By Chinwe (pictured above) of Hair and Health

When I first went natural years ago, I did not foresee myself using heat regularly, if at all.  However, with more and more length came a few changes to my regimen … and a big change in my mindset.  While heat was “the enemy” in the earlier part of my natural hair journey, it gradually became a friend (though with caution) starting almost two years ago.  It began as a way to experiment with more styling options but eventually served a dual role of facilitating length retention once I started seeing results.


While heat usage is NOT for every natural, I do share this list for those who are considering using it for length retention. The following are four ways I use moderate heat to retain length:

1. To make detangling easier and faster

Prior to incorporating heat into my regimen, detangling would take a maximum of two hours of standing in front of the mirror. With a wide-tooth comb and patience, I would start in the back of my conditioner-soaked hair.  However, fatigue and impatience would set in as I gradually made my way to the crown and front area.  This process eventually led to breakage of my crown and front strands over time, but incorporating heat into my regimen changed that.  Now I detangle on previously straightened hair in under thirty minutes and with less breakage.

2. To decrease knots and tangles in loose styles

Single-strand knots (SSKs) and tangles become prevalent when I choose to wear my hair loose for more than a couple of days.  Even if my hair has been stretched via twists or braids, shrinkage quickly sets in allowing for these SSKs and tangles to form.  Since incorporating heat into my regimen, I can wear my hair loose (i.e., twist-out, braid-out, or straight) without the worry of knots and tangles forming on my ends.

3. To take a break from protective styling

If you know me, then you know I LOVE wearing twists regularly, but sometimes my edges need a break, and sometimes I do.  Twist-outs and braid-outs used to be my favorite options for a break, but as I mentioned above, SSKs and tangles can become problem.  When my hair was shorter, I used to be able to wear such styles for a week without any issues.  However, as my hair has grown, I can only wear them for a couple of days before knots and tangles take form.  Using heat to straighten my hair before twisting for a twist-out keeps knots at bay and allows me to take a 2- to 3-week break from protective styling.

4. To reduce breakage while styling

Heat and breakage are two words that may sound like they belong to the same family, but when used appropriately AND moderately, heat actually reduces breakage for me.  My hair is very kinky and thick in its natural state, and styling it at this length can be difficult sometimes.  A little mechanical breakage is almost inevitable, especially if I am on a time crunch. Heat usage, on the other hand, makes styling easier in that the bulk in my hair is minimized and my kinks are temporarily stretched.

Ladies, do you use heat?  Has it helped you in any way?


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104 Comments on "4 Ways I Use Heat to Retain Length"

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I think this is a great post. I have 4c, medium length hair and have the same problem with detangling and knots.

I thought as my hair grew I could detangle it in larger sections and cut down on time, however the opposite has been true. It takes me an hour and a half to detangle my hair and another hour to style it. And the style barely lasts three days. NO BEUNO!

I would love to learn the details of how this person uses heat on their hair and how regularly. PLEASE DO ANOTHER ARTICLE!


When people say it takes them 2 hrs just to detangle I’m always amazed. Why would it take that long?!

You have to do what works best for you and not follow rules just b/c people keep repeating them. I would’ve liked if you discussed how you use heat to maintain length. Do you mean flat ironing? Just blow drying?


I know. Me too! Lol. I kept reading to see if she would explain how she uses heat to maintain her hair. That’s what we need to know.

Hi. I also do this to my hair. Ir really depends on what you are going for and your hair. For example, right now I flat iron my hair. Because my hair is already stretched and detangled, I can put it in twists, then wash condition, and seal, and allow the twists to air dry. Then I can flat iron to stretch. (not bone straight, just enough to be big and poofy but not bone straight) I repeat every 1 to 2 weeks or so, with NO HEAT in between. However, if you are just beginning this, it may take… Read more »
I am also grateful for this article and comforted that I’m not the only one who finds it easier to handle my hair when applying heat(specifically blowing out). I don’t do it often becuz of the fear of breakage even though I use my heat protectant serum and I blow dry on low heat. But now I have more information and won’t have doubts myself whenever I do it again as long as I continue to take the necessary precautions. I also think though that everything should be done in moderation so my advice to anyone considering incorporating heat in… Read more »

I’ve been blow drying my hair every 2 weeks and my hair has thrived and I’m finally maintaining length. This is after 2 years of being scared to death of any kind of heat.


I started blow drying my hair 6 weeks ago and loving the results. I make sure to pre-poo and use heat protectant. My hair is less prone to tangles now.


ive been on the hunt for a good heat protectant spray. im looking for an alcohol free one and cant seem to find one. i made the mistake of flat ironing my hair with a shine serum that had alcohol (didnt notice it or think abt it at the time) and my hair shedded sooo bad! i realized after that nothing had changed abt my regime except id straightened it and the serum had alcohol. it had to be the culprit! what do you use?

Try using grapeseed oil. It is a natural heat protectant.


Thanks. I heard abt this. Ill give it a try!


Hi Newbie- What kind of heat protectant are you using? And are you using a specific blow dryer? Also, what is your texture if you don’t mind me asking. Thanks.

I think a natural’s relationship with heat depends on the type of hair the person has and how they use it. Thicker hair or low porosity hair is sure to resist more damage than the opposite (very fine strands or high porosity hair). Also, if you’re using over 400 deg. and doing multiple passes every 3 days, of course you’re going to experience damage. Longhairdontcare2011 and aliciajamesmusic on youtube are two others who have fared successful results with heat. This article is proof that not every natural has to follow “the rules”. Listen to your hair and drown out any… Read more »
Heat’s only the enemy if it’s used improperly. Unfortunately sometimes people don’t know it was used improperly until it’s too late and that’s why some people take that “Heat is the DEBBIL!” stance. I haven’t heat-straightened my hair in years and I’ve just accepted SSKs as simply being part of having longer Afro-textured hair BUT everything said here makes sense to me. I know people whose hair knots up at the very mention of the word “loose” and since they’re committed to being natural but aren’t prepared to loc up (yet) incorporating a little heat into their regimen seems to… Read more »
i’m the same way. I used to use heat on a wkly basis since coming to college up to about 2012, when i discovered natural hair boards and decided to give the natural hair style thing a try. up until that point i’d never really worn my hair curly except for the time following my big chop. but in all of last year i gradually cut off the ends of my hair that had been heat exposed, and came out by the end of the year with about 10 inches or so of pretty healthy, thick natural hair. But by… Read more »

I FULLY agree with everything that you said! I have 3c, 4a and 4b hair and it seems as if using heat, makes it easier to maintain my hair. I LOVE to straigthen my hair and from reading blogs and vlogs, I always was told that heat is “The Enemy”. I’m happy you posted this! You helped someone with relief from guilt!