vidal ceramic vs ghd
(LEFT) Late 2010. While flat ironing with an inexpensive Vidal Sassoon Ceramic iron. Starting to revert as well. (RIGHT) In 2012. While flat ironing with the expensive GHD Gold Professional iron, chasing with the Wigo brush, using smaller sections, etc.

One of the beauties of being natural is versatility – the ability to switch from your natural kinks, coils, or curls to bigger curls or straight tresses and back. This versatility is something that I have exploited in the latter part of my natural hair journey if you could not already tell by some of my posts on here, such as:

Does 4C Natural Hair Mean Limited Styling?
7 Steps to Minimize Damage When Using Heat on Natural Hair

Believe it or not, there was a period of time that I just did not think it possible to go beyond the “blow-out look” on my 4C natural hair to sleek and straight. It just didn’t happen for me when I tried using a couple of the more popular flat irons out there. Moreover, after spending an hour or so on straightening, my hair would revert within minutes. For a period of time, I saw no point in flat ironing my hair if the results did not look like I had used the tool at all and only lasted seconds.  What was the point?  I might as well have just stretched my hair using conventional methods.

However, that all changed about two years ago when one of my sisters (who is also natural) convinced me to let her flat iron my hair. (In the back of my mind, I thought that I would prove to her that my hair just couldn’t get that straight, but I was wrong.)  After forty-five minutes or so, my hair was “bone straight” and with less than 370 degrees Fahrenheit (F)! (My natural kinks bounced right back after washing a couple weeks later.) From that day forward, I became a firm believer in this level of versatility – the ability to go from shrunken kinks to super straight strands and back again. If you have been having challenges in successfully experiencing this kind of versatility, here is a compilation of what I’ve learned from my sister as well as my own experiences over these two years.

1. The GREATEST importance is the type of flat iron and quality of the plates

It was not until that flat ironing session two years ago that I learned the MAJOR importance of the tool quality itself. My results with $40-50 tools versus those of double or quadruple the price were like night and day. I have to say that GHD’s Gold Professional and MK-I Halo’s Ceramic (being a close second) are the flat-ironing tools that get my hair salon straight and sleek for weeks. None of the other tools that I have tried do this even when using “tried and true” techniques, such as the comb chase method. Of course that means paying more for more quality, but quality means smoother, better plates and technology that translate into smoother, straighter results with less heat. (In 2012, I purchased the GHD flat iron for $200+. The MK-I Halo sells for $100+.)

With both of these irons, I stay in the 300s (Fahrenheit) for heat while my other irons would require more heat (in the 400s) to get close to the same results, if at all possible. The MK-I Halo has an adjustable digital temperature setting, which ranges from 140 to 450 F. This is ideal for those who want to monitor the temperature they are applying to their strands. (I only need 360 to 380 F.) The GHD does not have an adjustable temperature setting, but according to the company website, the gold professional iron ranges from 347 to 365 F.

conair vs ghd
In 2012. (LEFT) After using my drugstore Conair flat iron. (Similar results were gotten with the GVP as well.)  My hair had little sheen and was really stiff. It tangled and shrunk up fairly quickly after this. (RIGHT) After using the GHD gold professional. My hair has a nice shine and a lot of movement. It is also sleeker and lasted weeks.

2. Then cleansing and a moisture-infusing deep conditioning session

The few (very few) times I have flat ironed on dirty hair, my straightening results never looked as sleek as doing so on clean hair. This reality makes sense given that washed hair is free of the dirt and product buildup that may inhibit the styling process.  Thus, I make sure to thoroughly wash my strands (from root to tip) to allow for a successful flat iron session.

In addition to freshly washed hair, I find that moisture-infusing deep conditioning sessions give me the smoothest flat-ironing results. My conditioners of choice are a protein-based one (ORS Replenishing Conditioner or Aphogee Intensive 2-Minute Keratin Reconstructor) on top of a moisturizing, slippery conditioner (Tresemme Naturals or Suave Naturals). My hair feels like butter after rinsing.

3. The straightening technique – size of sections, passes, and tension

I think by now, many of us are aware that the size of the sections of hair you flat iron and the number of passes are both key to a successful straightening technique. For a sleek straight look, I find the most success with sections that are about 2” x 0.5” and using two passes. Bigger sections make a successful flat iron job difficult, and three or more passes are unnecessary with the right straightening tool.

Another important component is applying tension while flat ironing, which can improve your results greatly. Some naturals use a comb-chase method, but I get better (and faster) results using the Wigo brush. I essentially take a small section of hair, clamp it between the brush, and chase with the flat iron. It is honestly gentler than it sounds when used on thoroughly detangled stretched hair.

4. How you stretch your hair, including the product(s) used

The more stretched my hair is prior to flat ironing, the sleeker the results. I prefer big braids or roller sets when it comes to this; roller sets obviously give me the better results. (Blow drying is obviously another option, but I rarely do it since it dries my hair out like crazy.)

As for products, a good post-washing sealant (for me, that is a homemade shea butter mixture) and a silicone-based serum are key. Additionally, the less product I use, the sleeker my results.  I find that using too much product leads to stiffer hair.

What challenges have you faced when flat ironing your hair?  Do you have any tips to share?

Chinwe

Healthy hair care tips and more!
http://www.healthyhairbody.com

Leave a Reply

30 Comments on "How I Flat Iron My Thick, 4C Natural Hair SLEEK and Straight Without DAMAGE"

Notify of
avatar
vane

My hair has given me a hell of time as it has a stunted growth plz advice me which product i should use for hair growth.

lauryn

my biracial hair type 3b can get to sleek straight but as soon as i go out on windy day it frizzes up and I can’t get it to go back to being straight without re-straightening it

Courtney Jackson
Captain Planet. This was the issue for me too for a long time. I have to admit, I don’t have the best flat iron. But with the right mixture of products, I finally got it right. First I washed with apple cider vinegar and water ( 4 parts water to 2 parts acv). Then I deep conditioned with Shea Moisture’s Mankuna Honey and Mafura oil intensive hair masque. After sitting under the dryer for 30 minutes, rinse and part in plaits to air dry. Then, I used L’Oréal Blow Dry It thermal smoother cream and blow dry using the tension… Read more »
Amity W.

Hi Courtney,
I’m curious about one step. Right After you deep conditioned it, did you rinse out the deep conditioning mask or did you leave it in before you blow dried it?

E.C. from D.C.

Ohhh :). I’m 4C all the way…heck 4D is they created a new hair type lol.
I’m gonna give this a go.

Scmami
Took her word for it last fall and purchased the MK-Halo flat iron for ~$80 on Amazon. WOW! My hair was salon straight and my daughter’s true 4C THICK MBL/BSL hair didn’t revert! My hair is 3C/4A, shoulder length, and I used the flat iron on 360 for us both. I washed, conditioned and mostly air dried, then blow dried mine and it still came out silky. On her hair I washed, conditioned, moisturized with a shea butter mix and braided. She wore the braids a few days before I had time to flat iron. The heat protectant used was… Read more »
Robyn

Brilliant summary!!! I would imagine the conditioning session be 30-45 minutes long. Also, depending of course on the behaviour of your hair and time available, I believe that the entire process can be done in the morning of one day, i.e. like a Saturday or Sunday, air drying whilst in rollers sitting in the sun can quickly get that job done.

Jade

every time i flat iron my hair, 8-10 hours later, the roots and midway through my hair has reverted back to curl. it almost looks like i got a cheap straight weave in with afro puff or frizzed out hair. why cant i get my hair to stay straight for like 1 day?!?!?!? it doesnt make sense to daily flat iron my hair.

d4dusk.tumblr

let me make sure I got this

day 1.
1. wash
2. slippery conditioner ie tressume naturals
3. leave in conditioner with silicone on top of that ie ORS.
4. immediately wash both out or let them both sit for a while, if a while, how long?
5. rinse, plop hair til damp, add Shea butter sealant.
6. braid or roller set til air dry.

day 2.
7. Carols or Silk serum lightly on small sections before straightening.

thanks!

ShaLeigh

Can you give instructions for making the shea butter mixture?

jen

I get my hair straight by going to get it blow dryer then if I want to be natural i just wash it put moisturizer and braid it in sections then I’m back where j started. I only use my flat iron when touching up places if I sweat or something. Mine goes to 450 degree

Nicky

This article was GREAT! Thanks for the tips!

andrea dames

This might be off of the topic but before flat ironing became popular, you never really heard of heat damage. I use to get my hair pressed and never suffered heat damage, now my hair is heat damaged due to using a flat iron. I use heat protection on my hair but it does not help.

Kay

I have been using ghds for years I now wear my hair natural most days but when I do straighten it, i like the results. But within half an hour my ends are dry, static and extremely frizzy and I don’t know why. Because my hair is in very good condition. Have you got any tips on preventing this ? I have tried serums, straightening balms everything!

Miranda

Wonderful post on straightening natural 4c hair. It’s not easy to come across detailed trial and error articles like thid regarding flat iron types, products, lessons learned, etc. Even your responses to others are helpful and provide additional insight. Thanks Chinwe!

ceres

thank you so much for writing this!! I’ve been flat ironing my hair 2-3 time a year and it’s always a disappointment. I’m a little bit confused about what do you put and when do you put it though. You don’t use the LOC/LCO method after washing your hair? Right after the conditioning/protein treatment, you just wash the conditioner out, put some shea butter,roller sets it and than flat iron it? When do you put a heat protectant?

lis

The brush is a must. For a long time I pondered how to thoroughly flat iron. I got great results using a brush with the Sedu iron.

Yaya

Do you mean you flat ironed with a soft bristle brush on your natural hair?
Does it work,I have really dense course hair. I am contemplating flat ironing myself.

Tash

Thanks for this. Could you post the link/exact model name for the ghd gold straighteners please as a few different options come up on Amazon. Thanks

Kinky me

Do you flat iron your without any product? Then put serum on after you’ve flat ironed

Jacky

Nice tips, thanks for sharing and thanks for the picture comparisons. I have no doubt that the GHD Gold flat iron is good and very effective.

Yo Yo
Natty naturals products – deep conditioner, leave-in, butter (very light) (nattynaturals.com). Roller set ( I cheat doing by doing ponytail roller set, I found vids on YouTube) instead of blow dry and a little more natty butter! Also I bought a flat iron on Groupon, instead of paying $200, I paid $30. I found that the 100% solid ceramic plates (tourmaline ceramic even better) to be better than the titanium flat iron I used a few times. I don’t think brand matters as much as the material the plates are made out of and the ability to adjust the temp.… Read more »
Yes, Really

GHD (stands for “Good Hair Day”) truly are amazing. Very true that they dont have an adjustable thermostat but I use mine (older ones) and truly can get away with just one pass on each section.

A Simple Thing

Do you mix your conditioners together or layer them on top of each other? Do you find the quality of the serum affects the straighteners (flat iron) or will good old Fantasia work (flat iron)?

wpDiscuz