Do you know there are women out there who have made a conscious decision to live with heat damage? Why is it that when a woman decides to embrace and love her relaxed hair, we generally have a bit more understanding but when a woman chooses to live with heat damage there might be shade?
We tend to have a curl pattern obsession these days, like spirals and Z’s are the end all and be all. Before I go any further, this will seem as if I condone heat damage, but the truth is there is nothing to condone or disapprove of when it isn’t my hair that’s on trial. The point I am trying to make is that you do not have any right to tell another person what to do with her hair even if some of it is straight and some of it isn’t.
The other day there was a young lady that posted in a hair forum about feeling less than confident about her hair because she has heat damage and her online friends made no apologies about dismissing her pictures and comments because of it.
She wanted everyone to know once and for all that she did not think that those kind of comments were right and she wanted to feel good about her hair even with heat damage. You see she knows she will straighten her hair because it is easier for her, so why should she feel bad about it?
It got me thinking when is having heat damage ok in a practical sense? To answer that question we have to identify what damage is because that word is used pretty loosely and has a pretty negative connotation attached to it.
What is damage as it relates to hair
Your hair strands are held together by chemical bonds called disulfide bonds and hydrogen bonds. The bonds give your hair strands their shape or that curl pattern you love so much. Hydrogen bonds can be altered when wet, so if you want a banging Twist Out, start out with wet hair and allow the twists to dry and take shape. Even though you do not think you are doing anything to your strand when you style it in that manner, you actually are changing its structure albeit temporarily.
If you finally get that banging Twist Out and you go outside and it happens to be humid you will notice your hair taking on another shape, the infamous poof! Again these are the hydrogen bonds in your hair reacting to the moisture in the air. For us hydrogen bond change is cool, we don’t consider it a problem or something to look down on, but you could still technically call it ‘damage’.
When you perm or relax your hair you break the disulfide bonds permanently to achieve the look. Your strand is stripped of the proteins that you need to give your hair some curl pattern. The strand is thinned out and the only way to give it strength is to add protein to your regimen. The protein adds to the strand but not enough to ever bring your curl pattern back.
If you want curly hair again, you will have to stop relaxing and allow your natural hair to grow out. Relaxing is considered ‘damage’ but it is a personal choice that depends on your hair goals and lifestyle so in most circles is quite acceptable.