5 Transitioning Styles for Heat Damaged Hair

Sometimes, it be like that.

By Christina of The Mane Objective

There is a lot of support for ladies transitioning from relaxers, but I can’t completely identify with their struggles. I wanted to do this post to support the ladies who have managed to steer clear of the creamy crack, but overdosed on the heat. Transitioning in a new crop of hair from the heat damaged stuff can be challenging, frustrating, and discouraging. Hopefully this post will shed some light and provide some help.

My scalp is schizophrenic.

I know somebody out there understands the sheer frustration of having multiple hair textures going on, especially in that transition from heat damaged to 100% healthy hair. Somewhere between my heat damage, new growth, and my scalp’s own identity crisis, I have about 4 textures going on in my head. Each texture likes to annoy me in its own special little way — my super straight left side refuses to naturally curl, my right side forms perfect ringlets (but makes my hair look lopsided, juxtaposed against the left), the front of my hair likes to wave instead of curl…and my crown has a mind of its super-coarse own. With that being said, I have learned that the “n’ go” part of a wash n’ go is actually a no-go for me.

As I have spent the last 6 or so months transitioning from self-inflicted heat damage (not my proudest moments), I have adopted a styling routine that allows me to coddle and slowly clip my heat damaged ends while playing to my hair’s strengths. Sometimes, I even opt for a style that gives me a sense of pattern uniformity. A successful heat damage transition rests upon understanding the following things about your hair:

    • If your hair is heat damaged, your original curl/texture will not return, no matter what you do. When hair is heat damaged, the protein structures in it are melted – irreversibly. This differs from relaxed hair, where straightness is achieved through a breaking, swelling, and realignment of bonds within the cortex of the hair itself.
    • Although not chemically altered, heat damaged hair is still weaker than your normal, healthy head of hair. In my humble opinion, heat damaged hair may be slightly stronger than relaxed hair. (Please note that this is just my opinion, based upon my own observations of my heat damage vs. those I know with relaxers). This is not to say that you have clearance to treat your heat damage any ol’ kind of way, but more so that your chances for length retention in a successful transition are more likely to occur if the proper steps are taken.

  • Not all hairstyles are meant for heat damage transitioners. Stick to what looks good on you, and what your hair responds best to. That’s the best way to maintain sanity along the ride. A little further down in this post, I’ll discuss what styles have and have not worked for me.
  • Treat your textures differently. My healthy new hair requires a lot more moisture and heavier sealing than the heat damaged stuff does. Therefore, I’ll moisturize with my leave-in spray and seal with something heavy, like Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie. My heat damaged hair has a finer texture, and I can get away with leave-in spray and aloe vera.

Now that we have set the foundation for understanding heat damaged hair, let’s move on to the fun part: styling!

I have attempted many styles – some with success, others with complete failure. But hey, that’s the learning curve. As I mentioned previously, some styles do not look good on heat damaged hair. Those styles for me were:

  1. Mini-Twists: Heat damage hair tends to have a tapering effect. The hair closest to your scalp is generally the thickest, and sections get smaller and smaller as you get closer to the ends of the hair. Mini-twists left me feeling like my hair was thinner than it actually was.
  2. Chunky Braids: Because of the tapering effect mentioned, chunky braids never worked for me. Not to mention my hair is layered, and braids would become progressively shorter the closer I got to my face.
  3. Chunky Twists: Ever notice how healthy, natural hair “stays put” for the most part, when it is twisted… all the way to the ends (a’ la Naptural85)? Heat damaged hair, well at least my heat damaged hair, tends to unravel at the ends – forcing me to use scrunchies. This is fine for a night-time set to get cute waves for the next day, but as a style it doesn’t work for me. I am a full-time Director for a Non-Profit Program. Walking around with multicolored scrunchies is not in my cards.


Styles that do work for heat damaged hair, that blend, conceal, or make the most of my multiple textures have been:

Bantu Knot-Outs

I covered this one a while ago, and you can catch all the detailed instructions here. Sure, they’re a pain to sleep in, but the inconvenience pales in comparison to the cute super tight (or super loose, depending on how big your knots are) ringlets you emerge with. Perfect camouflage for multiple textures — it stretches my more shrink-prone textures while giving definition to my straighter side.


Braid outs are probably the least complicated of all the prep practices, and will produce anything from tiny crinkles to gentle waves, depending on how small are large your braids are. Just prep with your favorite moisturizing product(s), braid, cover, and undo the next morning!

Flat Twists

Admittedly, I am still trying to master this one. Since flat twisting is just like cornrows (with two pieces of hair instead of three), I pretty much suck at it. Even with my sub-par twisting skills, I manage to get some great, cooperative curly waves all over, instead on just 1/4 of my head.


They are a complete and utter pain to sleep in (worse than the Bantu Knots), and you definitely have to take the time to learn how to get your hair around the rod correctly to achieve the uniform curls you seek. But once you do all that, the result is well worth it.


The boring bad guy of the bunch. I resort to bunning as my go-to protective style 80% of the time. Sometimes I’ll mix it up and do a hump-thingie in the front, or a flat-twist crown around my hairline. Buns are definitely great for me, and make the transition from work to gym time seamless. I usually wear a twist or braid out on weekends, and use the manufactured texture from those to add some definition to my buns throughout the week.

What are some of your go-to transitioning styles?

Christina Patrice

Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.


* indicates required

54 thoughts on “5 Transitioning Styles for Heat Damaged Hair

  1. Hi, I wanted to give a little bit of my story. Firstly Heat Damage is Real. I have had natural hair all my life and when I was young my mother would take good care of my hair, even when she straightened my hair. So when I became a teen I needed to take care of my own hair and I didn’t know how. So I straightened my hair ever other day. I wanted to keep it straight. I didn’t know you could have heat damage. That word was not even in my vocabulary and no one around me ever talked about it. So I kept straightening that way for years. I did notice my hair wasn’t growing but I never knew how to care for my hair so, I just kept going (over 15 years). I’ve been naturally healthy now for over a year and still trying to understand my hair. You can have hair so damaged that you have to start from scratch and hope it will grow. Some damage I’ve done to my hair is irreversible. I can see that but I still try my hardest to keep healthy hair practices. Trust and Believe you can have a lot of damage. Knowledge is power. Now that I know about proper maintenance and handling of my hair, it’s thriving, but it took time. My curl pattern from when I was little is gone. I see that, but I still have the healthiest hair I have had in over 20 years.

    • That first sentence almost made me want to break down. I’m heat damaged, but when I told my Mom, she told me that was nonsense. We’ve actually had arguments. She has waved a hot-comb in my face, saying a flat iron could never get as hot as the the hot comb- that what I’m saying is crazy. There’s no way afro hair could get ‘damaged’ by heat.

      My Mom cannot get on board with my ‘healthy hair’ practices. The products I use- she can’t understand what they are for, or why I buy them. I want to do me, but she can’t understand where I’m coming from. It’s frustrating.

  2. One of the reasons why I stop relaxing was because I just hate to use heat in my hair. I haven’t used any heat in 3 months and I am loving it.

    • Even when I was relaxing (until 4 years ago)I almost never used heat to dry my hair. I just washed my hair when I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. I roller set my hair and left the rollers in all day, while doing my work at home. Only when I went to the hairdresser every 10 weeks a dryer was used.

  3. Very helpful article as I find myself with mild heat damaged land.My hair has reverted I just have a few stubborn ends and my pattern overall appears a little looser.

    I have learnt my lesson and will not straighten my hair until July.I will nurse back to curls with protein n moisture masks and those ends r not responding then I will consider trimming.

  4. Came upon this article after googling heat damaged hair. I stopped perming my 3 years ago and have been braiding my hair ever since or leaving it out naturally. Today I decided to get my hair straightened and was womdering if I should do so on a regular basis. I guess now that doing so wouldn’t be a good idea. It’s actually quite funny since my hair looked exactly like the picture shown above when I was getting it straightened.

  5. The only time I apply heat to my hair is when the stylist install a full head weave in my head. And that heat is the blow dryer. And I only get my hair blowed dried twice a year.

  6. I’m 16 and have decided to go natural. I don’t have a perm but I straighten my hair a lot. I’ve straightened it so much it won’t revert to its natural curl pattern. Over the past year I have slowly removed most of my heat damage but a couple of weeks ago I straightened my hair with a ton of product in it (I was pressed for time and needed a neat look). Now most of my hard work went down the drain. Most of the heat damage is in the front the rest of my hair looks pretty healthy except for the straggly ends. Is there any way to make my heat damaged hair mimic my natural curl pattern. I need an idea to keep the straight pieces out of sight or a faked curl(without using heat) just till my hair grows out enough to cut but still look cute

  7. Until about my freshmen year in high school I’ve always had insanely curly hair but of course due to straightening I have experienced heat damage. My hair was completely straight, fried, and frizzy. After about 8 months of natural, 3 of straightening, and now maybe month 2 of natural again I’ve found hairstyles that work for me and play up what I do have. My curls are coming back but taking their sweet time. My ends of my hair are very straight but all new growth is curly ringlets. My hair is growing a lot and I have no split ends just heat damaged straight pieces. Going to contine wearing natural and see how that goes.

  8. I’m trying to figure out why my kids fathers older daughter who is mixed has hair that won’t hold a curl when dry. I don’t know the history fully on her hair but I do know that her mother doesn’t take care of it and wont take the time to learn. She is growing up and as she gets older I know she’ll want to wear her hair down so I experimented on it by applying a curl enhancing product to it while it was wet. It looked pretty good at the time but after it dried, it looked fuzzy/frizzy. I tried another Product. Same results. Starting to wonder if her hair is too unhealthy or damaged? She told me that a flat iron had been used on it recently and I’m almost sure that the person who did it. .. did not deep condition or apply any heat protectant beforehand. I asked the child when was the last time she had any conditioner on het hair and she couldn’t tell me. She’s 10. I have been trying to tell her things abt taking care of her hair bc I don’t think anyone else will at this point in her life or the future.


    • Then you should talk to your stepdaughter’s mom. Saying these things about her mom will not change anything. Just talk to the mom in a nice and friendly way. some people still need to be educated and will never know if you say such things behind her back. She’s ten. You should ask the mom her hair history instead of her. And you know how things go in the end. The child might get the impression that you are trying to blame her mom for her hair not being healthy. It’s still a ten year old girl who for sure will not take care of her hair. Either do it for her whenever you can or talk to the mom. Nice of you to care for her.

  9. I’ve been transitioning from heat damaged hair for almost 3 years now. My favorite styles have been twist outs or “twist ins”. My twist styles (whether out or in) were weird at first because heat damaged hair doesn’t curl on their own well but I got creative and found ways to get around it. I would curl the ends my self with soft rollers that way they’d look normal in the morning before going about my day. Once I felt confident enough, I would clip my ends more often so my ends would eventually curl on its own. I don’t really have issues with wearing certain styles now but it was definitely a fun learning experience when I first started.

  10. Nice article! Back in 2011, I had to “big chop” for the 3rd because of heat damage. My original texture was 4C. When my hair was heat damaged, I had textures ranging from 3a-4c, yikes! It was devastating, but I learned my lesson. That’s when I learned to embrace my texture. I devoted myself to coming up with cute protective styles that I felt good about wearing out in the public.

  11. I came across this article/blog when I googled “heat damaged hair.” I have the EXACT same issues with my multi-textured hair. My right side such soft coils (reminiscent of my hair when I was a child – before all the damage), my left side tried to curl like its counterpart, but just can’t quite match up (it is definitely heat damaged), my crown has a complete mind of its own, not sure i it wants to be dry, brittle, coarse and somewhat wavy mess, mixed in with Z shaped pattern (all in their own direction, not defined in any way).

    I found your piece (and the comment following) to be incredibly helpful. I stopped perming my hair 14 years ago, and this month decided to stop putting heat to it. I’m struggling and it’s only day 8!! I have done tried an array of protective styles and products, my my end result has been mc disappointment. I’m sure many transitioners have gone through similar experiences, so I’m trying to stay true to my decision to restore my hair’s natural health.

    In you have any suggestion on products, please share them (or direct me so that I might find them myself).. This is HARD and I comment and congratulate everyone who has made it through the toughest times of transitioning!

    Peace & Love,
    Candice ?

  12. I think any process we do on our hair, if it involves chemicals, it’s seriously damaging. I recommend using the pro naturals hair repair system to get it back to normal. I love everythign about it, the smell is soft and it leaves the hair shiny too!

  13. SO FRUSTRATING! Seriously have been looking for an article like this, to reassure someone else feels my pain. Two years ago I did a major chop which left me with a bob hairstyle (it was cute for a while) however, It got old and as a result, I decided to take the all natural, curly route. Within a few months my hair began growing extremely fast, as it tends to, but also extremely thick, which regardless the heat-damage circumstances it was in before, was very different. Fast forward a year and some later, I made the mistake of letting a stranger press out my hair, which resulted in major heat damage after just one press. My hair is EXTREMELY sensitive. Now, a year later, its about ten inches new growth, and 7-8 heat-damaged hair, which I’m slowly/painfully chopping away. Styling is always an issue, and I’m always tempted to straighten my hair but opt out because I want to promote consistent health and growth.

  14. I have a question for anyone who can answer. I had heat damage on my bangs and they went pin straight. When I realized what was happening I stopped using heat. However when my hair started to grow back, it wasn’t curly anymore but coarse. I have done everything now for over a year and nothing. Has this every happened to anyone or know how i can get my curls back??

  15. Hello my daughter is 10 she had a nice grade of hair semi curly she loved doobies but she would get blow outs because her hair would frizz up… So my cousin suggested that I put a dream kids relaxer in her hair.. That was the worst thing I could have done it stripped her texture now her hair is nappy.. I’m living with regrets I hate myself for putting that in her hair.. Is there anything that I can do to bring her texture back?? ????????????????.. PLEASE HELP MEEEEE… AND PLEASE NO RUDE FEEDBACK I FEEL BAD ENOUGH…

    • First things first- enough with the texture dissing. The texture you’re referring to is not ‘nappy’ or ‘bad hair’. Everyone has good hair, it’s about how you care for and style it.

      Damage can be reversed by using protein treatments, depending on the type of damage. Girls with heat damage have been known to use Palmer’s coconut protein treatment or aphogee two step protein treatment. However, a relaxer, as far as I am aware from my own experience, is permanent. You cannot reverse it. The only thing to do is wait for it to grow out again, and gradualy cut off the damaged hair.

      • Thank u ???????? I feel so bad that I stripped her natural texture… Guess the only thing to do now is to properly treat it… Again thank you

  16. Do you have permission to use my cousin’s pic for your blog? Because I am sure you do not. She does not over process or relax her hair and from the pic you can see she has very healthy hair. Also she is Puerto Rican so using her pic for a black girl long hair post does not apply to her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *