Straightening Natural Hair at Home

**This posts details how I straightened my hair and is from December 2010** 

I did not take a before picture as I decided to straighten on a whim however I do have a picture of a wash-n-go done the week before.  It is important to note that I had my fro shaped on the day I decided to straighten it so it was actually shorter then shown in this “before” pic. 

1.  Start with cleansed and conditioned hair.  Apply a leave-in conditioner to retain moisture and allow hair to air dry.

2.  Separate hair into six sections. Spritz the end of the first section with water and finger-comb.  Add a small dollop of Koils by Nature Sweet Almond Joy Nourishing Hair and Body Butter to the length of the hair and combed through using a Denman brush.  Next, using the Denman and my blowdryer with the concentrator nozzle I stretched the hair.  Each section took very little time as it was already dry I was simply stretching it.  Repeat on the remaining 5 sections.

3.  Set flatiron on 350 degrees.  Beginning at the nape of the neck, separate hair into 1-inch sections.  Using the comb and chase method make one pass with the flatiron.  In this method run a fine tooth comb down the section of hair and chase it with the flatiron.  This method keeps the hair from simply being smooshed because the comb detangles the curls allowing them to run smooth between the plates of the flat-iron.  On the second pass I turn my wrist under to give a slight curl and add body.

This method will yield straight results that still preserve your curl pattern.  If you want this style to last use a product that contains silicone to create a coat the strands and lock-out moisture.  You can also stretch your hair by twisting/braiding/bunning while wet and allowing it to air dry or use a hooded dryer.  I like to stretch my hair before straightening as it cuts down on the amount of direct heat applied to the hair.  Is shea butter going to burn your hair? No.  Shea Butter has a heat protection factor (thermal conductivity rating) similar to that of Dimethicone and Cyclomethicone which are the most common silicone heat protectants used.

Un-Natural Hair Obsessions

A natural hair journey can be filled with excitement and intrigue but it is not without its downside.  Damage, breakage and other set-backs can yield some strange obsessions on our pursuit of healthy hair.

I have heard of women taking so much Biotin to get their hair to grow that it caused the “biotin beard” horrible facial breakout of pimples/zits. Check out this story from Lola’s Green Hair.

Or those who used Mane Tail Groom, a product designed for horses in an effort to strengthen their hair.  See this post from Quest for the Perfect Curl.

Then there are those who “hibernate” their hair under protective style for months for fear that if their ends are “out ” it can cause hair suicide. Follow Tola’s 6 month protective style journey here.

As for me, I am terrified of heat damage.  Because of this fear I only straighten my hair twice a year and I will only allow 1 heating element to be used in the process; either a flat iron or a blow dryer but not both.  The irony in this is that for the first 6 months of my transition I straightened my hair regularly and saw no ill effects. 

Yes, this quest for longer, stronger, healthier hair can cause us to do some crazy things.  What un-natural hair obsessions do you suffer from?

DIY Caramel Treatment

A quick post for those who are interested. A natural asked about Diva Smooth product from Janelle Beauty.  The product is supposed to be a “natural relaxer” that conditions the hair naturally without chemicals while loosening the curl pattern.  This is not a new claim.  There are tons of products out there claiming to be natural relaxers.  Some pretty dangerous like the Copola and others are just glorified pre-poos.

I have never used this product, but it is said to be similar to the Caramel Treatment.  I decided to post a how to on the Caramel Treatment as I love to support the DIYers out there and avoid paying $$$ for a product you can make in your kitchen.

Caramel Treatment

  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 6 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 jar banana baby food
  • 3 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil

Add ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend using a handheld mixer or wire wisk (about 3 minutes).  Pour contents into nonstick pot and cook over medium heat until it thickened (it will look like caramel, hence the name).  Stir in a few Tbsp of water to thin the mixture until it is like frosting and allow to cool.

Apply to clean hair using the shingle method from root to tip.  Cover your head with a plastic cap or wrap in plastic wrap.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes or even overnight.  Rinse hair with warm water.  Blowdry and/or flat iron hair.  Results are said to last 3-4 weeks.

NOTE: This recipe is very messy so make sure you put newspaper down on the floor for easy cleanup or apply in the shower.  

DIY Whipped Shea Butter

Bored on a Friday night with nothing to do I decided to check out recipes for whipped shea butter.  A quick internet search generated tons of results yet there wasn’t a lot of explanation of why specific ingredients were used and what the proper ratios of oil to butter should be.  Being the math-science geek that I am I set-off to analyze a few recipes through some kitchen chemistry.

There are plain whipped shea butters, which are simply shea butter and the addition of natural oils.  There are also whipped shea aloe (shealoe) butters, which are a mixture or shea, natural oils, aloe and additional moisturizers.

finger dipped into whipped shea butter

I used what I had on hand for experimenting:

-unrefined shea butter

-olive oil

-coconut oil

-castor oil

-vegetable glycerin

For the purposes of this experiment I decided not to use the coconut oil as it is a heavier oil and I would never use it in conjunction with shea butter for my hair.  The beauty of making your own hair care products is that you can customize them to your own liking.

I experimented to find the best ratios of ingredients for a whipped butter for my daughter SK who typically wears her hair stretched and straight in slicked back ponytails.  And a whipped butter for myself for my typical braid or twist styles.  I made very small batches measuring in tablespoons so that I would not waste or run out of ingredients.  The amounts used below yields about 4 ounces, that is enough for a few full applications, but you can multiply the recipe if you want to make a larger batch.

Whipped Shea Butter for SK

This will work well on those who like to use heavier oils and have a higher porosity hair.  This mix is great for sealing, softening and slicking back.  Also great for skin application to knock out ashy elbows and crusty feet.

2 Tbsp unrefined shea butter

1 Tbsp aloe vera gel

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp castor oil

5-10 drops of essential oil (optional)

whipped shea aloe butter

Whipped Shealoe Butter

This will work well on those who like to use lighter oils and have medium porosity hair.  This mix is great for sealing, moisturizing and slight curl definition.  Also can be used as an all-over body butter.

3 Tbsp unrefined shea butter

1 ½ Tbsp aloe vera gel

1 tsp vegetable glycerin

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp castor oil

5-10 drops essential oil (optional)

Shea butter should be at room temperature.  Place the shea butter into bowl and mush with a spoon so that it is soft and pliable.  Add remaining ingredients and stir the mixture together using a spoon.  Using a hand held mixture on lowest setting; whip the mixture until it is light and fluffy like cake batter (about 3 minutes).  If using essential oils carefully add 5-10 drops and mix again for another minute.  Voila!  Transfer to a clean airtight container for storage.  Keep out of direct sunlight or away from heat.  If product melts simply place into the fridge to solidify then whip it again with the hand held mixer for a few minutes.

How to Blow Out Your Natural Hair

By request, below is my old routine for doing a blow-out on natural hair.  I only straighten my hair a couple times, but you can do it as often as you like.  I use a blow-out regimen that involves stretching and air drying the hair which allows for less potential of heat damage due to using minimal amount of heat.

1. Wash, condition, detangle and deep condition hair.

2. Apply silicone based heat protectant, I have no real favorites any brand will do.  Silicone coats the hair protecting it from heat styling and humidity in the air.  If you are CG or wanting to use natural products then use grapeseed oil which has a very high smoke point so it is safer than other oils such as olive or coconut.  You can also use a shea butter mix as a protectant.

3. Braid hair into 6-8 plaits and allow to air dry.  This will stretch the hair.

4. When hair is about 75 -80% dry, take down each plait one at a time and blowdry each section in the DOWNWARD direction.  You should blowdry using either a comb attachment or using a denman/paddle/round brush to provide tension.  You can use a concentrator nozzle to help make even quicker work of it just be sure to keep the dryer moving and do not leave in one place for more than a few seconds.

It is the TENSION, NOT THE HEAT that elongates the curl pattern.  Because the hair is mostly dry you should be able to blowdry on low to medium heat and still yield straight results in no time.  If you choose to use high heat do so sparingly as not to fry your hair.  Before finishing each section be sure to use the “cool” button to go over the area.

This blowdrying method alone does not yield bone-straight results, but it works for me. If you are going for a bone straight look you can follow with a flat iron.  Remember that when using silicone product you will need to use a sulfate shampoo to properly cleanse your hair.

It takes some practice to get the technique down but you can do it! Else you can go to a salon and have it done relatively inexpensively. For an even better deal, visit your local hair school.