Flat irons, blow dryers, curling irons and numerous other heated styling tools can be a great addition to a regimen if used sparingly and correctly. But what is the correct temperature for using these different styling tools on relaxed or natural hair while avoiding heat damage?
Let me start by saying that there is no hard and fast rule in regards to temperature, it completely depends on the thickness and texture of your hair. If your hair is relaxed, texurized or texlaxed, then regardless of individual differences in texture, one rule is to never use high heat. A good technique in conjunction with relevant products will give you the super silky results on a lower heat setting. Not all styling tools have specific temperature selection, but as long as they have temperature ranges like low, medium and high then they should be safe to use. If a styling tool does not have a temperature selection then do not use it, the temperature is likely to be too high.
The best temperature is the lowest one at which you get the desired results. I may be able to get super straight hair at 290°F while someone else will have to crank it up to 350°F to get the same results, find your own personal perfect temp and stick with it.
Flat Irons & Curling Wands – With flat irons, if your hair is relaxed then a low to mid range temperature is the best. This is anywhere from 280°F to 320°F. For natural hair, you will find that you require a little bit more heat to get smooth straight hair. This should be in the range of 300°F to 350°F. Higher temperatures up to 450°F should only be used if you are looking to heat train your hair. Curling wands may just have a temperature range, mine has a 1-10 heat setting selection. Choose a middle setting and work your way up if you don’t get tight enough curls.
Blow Dryers – You may already know that ionic hair dryers are the best. A quick explanation is that they essentially restructure the ion clusters in your hair, bathing it in negative ions that improves moisture retention in the strands. Most hair dryers will have 3 settings, high, low and medium along with 3 or more speed settings.
If your hair is chemically treated, you can crank up the speed setting to either medium or the highest but use the low heat setting only. Because blow dryers are essentially dry heat, you want to minimise the your hair’s exposure to them.
If you are natural, then a medium to high speed setting on medium heat should suffice. Technique is everything when it comes to blow drying natural hair to get maximum elongation. Use the stretch blow dry method – Gently pull the section of your hair to stretch while applying the warm air over the section. You will be amazed at how easy it is to get the kinkiest, curliest hair straight using this method rather than the usual brush-while-drying technique.
Hooded dryers – Most bonnet/hooded dryers will have 3 heat settings on them. The best strategy to employ whether you are natural or relaxed would be to use medium to high heat for 3/4 of your drying time and for the last 15 minutes or so, reduce the heat to low. High heat opens the cuticles but cool air makes the cuticles contract and close. Closed cuticles give your set a shiny finish!
With these tips, you can see why heat can be a benefit rather than a detriment to your hair. With practice, you should be able to get smooth silky hair every time and never have to utter the words heat damage!