Straightening natural hair without heat may seem like an impossible feat, but can be done with time, patience, and the right products!
When people refer to themselves as “naturals”, they normally are speaking to the fact that they don’t use any chemicals on their hair. Sometimes, they may even be referring to the fact that they don’t use any heat on their hair. Whether you’re a natural who uses heat or a natural who likes to go without, being able to straighten your hair without heat is a win-win! Even though you are able to safely use heat without damaging your hair, it cannot be used as consistently and frequently as those with curls would need to use it in order to keep their hair straightened.
Before getting into the details on how to achieve straight hair without the heat, it’s important to address a few things…
Can Any Hair Type Straighten Without Heat?
When it comes to straightening your hair with heat, pretty much every hair type can successfully become straightened. This is because of the effect heat has on the hair, which will be discussed in the next section.
In short, heat is a sure fire way to straighten any hair because of the way it can mold the hair shaft. When not using heat, you have to use other methods of forming the hair that aren’t as lasting as the method of heat. As you will see, the methods used to straighten without heat must work with the natural curl of hair since it cannot flatten the natural curl out (like a heat instrument does, for example).
What Allows The Hair To Straighten?
Like mentioned before, when using heat, you can get any hair type to straighten. This is because when heat is applied, the composition of your hair changes. It doesn’t matter how kinky the hair is, it can become straight through the process of changing its properties.
Say you’re taking a flat iron to a section of your hair. The heat applied to the hair strips it of its oils, manipulates the protein, and breaks down the hydrogen bonds. As the hair cools, the hydrogen bonds reform allowing the hair to take the shape it was in as it was cooling down. This is why when you straighten hair, it’s best to pull the section taut as you apply the heat. When doing this, you allow the hydrogen bonds to reform in a straight, stretched out form.
We also can see the reaction of hydrogen bonds breaking when we wet the hair. Because of this, we can similarly see how this process works when those with curly hair put it in water or apply a liquid of any form. The hair dries in the curly state it was in when wet since the hydrogen bonds are reforming in the way of the hair shape. Keep in mind that the hydrogen bonds break whenever the hair is wet – it doesn’t have to be with water. This is why applying a product to dry hair shrinks and stays that way. It is because the hair absorbed the product and dried in that shrunken state, and therefore took that shape.
The key point to take away is that heat is such a reliable method of straightening because there is chemistry behind how heat affects the hair (allowing it to straighten). The method of using heat is so successful because of the fact the hair’s bonds are being broken and it is basically putty to be formed and shaped however you want.
This means when we’re not using heat, we must resort to another method that also breaks down the hydrogen bonds...this is where water comes into play.
Straightening Hair With Liquids
Lots of naturals associate water with shrinkage and a disruption of whatever style their hair is in. This is because when wet, the hair is free to take its natural, unstretched state. Unless your hair is stretched or put in a style, it will dry in its natural state. If your hair is healthy and maintains its elasticity, this will result in shrinkage.
However, just like utilizing water and stylers can help stretch the hair to combat shrinkage and form the curls, these tools can also be used to straighten the hair. Think of when you use water and stylers (leave-in conditioner, gel, custard) for a twist out. The hair becomes stretched and curls in a looser way partly due to the pattern twisting the hair around itself creates. The other half of what makes twist outs work is the fact that you’re detangling the hair, smoothing it down and pulling it taut so that each strand you are using is flat and straight when pulled away from the scalp. Because of this, the hair's natural pattern is stretched and it dries in this state (due to the twists), creating curls that are less tight than they’d normally be.
When trying to straighten the hair with water, all we have to do is look at how the hair is stretched (like in a twist out) without focusing on reshaping the curls, but flattening them. Just like reshaping the curls with styling, flattening the curls ultimately comes down to what you’re applying to your hair and how you’re forming it to be dried.
How Stylers Play a Part
Water is the ingredient that breaks down the hydrogen bond. When this bond is broken, the hair is free to be molded and able to hold the shape it dries in. Using styling products like creams, foams, mousses, gels, and custards, aid the forming of the hair, allowing it to take and hold shape easier than if just water were present. Because they make shaping the hair easier, styling products are especially useful if you have tighter coils that will have trouble keeping a stretched state without heat.
Take a gel, for example. Most gels will have a hold that is either light, medium, or strong. Depending on the hold, the gel will work to hold the hair in whatever style, or shape, it is being molded into. A foam or mousse will work to smooth the hair for styling. A custard will be used to clump curls and soften the hair. No matter what product you’re looking at, they all have the same effect on the hair when applied on top of water. If you were to take note of how all of these items feel when you apply them, you’ll notice that they all leave the hair smooth, flat, and straight when the hair is detangled and pulled taut. The tighter your curls, the more detangling you may have to do to get your hair to this state. You also may need products with a stronger hold. Our Curl Defining Flaxseed Styling Gel is a great product when it comes to stylers that will help the hair straighten. When applied, it clumps your curls together and allows for them to stretch, becoming flattened in the process. The gel comes in a Flexible Hold and Extreme Hold, so there’s options for naturals with tighter curls! Nonetheless, you’ll find the hair is in a straighter state that becomes more straight the more it is pulled away from the scalp.
Now, what would happen if we somehow pinned the hair in a way where it lies completely flat, allowing it to dry in that state? As we’re sure you could guess by now, the hair would dry in that state, resulting in straightened sections of hair. How tightly the hair is secured will dictate how straight the hair becomes.
Pinning the hair down or keeping it straight near the roots and along the length aren’t too difficult to do. However, when it comes to the process of pinning the hair down, the issue of ends comes into play. Securing the ends of the hair can be difficult and preventing them from curling can prove to be a hassle. Because of this, it is important to realize that straightening your hair in this way can only get it so straight.
Unless you are constantly and consistently applying weight or tension to your hair to keep the entire strands straight, there will be slight curls looking to peek through. This is especially true for those with thicker or tighter curls.
It is important to note that before using any stylers, the hair should be primed with a leave-in conditioner or moisturizer. This will create a base for your hair, allowing the stylers to take to the strands better while also making sure your hair is properly moisturized. Our Hydrating Moisturizer is another good example of a product that will help your hair straighten. It is a slick liquid that can double as a styler. Using a styling moisturizer along with other stylers will help the hair clump and flatten out.
3 Ways to Straighten Natural Hair Without Heat
Now that we know the role water and stylers play in successfully straightening without heat, let's get into how one can pull it off…
Flexi Rod set/roller set: Roller sets are a great way to curl the hair without using heat. Even though the hair is curling, if brushed through and then wrapped, the hair can become straighter and straighter each day. You don’t want to rush this process in risk of over manipulating your hair and drying it out.
First you want to install the rollers or flexi rods. Flexi Rods may be a better option since you can space out the hair more on the rods, making the curls less tight and able to be straightened quickly. After your set is all dried, you want to take the curls down without separating them. Separating the curls individually and then brushing them out may lead to more tangle. You can either brush the sections out as you unravel them or after they are all taken down; the former may make for an easier time.
After all the sections are brushed out, you will be left with somewhat of a curled mess. It’s important to make sure your hair is as detangled as possible. Next you want to wrap your hair around itself (like normally done after getting your hair straightened). This will smooth out the strands as well as the ends. You want to keep wrapping it (or leave it wrapped) until you take your hair down and it’s as straight as you’d like it to be.
Twist/Braid Outs: When doing your twist out or braid out, you want the sections to be done as loosely as possible. Because braid outs normally produce tighter curls that twist outs, you may want to go for a twist out no matter how the thickness of your hair. Looser curls will make for an easier time getting them straight. When making the twists (or braids) loose, you want to still make sure the hair is knot free and being pulled straight as you go. This will reduce the amount of frizz you experience after taking them down.
After taking the style out, you want to brush the hair out then wrap the hair like explained in the previous method. This will flatten the strands and allow the curls to lose their shape. You may need to pin the hair down along the way. Make sure you aren’t doing so tightly to prevent leaving dents in the hair.
Pinning/Securing: This method is pretty easy and requires no styling involved beforehand. This makes it less manipulative, but maybe not strong enough of a method to be done on collier hair textures.
First you want to get the hair ready by wetting it and applying your products. You can decide to work in sections or go around the whole head, but you know you want to pin the hair down. When doing so, the hair should be pulled taut and lie flat against your head. The hair should also be completely detangled and smoothed out with product. When pinning, pin the hair (or section) in the way you want it to fall once the hair is dry. Make sure you use as many pins as needed to secure the hair down, as the more secure it is the flatter it will be once dried. If you take out the pins and find there are dents in your hair, simply wrap it and they should be gone the next day.
When it comes to your ends, you want to make sure they are being pinned in such a way that they are laying flat and securely. This will prevent your ends from curling up. If your ends do end up curling up, this can also be fixed by wrapping your hair.
Like mentioned before, this style may be harder for those with coily hair because the hair has not been stretched in any way to combat it’s desire to shrink up and coil again. Because of this, simply pinning the hair down can become challenging to work through as the hair can be difficult when trying to lay it flat. Products with strong hold can help combat this issue if you are someone with coily hair trying out this method!
We hope these methods help you straighten your curls without heat! Let us know what your favorite method is down below!