Many women with curly hair all over the world are faced with a tough decision, should I straighten my hair? And how should I straighten my hair, permanently or semi-permanently? What are the risks with either option? If you are a curly-haired woman in this very situation do think carefully about your choices.
There are many things to consider, for example, the cost of upkeep with a permanent hair straightener, the condition your hair might be left in one straightened, then there is the big ‘what if’ question. What do you do if you wish to revert to your curls after you have permanently straightened your hair?
You could be reading this thinking well, why would I do that? I’d do anything to rid my curls and have stress free straight hair, that I could tame. It may surprise you to know that once the deed is done many women do face regret over their decision. If this is you, or you are wondering how do I get myself out of this mess? Without looking like a hot mess with two different hair textures–straight ends and curly roots read on.
How Did Hair Straightening Start?
First, let’s take a step back in history and understand where this ‘ritual’ some might call it came from. Straight hair has been popular for centuries with women all over the world, it dates back to ancient Egypt. Flat plates or slabs of stone were heated up and used to literally iron out unruly hair.
This as you can imagine resulted in a lot of burns to the scalp, none the fewer women in Egypt and around the world still embraced this method to tame their hair. In the nineteenth century, a French hair stylist called Marcel Grateau invented the first set of straightening irons. Women would curl their hair around the heated iron. The design of the straightening irons evolved, a Scottish lady by the name of Lady Jennifer Bell Schofield invented a flatter version.
This evolved further to the twentieth century common styles of hair straighteners we see today, that are much safer and now come with ceramic plates. Hair dryers have also been developed to semi-permanently straighten curly hair.
Historically, African-American women or women of a descent with an afro or more coarse hair used a ‘hot comb,’ which is an iron comb that would be heated on a stove and then pressed through the hair. It was commonly called ‘hot combing’ the hair. The problem with this method was that the results were not sustainable, the slightest bit of humidity would curl up the hot-combed hair.
In the early 1950s chemicals came into play, the African-American community embraced this as a way to straighten their hair. To this day we call it ‘relaxing’ the hair. The chemicals reduce the structure of the hair so that it will fall straight and flat, the curls are broken down. Every six-eight weeks once new growth starts to show, the roots are touched up with a relaxer, similar to how hair dye is retouched.
As you can imagine, with chemicals this harsh that it can reduce a coarse hair structure, there are health risks. Not to mention the possibility of burns to the scalp, if the relaxer is left on too long. In later years, Caucasian women and women of other descents with curly hair also embraced using chemical relaxers as a way to straighten their hair. This method regardless of who uses it is a permanent fix to curly hair.
How Can You Return To Curly Hair?
If you have used a semi-permeant straightener such as a hair dryer or hair straighteners coated by titanium, this is easy. Use a moisture rich shampoo to wash your hair, condition it with a protein-based conditioner to restore strength to your hair’s structure. Use a wide tooth hairbrush or comb to work the conditioner through your hair, leave it on for five minutes, or however long the product recommends with or without heat.
Rinse your hair clean with warm water, add in some leave-in conditioner and you are good to go! Your curls should be back.
If, however, you have used a permeant option with a chemical hair straighter, this will require a bit more time and effort.
Decide on if you are brave enough to do a ‘big chop’ off your hair, and chop it down to your curly roots. For many African-American women, this is an option they decide on. It’s faster, easier and saves the hassle of managing very coarse hair with two hair textures. Women of other descents can also make this choice of course. Think of it as an ideal time to update your whole look, new makeup, big earrings the works!
Your face will be on a show with a pixie crop to make the most of it. If you are not that brave or wish to go slower, you will need to grow out your chemical hair straightener and chop the ends little by little, until there is only one texture in your hair. This option is a lot slower, but safer and suits those who wish to keep some of the lengths of their hair. However, how quickly you rid your straight hair and return to your curls, with this method, is a matter of how fast your hair grows.
Hence a lot of women ‘big chop’ as a way to speed up the process, and not have to deal with two textures. Once you have decided which road you wish to travel back to your natural curls, here are four tips that can be used regardless of the road you decide on.
- Invest in a high-quality shampoo and conditioner. The cost of a shampoo does not always dictate the quality. By quality what is meant is one that is sulfate and paraben free. Sulphates and parabens are present in chemical household cleaners. They are the ingredients that clean and strip away dirt especially in bleach… why would you want this on your hair? It will strip away your hair’s natural defenses and overall condition. Check the label before you buy a shampoo or conditioner. The reason you need a sulfate and paraben free shampoo is that you need to prepare your hair for returning to its natural state, it needs to be renewed following all the chemical straighteners. Here and here are two lists with sulfate free shampoos. You can also read here why you should stay away from sulfates and parabens.
- Each week shampoo and deep condition your hair without fail, this is a must to help the condition return to your hair.
- Trim your hair every six-eight weeks. If you have done a ‘big chop’ this could be longer for you, allow your curls to grow a bit more. If you have two hair textures still, it is a must that you trim your hair. More than just the ‘dust’ from the ends too. I’m talking an inch or more as painful as it might be, you need to get rid of the straight ends as this will encourage your hair to grow, trust me! I returned to my natural curls and I found the more I cut, the more it grew until I decided to do my ‘big chop’ right down to my curls. I was left with hair no more than one inch, it was worth it and it grew like a weed once the heavy badly conditioned straight ends were gone.
- Find styles that can work for your hair while it has two textures if you are yet to do your big chop. This could be using rollers, curlers, pinning your hair up, braids etc. anything that will mask the fact that you have two textures. At the same time, this will encourage your hair to do what you want it to do naturally, curl and return to its natural state with nice fuzz free curls.
Most of all, as you grow out your straightened hair you must increase the care aspect. Chemically straighten hair is weak and subject to broken and split ends. Protect the hair that is growing from your roots with lots of conditioning, and stay away from the heat. The more you can trim off the quicker you will return to your natural curls.