Now I will be the first person to tell you that ditching the excess heat was one of the best things I did to help grow my hair. However, heat is not “the devil” to be avoided at all costs. While heat is definitely not essential to hair growth, there are some benefits to using heat in your natural hair care routine.
1) Avoid over trimming. It is very easy to cut too much when trimming natural hair in its curly state. I have seen the results of stylists and at home novices trimming their hair while wet or unstretched and often it is not pretty. Natural hair can shrink as much as 50-75% of it’s actual length. By lightly flat ironing and trimming my hair I avoid cutting off too much. I do this 3 to 4 times a year. Be certain to use a heat protectant when flat ironing.
2) Enhance Deep Conditioning. Using heat from a hooded dryer or steamer can really boost the impact of deep conditioner on your natural hair. If you don’t have the space or funds for these try a thermal cap or use a plastic shower cap with a towel on top. Some restorative hair treatments actually work best when used with heat. Always follow the instructions for the amount of time to use heat.
3) Reduce matting and tangling for long term styles. For coarser hair types it can be beneficial to use heat on the hair before putting it into a long term hair style like braids, twists, or sew in weaves. I personally have tried blow drying my hair gently on low or lightly flat ironing (below 300 degrees) before installing braids with extensions. By long term I mean styles that will be left in for 3 weeks or longer. Using heat helps prevent matting and excessive tangling that can sometimes happen with these styles. This allows you to manipulate the hair less because you can leave the style in longer.
4) Prevent knots for longer hair. Now this tip is more targeted for those ladies who already have hair that is bsl or longer. Natural hair has a tendency to curl up on itself and form single strand knots. The longer the hair gets the more prone it is to form these knots. Some ladies find that occasional ( once a month or less) heat use helps to prevent these knots. This can be achieved by flat ironing air dried hair or setting hair on large rollers and sitting under a hooded dryer. I personally do not use this method much but some people find it to be very effective, particularly if they are in a stage of maintaining their length versus growing it out.
5) Flexibility for styling. Using heat allows naturals to achieve a wide variety of styles. Please understand that I am NOT saying this is essential or that styles can’t be done without heat; however it is an option. Hooded dryers, hot rollers, and flat irons are tools that can be used to set hair in a variety of styles. I know some naturals who achieved long lengths by flat ironing their hair monthly and wearing buns or other protective styles in between their use of heat. Some naturals have shared with me that they experienced less breakage from tangling when using heat in this manner. (note* I noticed that these women all had coarser thicker strands. My individual hair strands are not thick so my hair does best when I use heat less frequently.) Not sure if this is right for your try analyzing your hair first.
IMPORTANT! With all of the benefits of above, remember that everything isn’t for everyone. If you have very fine hair strands or hair that is damaged I don’t suggest using heat much if at all except to deep condition. I also recommend using a heat protectant EVERY time direct heat such as a flat iron or blow dryer is used.