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Heat training FAQ

A few recurring questions about heat-training, answered.

Why did you decide to heat-train?

I started heat-training because my hair was like carpet on my scalp.  I couldn’t feel the skin through the hair, and I couldn’t effectively detangle the hair in the time I had to spend doing my hair.

I was tired of having my 6 inches of hair coil down to a 1 inch rug on my head.  I didn’t like the way it looked.  I had no “quick fix” option if I had to “do something with my hair” to run my kids somewhere, or unexpectedly had a visitor, or had to appear “put together” in a hurry to deal with a patient, etc.

I was growing increasingly frustrated with my hair.  Initially, while I was transitioning (I did a long transition) I expected that it would be “difficult” with two different hair textures.  But this was actually okay, as it allowed me to pull those strait ends into a ponytail as a “quick-do” if I needed one.

As I fully transitioned, I could no longer even *find* the ends of my hair they were so spiraled up into the carpet on my scalp.  Something HAD to be done!

So I started pressing it, and liked the results.  I recall my mother blow-drying and pressing my hair every 2 weeks, and how healthy it was.  I heard about the (toxic) keratin treatments, and ultimately learned that it was the HEAT component that contributed the most to the straightness.  So I thought I’d give heat-training a try.

Did your hair break off, shed, or dry out?

My hair actually did well with a relaxer, and it does well with heat.  The thing I didn’t anticipate (nor adjust for) were the variances in hair textures (including hair shaft diameters) on my scalp.  So I initially used 450 degrees on all of my hair.  And it looked fabulous.  It was perfect.  Ends were a bit straight, but I LIKED that because it eliminated single-strand knots (and therefore breakage).  But after a couple of months (of me not adjusting down the heat) I did (finally) notice that the hairs at the nape of my neck were broken off.  I was disappointed in myself for not realizing earlier that this hair is “finer” and “thinner” than the rest.

My hair did not shed more (or less), and yes it was dry…but dry is how you want it when you’re wearing it straight because moisture converts the texture.

How did you adjust for the break-off at the nape?

I continue to heat-train, but I used less heat (300 degrees) on the edges and nape.  I use about 400 on the rest.  I WILL use 450 on new growth when it gets long enough (and carpet-like enough) to catch my attention.

How often do you heat-train?

At first I did it weekly (for about 2 months).

Later, I would alternate wet/dry looks, straightening my hair about twice a month for 6 months.

However, my technique later on was slightly different from the first couple of sessions in the following ways:

  • I did 2-4 passes on the hair near the scalp, and only one quick pass the length of the hair at 450
  • I avoided using added moisture because I felt the “sizzle” was doing damage and I noticed breakage (but that was probably due to the high heat setting I was using at the time).
  • I used less heat on the edges and nape.
  • Ultimately I didn’t even run the flat-iron all the way down to the ends.

Now I am in what I call a “maintenance” stage where I use less heat on my entire head (unless, as stated above, the new growth becomes long enough to warrant higher heat and more aggressive ‘training’ which happens every few months, or about once a season).

What do you like best about your hair now?

I like that the coils have loosened, and now I can appreciate length.  I like that I can comb through it in the shower before the water turns cold.  I like that I can quickly pull my hair back (without using a comb and only brushing the front back) for a decent ‘do.  I really like that there is LESS breakage due to detangling and single-stranded knots.  And above all, I like that I feel like I can *enjoy* my hair, instead of fighting with it.

An Update On Heat Training

I’ve been heat-training my hair for about 3.5 months.

After the first month (so about 4 “training sessions”) I realized that simply blow-drying my hair alone would yield results that were straight enough to wear in a ponytail or bun (my normal default styles).  Additionally, I realized that to get the ‘expected’ silky tresses, I only had to do 1 quick pass-over with the flat iron at 450 and my hair would be silky with no tangled ends (or necessity of a pressing comb or small tooth chaser comb).

This was awesome and it allowed me to have a 2 month break.  A break from the hassle of fighting with my hair, or even the necessity of flat-ironing.

But after 2 months, I noticed that I was getting quite a bit of very coily “new growth.”  The reversion of the “heat trained” hair wasn’t bad (actually I appreciated my now type 3b appearing coils), although the very ends were straight (which required some scrunching and gel in order to ‘blend in’ better if I wanted the “wet look”).   But, overall, I was loving my hair and really wanted to feel my scalp again.

So I decided to attempt another heat training session.

All was well…until I became too aggressive and applied the Organix heat-protectant and “sizzled” the coils straight (step nine of the process).  This worked the first time very well.  But now, with the prior heat-trained (weakened) hair, I quickly realized that this wouldn’t work well.  I tested a few strands and when they became noticeably weak, I decided to forgo any add-on water based product.  I instead used a small amount of grapeseed oil and did a once over.

All was well.

Lessons learned: 

The lesson I have learned so far is that the heat-training worked well, but once the hair is ‘trained/straightened’ it’s best to maintain with 450 once a week with no added water-based product with the flat-iron.  Instead I used the Chi Silk, the Giovanni Straightening gel and a tiny bit of grapeseed oil.  Work into clean, wet hair.  Blow dry.  And then flat iron dry hair with no additional product added until the process is complete.

Realize that step 9 of the process should only be done once on any given part of any strand of hair.  So your weekly ‘maintenance’ heat-training sessions are more like ‘regular’ flat-iron sessions.

Perhaps as the hair grows out even further, a repeat of step 9 may be in order on the new growth only.  This is sensitive, however, and so far, has not been necessary for me.

How To Heat Train Naturally Coily Hair

Common sense disclaimer: It’s always important to do an assessment of your hair.  Consider your past experience with heat, split ends, and breakage.  There are multiple components that make a head of hair unique – including density (how many hairs actually grow from your scalp in a given area), diameter of individual strands (how thick each strand is), curl-pattern (how coily is your hair?),  and elasticity (how stretchy is your hair).  If your hair cannot tolerate high heat and manipulation, this technique may not be good for you.

Heat training works best on hair with thick strands, is stretchy, and not previously damaged (by over processing with dye, or relaxer).  If the hair is dense and coily, the results will be more obvious (as your hair will ‘shrink’ less when wet, so it will appear *longer*, and detangling will be much easier, result in less breakage, that is easily appreciated by ladies with very coily hair, 4a-c)

What you’ll need (most of which are also found in our product review section):

Grapeseed oil (or coconut oil works well)

Beautiful Curls - moisture shampoo

Aubreys Organics Island Natural Conditioner

Giovanni Direct Leave-in conditioner

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Organix Vanilla Silk Blow Dry Cream

Chi Silk Infusion

Giovanni Fast Straight Straightening Elixer

Authenticity East African Shea Butter


Electric pressing comb

EdgeStick Ceramic Styling Comb

Flat iron – Ion I-PAK Infusion Vapor Styling Iron

Large tooth comb

Small tooth comb

Pony-tail holders, butterfly clips

The Process:

1. Detangle and pre-treat your hair with pure grapeseed oil.  Work it thru your hair and into your scalp.

2. Wash your hair with a hydrating shampoo – such as Beautiful Curls Shampoo for kinky hair. Repeat shampoo if your hair is still too oily .  Rinse.

3. Quick rinse with Mother’s apple cider vinegar – diluted with water 1:1

4. Condition hair with Aubrey’s Organic Island Natural conditioner – leave in for about 5 minutes. As you rinse out the Aubrey’s, use a large tooth comb to detangle your hair reasonably well.

5. Final conditioning treatment with Giovanni Direct Leave-in.  Apply and work thru gently (as not to re-tangle the hair).  Leave on a couple of minutes.  As before, comb thru your hair as you rinse out the Giovanni.  This last comb thru should be much easier and complete.

6. Do not towel dry hair.  Allow it to drip as you add a small amount of grapeseed oil (if needed).  Add the Chi Silk and the Organix Blow dry protectant (or, if you prefer, instead of the Organix, use Giovanni Fast Straight).

7. Section hair into quarters.  Blow dry each section until dry.

Flat Ironing

8. Working with  small <1 inch sections, comb thru the hair with a small tooth comb.  Then use an electric pressing comb and press the section (getting as close to the scalp as possible).

9. Use the iPak flat iron with vapor ON, and flat iron your hair in small <1 inch sections at 450 degrees.  Go over each section two or three times, excluding the very ends where you should go over them once or twice. You should hear some sizzle as the vapor is released.  You may add a bit more Organix which sizzles a bit as it straightens.  For best results, use a small tooth comb to ‘hold’ the hair, and comb thru it as the flat-iron ‘chases’ the comb.

10. For the edges, use a ceramic edgestick iron , small flat iron, or pressing comb to straighten.   You may have to add some Organix to the edges (be careful not to burn yourself with steam and sizzle).

Subsequent washings

Pre oil, wash, rinse, condition, heat protect, blow dry as above.

As you begin the press/flat-iron portion, you may not need the pressing comb (your hair may not be as tight next to the scalp).  Most likely, your ends (which received more direct heat as there are less and less hair strands present as you go the length of your hair) will be straighter (maybe even as straight as you’d like them).  IF you don’t straighten them, they will wave up with continued washings over time (which is ideal).  However, the ends are less likely to tangle into single strand knots causing breakage.

Take the ipak flat iron with vapor on at 450 and go over each section once (but on areas of “more” kink, I still do twice).  And any areas that seem like they were untouched (which is possible) I go over 3 or 4 times.  And I quickly go down to the ends at 450 once *unless* the ends are already straight after blow-drying, then I stop just before I get to that part of the strands.

Use a small amount of Authenticity East African Shea Butter for moisturizer (doesn’t cause conversion, and imparts softness and sheen to the hair) as needed on your hair and scalp.

After a few sessions –

The flat-iron portion can be down-graded to 400 degrees (or lower).  No pressing iron required.  No small tooth comb, no necessity for flat-iron chaser.  And wet hair will hang longer, less breakage from pulling knotted ends, and more versatility as you won’t need “protective styles” (i.e. to hide your hair) to maintain length.

Heat training is a great compromise between damaging your hair with chemicals, and not doing anything at all.

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