From a Natural Hair Stylist: Before You Straighten Your Natural Hair; Warning Signs, Questions To Ask, Products, and more…
As a natural hair specialist, I’ve heard so many horror stories when it comes to straightening natural hair. I crossed paths with a young lady who went to a “natural” hair salon that actually put relaxer in their deep conditioner. This young lady had been natural for 9 years! Devastating.
When looking for a salon and/or stylist to straighten your hair, there are key things to look for and key questions to ask that will assist in your search. Here we go!
Referrals & Research
When deciding to straighten, it’s important to seek referrals. Ask around to see if any friends, family or Facebook buddies can lead you in the right direction. But, upon receiving the referrals, you want to do a little research. Ask for photos of the stylist’s work or see if there is a website or Facebook page that displays their work. Referrals are a good place to start, but, don’t stop there!
Questions to Ask
1) What products do you use? (Shampoo/Conditioner, heat protectant, etc)
2) What does the process entail? Is a deep conditioning treatment included in the service?
3) What risks are there when straightening natural hair?
4) What steps are taken to protect my hair from heat damage? What type of heat protectant is used?
5) What is the suggested after care for straight hair?
6) Are all products used free of lye, formaldehyde, and other potentially harmful ingredients?
7) What styling tools do you use?
I believe every stylist should be comfortable answering the array of questions coming from a concerned patron. One indication that the stylist may not be the right one is if they refuse to answer questions about product usage and/or the process used when caring for your tresses. You are the patron, and reserve the right to know exactly what you are getting into and who you are trusting to manage your hair care needs. Never be afraid to ask questions.
Products & Tools
At my salon, after cleansing the hair with a shampoo that aids is smoothing the strands (Redken Smooth Lock, Smooth Sexy Hair Smoothing Shampoo), we always follow with a deep conditioner for clients who desire to straighten their tresses. When straightening hair, the keratin and hydrogen bonds in the hair breaks down; this leads to weakened, loose, or destroyed curl patterns, and makes hair more prone to breakage. So we take a precaution to infuse the hair with additional keratin and moisture prior to each service (best done through deep conditioning under a heated dryer or steamer).
If this step isn’t included in the stylist’s process, feel free to ask for one. It may be an additional charge, but well worth it to help keep from damaging your curls. After deep conditioning, a light leave in conditioner (Roux, Jane Carter Replenishing Leave In, etc) can be applied, followed by a heat protectant. Heat protectants come in a variety of brands and strengths. My favorite heat protectants are Alternia Caviar Anti-Aging Perfect Iron Spray, Joico Smooth Cure Thermal Styling Protectant and Paul Mitchell Seal and Shine, which covers up to 450 degrees, ensuring added protection.
When straightening hair, the tools used are essential to the process. Ask the stylist about the brand of the flat iron they choose to use? You want to be sure that it is a ceramic or titanium (not plated) iron because certain materials can burn the hair due to uneven heat distribution. Every stylist has their favorite choice flat iron; we swear by Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium and Babyliss Pro Porcelain Ceramic Flat Irons. These irons distribute heat evenly, and also provide the hair with great shine and smoothness.
1) If your deep conditioner burns or has a strong chemical odor (not to be confused with tea tree – minty/cool sensation), ask stylist to remove quickly. It has been a growing trend for some salons to mix relaxer into the deep conditioners in order to break down tighter curl patterns and to keep “natural” hair from reverting. This is not only unsafe, but it is also irreversible.
2) Dirty Flat Irons. Plates of the flat irons should be cleaned after every service. The buildup on them can transfer to strands and cause future damage.
3) Improper detangling and prepping of hair for straightening.
Being knowledgeable of these things will make your search easier when seeking a stylist/salon to straighten your tresses. At the end of the day, you want your hair to remain healthy and revert back to your luscious curls. So with the health of your hair in mind, ask away!