Are There Any Benefits to Heat Training Natural Hair?

By Chinwe of Hair and Health

heat training Noun
the loosening of one’s natural curl pattern through the regular application of high heat.  This process is usually gradual and subtle. (Loo’s definition.)

Heat training is essentially a form of heat damage, which is why I have been so against the technique for some years.  However, my thoughts have changed recently since seeing a class of “healthy” heat-trained naturals arise.

“Healthy heat-trained hair” may seem like an oxymoron but I can argue the same with “healthy hair”.  Our strands face damage on a regular basis through sun exposure, styling, washing, detangling, and other forms of wear and tear.  So where do we drawn the line between what is healthy hair and what is not?  I think it reasonable to draw it between hair that is strong and supple (healthy) and that which is breaking and brittle (unhealthy). To me, hair that retains a reasonable level of strength and suppleness is hair that is healthy.  That being said, there is such a thing as heat-trained hair that is strong, supple, … and thus healthy.  However, this is only true for some ladies.  Keep in mind that heat training can work well for some naturals and not so well for others.  For the former group I answer the following question …



1. Easier Detangling …

comes with a loosening of the curl pattern. For some naturals, the mass of curls/coils/kinks makes detangling a very tedious task. Generally, I’d say, “suck it up”, but as my hair has gotten longer, I can truly understand how brutal such a task can be for some naturals.  It can be brutal to the point of mechanical damage (e.g., breakage from impatient combing sessions).

2. Fewer SSKs …

will form if the hair is heat trained.  What is a single-strand knot (SSK)?  It is essentially a knot formed from a strand of hair that has wrapped around itself.  What is an environment conducive to SSKs?  A mass of coils and kinks.  SSKs translate into more trims and sometimes breakage.  Heat training or other hair care steps (read here) can mitigate this issue.

3. Length Retention …

comes with easier detangling and fewer SSKs.  “Proper” heat training can theoretically help some naturals achieve longer lengths.  Will I ever heat train for length retention?  In all honesty, I do not know yet.

4. Increased Versatility …

is another benefit of heat training.  It becomes easier to achieve stretched or straight styles when desired.  Additionally, these styles will last longer.

Ladies, would you consider heat training? In your mind, what are the benefits and disadvantages?



Empowering women of color to break barriers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin.


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164 thoughts on “Are There Any Benefits to Heat Training Natural Hair?

  1. I’m with the group that feels heat training is just a form of heat damage. I get it….not everyone who uses heat has damaged hair. I steer clear of it and embrace my curls/coils/kinks and shrinkage. I know there must be a fine line between heat trained and damaged and who knows what that actually is? Being able to go back curly? Some feel with sucessful heat trained hair the curl will be gone but is that even a real determination?

    I know there are some healthy heat trained naturals but for how long? THAT is the real question…

  2. I agree with Sabrina. I’m still waiting on someone to show me definitively you can go back and forth between “heat trained” straight and naturally curly. Because if you can do that, then there’s no alteration done to your hair. But I’ve never seen people go back and forth; they either do one or the other because they have damaged (relaxed) their curl pattern beyond being wearable.

  3. @zigzag

    Heat is actually a form of energy, not a chemical in the traditional sense of the word(and if we want to get technical here, water, among several other “natural” products, is actually a chemical, too). The effects of heat on hair result in a PHYSICAL CHANGE, not chemical. Basic chemistry (as you so coyly put it).
    By your logic, constantly using hot/warm water to wash your hair also renders you no longer “natural” (since hot water obviously holds heat), which I’m sure everyone here can agree is ludicrous. It truly is not that serious. Any individual’s head of hair belongs solely to that individual and that individual alone, and is no way the property of “the natural hair community”. Make well informed decisions for yourself and do whatever YOU feel is beneficial YOUR hair, and allow everyone else to do the same without being so condescending.

    Peace out.

    • Great response Guestopia…it kills me when my natural friends give me the stink eye when I go get my hair straightened. We’re missing the one important thing about going natural amd that’s to achieve HEALTHY hair. Whether that’s straight…twisted…locs…or coils. I like the flexibility of one day I’m rocking a curly day it’s bone straight. Doesn’t matter as long as each strand is healthy and strong.

    • Guestopia, I think we can have an objective discussion without one feeling ‘judged’ by other naturals. As you have clearly stated, heat and chemicals are different but both can damage hair in almost equal measure. We know hair is made up of protein and protein is sensitive to heat. The amounts of heat applied to get the bone straight hair look is high enough to permanently change the nature of hair proteins especially if the heat straightening is done repeatedly. The change will be physical but it will be permanent.

      From the article above, the purpose of heat training is to permanently loosen the curl pattern so as to avoid the issues that come with a tighter curl pattern, you cannot say your hair is heat trained if it can revert to its natural curl after a wash. Heat training therefore is a euphemism for destruction/changing of your hair proteins through heat. Though this does not necessarily mean you will end up with unhealthy hair.

    • I don’t care either way about the practice, but this line of reasoning isn’t true. Yes, heat is a physical property, but when you burn your hair (eg. “heat train” which is basically hair reacting w/ oxygen in the air under the heat catalyst), you can actually alter the chemical properties, which is why many people with heat-trained/burned hair can’t get it to revert.

  4. My hair was at its longest (mid-back) when it was pressed on the regular. However, I had an amazing hair dresser who took care of it really well. She never pressed it “bone straight,” she trimmed it regularly, deep conditioned regularly and just overall knew her stuff. Whether or not it was wearable in a curly style, I’m not sure. Didn’t wear it curly at that point in time. BUT! I spent a year living in Europe and didn’t go to a salon or straighten it. At her advice I kept my hair in braid outs. It grew tremendously and curled well. I liked the pattern. The pattern of style was in part due to the reduction in curl pattern from having it straightened for so long. I have been wearing it curly for the last two years and straightened it for the first time in Dec. What I have noticed is that as it grows I have an more and more single strand knots and the detangling sessions are becoming longer and more tedious. I like the idea of heat training to help reduce the amount of time spent on detangling and also reducing the SSKs. I am wondering if straightening it twice a year would be enough to qualify or if it would have to be more often. Any ideas?

  5. First let me start by saying that I did not go “natural” or on a healthy hair journey, I’ve never had any relaxer before, like ever in life. I have always been natural and as a child I did get my hair pressed and then began getting it flat ironed. for me I have always worn my hair straight during the cold months(because it lasts) and curly in the hot and humid months. I have never had an issue with my curls coming back. I have different curls on my head but the areas that naturally grow loose have stayed that way as well as the parts that are slightly tighter curled. I guess I’m just lucky because my hair hasn’t changed, as I am able to go back and forth between bone straight and curly with no issue.

  6. Hey this is never ever mentioned, but I heat train to DEFINE my curls. Without heat, my hair is pure frizz. Now after applying heat occasionally, I have a head full off corkscrews! The key is to only apply heat When & Where needed to avoid making curls too lose. My edges & nape are a loser pattern so I avoid heat there all together & just flat iron the crown to match. Then I’ll do a protective style to hide the 2 textures until next wash. It works beautifully! I have complete control over my curl pattern lol. I plan on making videos on this in the future

    • Me, too! When my hair gets too frizzy or the curls get mangy, I straighten it and it’s like straightening a telephone cord- the curls pop right back and look perfect!

  7. The benefits of heat training.. are not beneficial to women craving curly hair on a permanent basis. If you wear your hair straight all the time I think it’s great in moderation.

  8. I heat train my hair. I only press it when my ends and roots shrink like crazy. After my straightening period, I take a break and my hair eventually coils back, though not fully (Which I enjoy since my curl pattern isn’t visible in my type 4 hair). My hair grows fast still(It always has) Also, I don’t straighten the hair all the way. I use big sections, which allot the roots to remain thick. And I don’t have much issues unless I become lazy and skip heat-protectant.
    Also, I found that it calms your ends. If your ends seem crazy and frizzy all the time, you can control that with heat. But always use heat-protectant and never put the iron on MAX! I put my iron as low as I need. I recommend it for hair that just feels tough all the time.

    And can someone tell me if Vaseline is bad for your hair? I use it to straighten because it keeps out unwanted moisture and helps my hair straighten. It fades out in two days and I apply moisturizer and some more vaseline.

  9. From my experience, heat training your hair and retaining your curl pattern IS possible when your individual hair strands are thick. My friend who straightens her hair weekly has healthy, thriving hair that returns curly when she wears it in its natural state. I am pretty sure that heat has little effect on her hair and curl pattern because she has very thick strands. I, on the other hand, have very fine strands and I can immediately see a difference when I repeatedly straighten my hair. When using heat often, I usually lose most of my curl pattern and my hair stays pretty straight even when wet. Although, I try to stay away from heat as much as possible now, I do think it is possible to have healthy hair while heat training. I used to have my hair straightened every 2 weeks by a hair stylist and my hair thrived. Yes, I lost my curl pattern, but my hair was easier to manage, grew at a good rate, and was all-around healthy.

  10. I think it depends on the type of hair you have. When I use heat on my hair continuously,it breaks over a period of time. I cannot retain length while using heat on my hair. How do I manage to heat train my hair without the breakage.

  11. I think everyone is getting too wrapped up into labels. Heat Trained? I guess I’ve been doing that since I went natural in middle school. And even then it wasn’t “going natural.”

    Heat training helps me keep my hair long, healthy and my coils are looser when I want to wear it curly. That’s IT. Nothing else. No “Well, your hair is looser so it’s damaged and you’ve failed as a natural” or “You might as well get a perm.”

    It doesn’t matter if you have thick or thin strands. I have thin strands and my hair is healthy. Just like going natural is a process, learning how much heat to use and how often is acceptable is a process as well. Just stop thinking in the terms of labels and experiment.

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  14. Do what you do, but I’m not digging the anti-kinky vibe of this “heat training” fad. Instead of being pro- a certain hairstyle (“Try this new look!”), it’s anti- another hairstyle “Loosen up those kinks, ladies!”).

    Like I said, so what you do, but seems this site is going in a certain direction, so why not just do a feature on the best relaxing systems and get it ver with? B/w the weave promotions and the heat training guides, seems like the next move is to become an all-inclusive black hair care site since this site needs new material and has lost its “natural hair” focus.

  15. Initially, I used to flat iron my hair weekly because I used to wash my hair weekly due to a dandruff problem. Now that i no longer have a dandruff problem, i flat iron it twice a month and my hair reverts back just fine. My hair is below my bra strap and growing fine. My hair type is 4a/4b. Everyone’s hair different, but what works for me is I use a concoction of 10 organic oils that I mix together myself, I deep condition every time I wash it, and I only use products that are organic or close to it. The bottom line is you have to keep your hair healthy if u plan to use heat frequent . if you’re not consistent, u will end up with unhealthy hair.

    • ja, I appreciate your comment.
      Do you blow-dry your hair with every wash also?

      In two years of being natural I have had my hair professionally blown dry and flat ironed only twice but now I would like to do so every 2-3 weeks (at least during fall, winter, and spring). However, I want to continue my long hair journey as I’m almost bra strap length. I’m thinking of doing my own pre poos prior to going to the salon with oils/conditioner.

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