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 very high heat.
If you are natural then a good flat ironing technique in conjunction with a heat protectant* will give you super silky results with a single pass.
If a styling tool does not have temperature controls then do not use it, the temperature is unknown and the risk of heat damage will be too high.
Sorry to be non-specific but the best temperature to use on your hair is the lowest one at which you get the desired results. I may be able to get super straight hair in a single pass at 290°F while someone else will have to crank it up to 400°F to get the same results, find your own personal perfect temperature and stick with it. Remember that the fewer the passes, the less the potential for heat damage.
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 350°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 400°F. Higher temperatures up to 450°F should only be used if you dont care about heat damage or you are looking to heat train your hair.
Many curling wands* may not have a temperature setting, they will have just have a temperature range instead. A good way to test the heat would be to start with a small section of your hair in an inconspicuous area, choose a middle setting and work your way up if you don’t get tight enough curls or down if you feel that it is too hot. Remember that the best temperature is the lowest one at which you are able to get the desired results
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.
Try using the tension blow dry method – To do this, gently pull the section of your hair taut to stretch it out while running the hot 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.
Even with that said, if you find it easier and get better results using a brush and blow dryer, then of course you should use that method. The idea is to get good results with as little heat on your hair as possible. So choose what works for you.
Hooded dryers – Most bonnet or 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 hair a shiny finish! Hooded dryers are unlikely to cause heat damage so opt for this method of drying your hair over blow drying if possible.
With these tips, you can see that heat itself is not the enemy and does not have to be a detriment to your hair’s health. With practice, you should be able to get smooth silky hair every time and never have to utter the words heat damage ever!