my hair curly (tight natural curls) April 2012 I noticed that my curly pattern was gone loose curls and straight areas so I stopped going to her I really didnt understand because I’ve always wear my hair straight in winter curly in summer. What should I do will my curls ever come back with out cutting it my hair is down my back? I miss my tight curls right now I get my hair flat iron once a month ?

  11. A-lasia says

    Hey Lisa, I noticed in this post you said dont exceed 350 degrees with a flat iron, is that even with the use of the heat protectant? Or is that without the use of the heat protectant?

    A-lasia

  12. Sarah says

    Hi I’m natural about 5 years I use to go to the Egyptians to get my hair straightened before I completely transitioned my hair always looked beautiful and healthy when I went to them but I wanted to go all the way. I would like to let them straighten my hair just for variety but I’m afraid it would be permanent is the amount of heat they use too much or could I go maybe once every 3 months

  13. Sivan Black says

    Lisa,
    Thank you for your transitioning tips! They are very helpful for beginners like myself. I stopped getting relaxers 2-3 months ago. I’m currently using Moroccan hair oil and Nioxin shampoo and deep conditioner that works well on my hair. Right now, my hair is growing back evenly since breakage. How long does it usually take for your natural hair to grow out? I haven’t seen much breakage yet. What type of twists would you recommend for women who are new to the transition? I want to wear my hair in twists this summer so it will be easier to maintain. However, I want to make sure its healthy and has minimum breakage.

    • lisa says

      Hi Sivan

      The kind of twists don’t matter as much as getting them installed loosely. So don’t let someone pull your hair too tight because it can cause shedding on hair that is already naturally weaker due to the transition (which is normal).

  14. sheena pfeifer says

    hi lisa, i have been without a relaxer for almost 2 yrs. i have done the sew in thing and now that i have taken them out i have no clue how to take care of the length that i have managed to accumulate. I a so used to flat iron and blow outs. i do not know how to rod set or twist out my hair with the 2 textures that i am dealing with. can you please help?!

  15. Brittany says

    Hi my hair is very short. im trying to go natural. I cut my hair off in December, had one relaxer. what should I use? how do I start the transition? im so lost don’t know what to do, and im not sure if all my hair is able to twist

  16. Sonya says

    I am trying to go natural. I have not had a relaxer since November. I am currently using the cream of nature argan oil shampoo and conditioner. I am a heat junkie. I use the Babyliss Pro titanium irons. What is your opinion on titanium?

  17. sheena says

    I have been natural for close to 2yrs. However my hair is regaining its curl pattern in the back and sides but thr very front is still straight. I do flat iron my hair more than i should because i really dont know how to do my natural hair yet. Please let me know what you think is going on and how i can possibly fix it. Thank you.

    • lisa says

      Hi Sheena

      Sounds like heat damage, and if a deep conditioning doesn’t bring your curl pattern back you’ll have to grow it back out again. The hair around the front is often more delicate and fragile so it’s probably more prone to heat damage.

  18. Millicent says

    I have been natural for two years my hair is thick and my fro was very big now i am noticing it it very dry and breaking a bit more than it use to.. i use olive oil products what can i do to keep it from breaking?

    • lisa says

      You also need a real moisturizer. Olive oil does not moisturize your hair. It seals in existing moisture so if you use that without a true moisturizer, it just sits on your hair. Ever tried Shea Moisture products?

  19. amber corinne says

    Heyyyyyyyyy my beautiful big cousin. I love this site my curlspiration Lol. I can totally relate to this topic bc I love flat ironing my hair but I lately I have been noticing these straight pieces that just won’t curl when my hair is wet it’s not bad like all over but they are noticeable. Around the bang area Where I normative Where my bangs. Slowly but surely I have had to cut pieces off here and there. But I am definitely going to try the deep conditioning method. I will let you know How it turns out.

    Love ya big cousin,
    Amber

    • lisa says

      Hey Cuz!!!

      Yeah, you may have had some heat damage from flat ironing. Sometimes the deep conditioning will bring those curls back. Let me know and good to see ya here cuzzo! :)

  20. Sandra says

    Hi Lisa,

    I just want to say thank you for all the transitioning tips that you gave through your website. This is my 6th month transitioning from relaxed to natural hair and it is going very well:) I am getting compliments from all my family and friends. My natural hair is about 3 inches long. So far, all I have been doing is wearing Senegalese twists for 2 months, take them off, wash my hair, condition my hair , trim and rod set my hair. I am loving my experience and for me, there is no turning back…thanks again:)

    Sandra

  21. Norma says

    My curls look OK after I wash and twist my hair, but the next day, OMG. What do I do with my hair at bedtime and the next morning.

  22. Asia says

    My last relaxer was in March. And do to so much damage and breakage I was thinking of going natural. I made an appointment for myself but I’m not quite sure if I should chop it all off or get it cut in a short style and some how get it straighten or something. Maybe cut it short and add some curls. Because the crown of my head is where it’s broken off. Can somebody please give me some advice as to what I should do.

    • Sade says

      Asia,
      One option you have is trimming your straightened ends off as your hair grows. It’s not always necessary to big chop. Try YouTube and finding transitioning blogs.

      I hope this helps!
      -Sade

  23. Coco says

    Hey Lisa….

    I have just decided to go natural. My hair stylist said that its not a good idea to do the transition but I should do the big CHOP. She said that transitioning cause more damage. I honestly will not do the big chop. I think that being natural will be better for me and my itchy scalp. I am so nervous about my decision of transitioning.

    • lisa says

      Transitioning can cause more damage if you don’t take care of your hair and keep your ends trimmed. But you can do it. I did it for 18 months and my hair was very healthy. Check out my hairstyles at the top of the site to give you ideas on what to do during your transition. The key is finding low maintenance styles with no heat like rod sets. You can definitely do it. I’m living proof. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.

  24. Odiii says

    Hey girl :) how you doing today? Well I have a question or say a huge problem I’m transitioning my hair but for some reason when I do my twist out it goes loose and when I take it down it looks crimped I don’t want that I want the spiral curl and I relaxed my hair like 2 months ago and put weave in and took it down. I washed it and applied conditioner but still looks crimped can you tell me what I’m doing wrong? Do I have to do the big chop to achieve the look I want? PLEASE HELP!!!

  25. Janith says

    I combed my dreads out and went to the Dominicans and they blew my hair out and straightened it very well. They put a little conditioner in it too. But I want to get my dreads back in for good. What do I have to do to get my hair back nappy enough for locks?

  26. Bonnie says

    Hey, I found your article on transitioning very informative. I’m mixed,half indian ,half black, I relaxed my hair but i’ve decided to go natural,i have not relaxed my hair since march. I went to my stylist yesterday for a wash and she said I had a lot of breakage so she had to take off 4 inches . I am now contemplating if I should just go back to relaxing or continue transitioning….please help me!!! Also what products should I use for my type of hair,i also had it permanently coloured last year but have not re coloured it since march.

  27. Jocelyn says

    Hi Lisa! My hair has been relaxed for 16 years. I am now wanting to take the natural journey. My main concern is cutting my hair which now hangs below my shoulders. Do I necessarily have to cut my hair to start my natural journey?

  28. Odiii says

    Jocelyn you don’t have to you can transition your hair how ever long you want but if plan on doing two strand twists it’s going to look more crimped or wavy on the first 2-4 weeks depending on your hair and I suggest you to do some research and subscribe/ watch lots of YouTube videos they are very helpful. I’m sure Mrs. Lisa probably have more I probably missed, hoped this helped.

  29. Sandra says

    Hi Lisa,

    I am in 9 months of transitioning from relaxed hair to natural hair. I am totally brand new to all the natural hair regimen and I am constantly want to learn about whatever that is out there for natural hair maintenance. I recently did an oil treatment to my hair. I am not sure if one notices a difference (softness, thickness, growth etc.) right after the oil treatment or over time. Any thoughts on this? Thanks:)

  30. says

    Hi Lisa,
    I’ve been contemplating going from relaxed to natural hair for a very long time now. I recently had a friend help me relax my hair about 3 weeks ago and she pleaded with me to let the relaxer be my last. I so want to, but like many other black women I’m to scared and nervous to do so.

    Please help! Is there any advice or even a pep talk that you can provide to help me get started?

    Best Regards,
    Selina Walker

    • lisa says

      Hi Selina,

      First of all, did you know you listed your website as naturallycurly.com? Do you work for them by chance? Just had to ask because I noticed it. :)

      I know how you feel. It can be scary worrying about what others may think or how you are going to manage your hair but you are in good company here and you should join http://napturallycurly.com/forums to get to know everyone. You will get so much love and support and I guarantee you can do it. It just takes some getting used to your “new look.” You can do it!

  31. Cynthia burton says

    I press once a month but now I notice when I wash my hair my roots is very thick and the rest of my hair straighter what could I do to soften my roots

    • lisa says

      Deep conditioning will really help. I would do it weekly since you press often. The ends are straighter because the heat is permanently altering your texture.

  32. Sandra says

    Hey Lisa, (sorry about typing in my in the first email)

    I have a question:

    Please, are there websites or places to go for product swapping? I will like to get rid of some of my hair products? Thanks, ladies:)

  33. says

    Deep conditioning before flat iron your hair really helps in controlling the damage. If flat irons are used frequently then you must go for 100% ceramic flat irons as these will result in minimum damage.

  34. Cree says

    I love your website! I am taking my daughter through the transitioning stage and she is now post 3 months relaxer. Your website is amazing and helping me so much. I am now really thinking about going natural and I am actually looking forward to going through the process with my daughter. Thanks so much for sharing this information with all of us!

  35. LaTrice says

    Maybe you have covered this before but I am transitioning, going on four months, it’s been ok so far. Some shedding but I am now getting to where it is very hard to det angle my hair at the roots and/or where natrual meets relaxed. Any suggestions on what products, combs, methods to use. It takes forever to comb out! Thank you

  36. carla says

    Hi, I am currently thinking about going natural. I have relaxed hair but I don’t want to do the big chop. I have no idea in how to start this process. . Help please

  37. Wanda says

    I am natural 19 months, my hair is fine, thinning out, always dry and hard on the ends. I deep condition, use oil treatment. I seal ends with olive oil, black castor oil. I use giovanni leave in, sometimes Shea butter leave in, grape seed & avocado oil. I can feel my hair oily but does not look oily. Pls HELP

  38. Amaya says

    Hi a while ago I started transitioning into natural hair I thought I was done but I’ve been starting to notice in some parts of my hair the ends aren’t as. Curly is this natural .And would it be bad for me to get a Dominican blowout even if I haven’t had heat on. My hair in 2years

  39. 2k15 says

    I haven’t had a perm since July and now after i was my hair i takes almost 3 to 4 days to get my hair back silky and laying down before that 3 to 4 days i have really poofy hair and my roots are straight from when i flat iron it but my hair is just poofy and i cant really keep it like that because my hair is only shoulder length so i cant really put it in a pony tail without it looking a hot mess………….. What can i do to help this

  40. nessi says

    I follow all these rules and I have no heat damage. when I fat iron my hair I put the tempurture to 400, but I only flat iron my hair once or twice a month. with a heat proectant. will I still get heat damage because of the tempurture I used?

    • lisa says

      As long as you don’t leave the heat on the hair too long and you are protecting your hair you should be OK but I’m not really a pro at straightening to be honest.

  41. Camila says

    I think a professional quality hair straightener helps a lot more! I highly recommend the karmin g3 flat iron to all the girls out there, especially if they’ve just relaxed their natural hair!

  42. dinash says

    i have been natural for a yr now and my hair is curly and i have the afro thick curls and Im thinking of straightening it this one time but I’m nervous it might ruin my hair pattern. i have used the iron just once on it wen i first started to transition to natural and haven’t since then. so my question is would it affect my hair patter if i do it this one time

  43. Sade' says

    I have a question, when you were transitioning was it possible when it first started out that some of your hair had different curl patterns? Also, did some areas of your hair grow faster than others?

    • Dominique says

      I am transitioning and different parts of my hair have different curl patterns, I have noticed that my curls are less defined towards the front of my head and very curly in the middle. Also, some areas do grow faster than others

  44. says

    My last relaxer was a few months ago. I cut my hair short (shorter than I imagined :) ) and now I’m waiting for it to grow. I still use a flat iron to straighten my hair because it gets frizzy.

  45. moesha says

    Hi I am moesha,

    I am 16 years and an just recently start going natural for about 7 months now. I really want to stay natural but my hair is so frustrating. All all my permed hair isn’t gone yet but I cut is about every month but sometimes every two months. My hair gets so tangled, napply, and puffy. When I flat iron my hair it still done get flat and straight. I don’t use grease so is that the problem? My hair don’t look healthy and the dyed section of my hair looks very brittle. I try styling my hair but nothing looks good so I wear high ponytails with the ball. When I wear these poly tails some of my hair in the back don’t fit and when I put gel on it all of it curls up and look even worse

    • Dominique says

      Grease is not good for your hair. If you want to switch it up you could put your hair into a ponytail and a tiny ball and then put a drawstring ponytail on as a protective style? I have been wearing one for about two weeks now; I am also transitioning. Do you use conditioner to detangle it? My hair gets dry easily but I have found it easier to manage when I get suave naturals conditioner and just use it as a leave in. Leave-in conditioners are just watered down conditioners really. Also have you tried any braided styles? I have been doing goddess braids and a single braid where I start around my edges and then when I get towards the back of my head I start shaping into a bun/circular shape. Also a great protective style. I haven’t straightened my hair in awhile but I have been watching videos on the beautiful textures texture manageability system. It is not a perm/texturizer or anything, you could look at people using it online and it is safe for natural hair. The leave in conditioner that comes with it also serves as a heat protectant; you get it at Walgreens

    • Dominique says

      Grease is not good for your hair. If you want to switch it up you could put your hair into a ponytail and a tiny ball and then put a drawstring ponytail on as a protective style? I have been wearing one for about two weeks now; I am also transitioning. Do you use conditioner to detangle it? My hair gets dry easily but I have found it easier to manage when I get suave naturals conditioner and just use it as a leave in. Leave-in conditioners are just watered down conditioners really. Also have you tried any braided styles? I have been doing goddess braids and a single braid where I start around my edges and then when I get towards the back of my head I start shaping into a bun/circular shape. Also a great protective style. I haven’t straightened my hair in awhile but I have been watching videos on the beautiful textures texture manageability system. It is not a perm/texturizer or anything, you could look at people using it online and it is safe for natural hair. The leave in conditioner that comes with it also serves as a heat protectant; you get it at Walgreens I have not been able to find it anywhere else but it might help with flat ironing

  46. Kelly says

    I’ve straightened my hair almost every weekend for the past couple of months and I have noticed I’ve started to ruin my curl pattern, I was wondering will that effect my hair growth and would it be better for my hair to relax it?

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