How To Safely Straighten Your Curls

Photographed by Winnie Au.
Once upon a time, not long ago (major props if you got that Slick Rick reference) I had thick, curly, bra-strap-length hair. I’m talking the type of hair that made my mother sigh in resignation at having to tackle the unruly beast every morning. It was a nightmare for her and a nightmare for me, and I was tired of taking hours to style my crazy, frizzy hair.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love my locks. I did. But, the daily routine was simply too much. So, every day, I begged my mother to let me perm it straight, but she (wisely) insisted the process would ruin my hair. Even so, the back-and-forth continued for two years — until, one day, she gave in.
One trip to the salon, and I finally had the sleek, easy-to-manage hair I always wanted. And, I was diligent about maintaining it, heading back every three months to have my perm retouched lest any pesky curls returned. I loved everything about my new hair — that is, until it slowly started to thin out. The harsh chemicals ravaged my locks ‘til I was left with limp, dry, damaged strands that I hated. Perms became the enemy, and I quickly realized that going back to natural was the only way to bring my hair to life again.
While it took some effort, I’ve finally learned what works best for my 'do after seven years sans perm. Sure, it drives me absolutely crazy 99% of the time, but I love having this wild mop of hair. To be clear: It’s not that I think straight hair is better in general — it’s just better for me.
Whether you’re like me and prefer to wear your hair straight or you simply want a break from sporting your curls every day, there’s a way to safely do so, without inflicting a crazy amount of heat damage. Click through to check out my favorite products and how I use them in my weekly hair-care routine.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ulta.
A lot of natural-hair gurus may believe harsh shampoos are the root of all evil (in some ways, I agree). But, when you’re using heat on your hair, it’s important to thoroughly cleanse to remove product buildup. I like to use SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo because it leaves my hair feeling incredibly clean, without stripping me of my natural oils.
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Photo: Courtesy of Target.
Next, I condition my hair with Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk Conditioner. If seeing the words nourishing coconut milk on the bottle doesn’t immediately pique your interest, take it from me: This conditioner will leave your hair incredibly soft while still allowing you to detangle the worst knots.
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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart.
Deep Condition
Locking in moisture is key to having your hair turn out silky and not brittle after you straighten it. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep Conditioner is an intensely moisturizing treatment for an incredible price. To get the most out of my deep conditioner, I always apply the product in small sections, making sure to detangle each as I go, and then sit under my hooded dryer for five to 10 minutes. The heat helps my hair absorb the treatment, giving me the maximum amount of moisture.

If you don’t have a dryer like this at home, you can also use a small, warm towel as an alternative. Just place a plastic cap over your head and heat a damp towel in the microwave for 20 seconds. Carefully wrap the towel around your head, and leave on until the towel cools.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
I never bought into the hair-primer craze because I always felt like I didn’t need it. My hair hates being weighed down by too many products, but after using Bumble and bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Primer, I’m a convert. I spritz this on sparingly, all over my head, adding any other styling products so I don’t get that greasy, film-like residue that comes with layering too many stylers.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sally Beauty.
The trick to getting straight hair with minimal heat damage is to straighten your strands before they even come into contact with any high temps. My hair used to break off in clumps if I tried to blowdry it while it was still damp and curly. Now, roller-setting my coiff helps to stretch out my curls safely, and I use Motions At Home Foaming Wrap Lotion to help with the process. After sitting under the dryer and then taking my hair out of the rollers, my locks feel unbelievably smooth.

If you don’t have a hooded dryer at home but do have time to spare, you can also stretch your curls by braiding and letting them air-dry. Make sure to hold the hair taut while you braid so the strands get as straight as possible.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
By now, my hair is completely dry with big, bouncy curls from the rollers. The only part I actually straighten is my roots, but not before spraying on Living Proof’s Restore Instant Protection Spray. Oil-, silicone-, and sulfate-free, this UV-protectant spray shields my strands from the brunt of the heat. I always go over small, one-inch sections of hair with my FHI Heat Platform Ceramic flat iron twice ‘til I get my roots straight.

If you’re air-drying your hair, I suggest using the comb-chase method (start the video at the three-minute mark). Pull a fine-toothed comb in front of the flat iron to create tension that will help stretch and straighten your hair. You’ll be evenly distributing the heat to all your strands, which means less damage in the long run.
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