3 Reasons Heat Damage to Natural Hair CANNOT Be Reversed

I get these questions quite often, so I am featuring this one today from blog reader D. She writes

‘So I feel like I have a unique situation. I have heat damage but it’s not the kind you just trim off. The stylist actually weakened and compromised the integrity of my hair. Now that it’s cooler it’s even harder to keep my hair moisturized. I’ve added more protein in my regimen and I deep condition after every wash. Other than a wash n go, every other style stretches my curls and before my next wash day I’m left with straight pieces and waves all over, at least until I can get it into a long term protective style and re-transition back to my original curly coiled kinks. I feel like there’s no hope for my pattern to return. Doc is there anyway to come back from heat,weakened damaged hair? why or why not?’

I hate to break it to you but the only permanent remedy to heat damaged hair is a trim. Here is why

1. Your hair is dead

Once your hair emerges out into the visible area of your scalp, you are dealing with a dead fibre. It is dead because there are no active growing cells in it. The implication here is that this fibre can only ever either stay in the condition it is as it emerges or wear down over time. There are no active cells within that part that has emerged to fix any damage.

2.  High heat makes physical and irreversible changes to your hair at a molecular level

High or prolonged heat can physically and irreversibly change the natural structure of protein . Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. Keratin in hair has a natural twist in it called an alpha helix. This twist is present in all hair straight or curly. If you heat keratin to around 215-235°C ( 419-455F) the alpha helix starts to melt. This is a a physical change and it is irreversible, your hair will retain the shape of the melted keratin at a molecular level. Your hair shows you this molecular damage by not getting back into its natural curl or wave and staying straighter.

3. All damage to your hair is cumulative. 

Remember you have no growing cells in the dead part of the hair so if the cuticle is broken, it will stay broken. If you heat treat and damage the cortex, it stays damaged. Your hair conditioner and gentle treatment can help prolong the life of the damaged hair but ultimately it is damaged and the damage will continue to progress.

Do you have to cut it off?

If you can deal with the multiple textures and your hair is not breaking off in pieces, you can keep heat damaged hair. If the multiple textures are driving you insane, trimming is the only proven way forward.

For more – read this vintage article

Ladies, what has your experience been with heat damage? Did you hang on to the damaged hair, or did you cut it?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

8 thoughts on “3 Reasons Heat Damage to Natural Hair CANNOT Be Reversed

  1. I refuse to believe that heat damage is irreversible. I had initially been one of those skeptics who had thought that my hair was literally hopeless from all of the unnecessary trips to the salon to straighten my curlies; every time I had it straightened, i began to notice how my curl pattern would transition for the worst, becoming looser and limp. I thought that going to the salon and getting regular trips every 2-3 months would actually benefit the condition of my hair; however, I truly feel that this is a myth that hairstylists have literally “bamboozled” the masses with this notion in order to get a steady check (sips tea). Anyways, that’s a whole ‘nother messy subject in itself. Back to the subject at hand: for those who still feel hopeless, I have found argan oil to be a very promising product, specifically the Pura d’or brand, and I always say, do your own research; but, I swear by this specific argan oil for bringing your hair back to life!

    • Life is exactly what a head of hair does not have. I think she is saying That damage can be anywhere from mild to severe. Perhaps coating your hair with products improves the appearance of damaged hair and helps manage it, yet it does not change the fact that it is damaged.

    • I think you want to believe Argan oil can save damaged hair, but I invite you to take a look at the number of natural hair mavens on YouTube that have had to big chop after thinking their curls would “bounce” back after continuously using heat (sips tea).

    • I believe you are right to be skeptical, that’s how we get to the bottom of things! Experiments and research!!! So from my scientific opinion, the article is true, in a big picture kind of way. There are a lot of more technical details left out (i.e. the complete structure of the hair, the chemical bonds ect ect). So more than likely, for those people who have the ability to bounce back is because they have caused some temporary damage or only modifications to their strands, only at the cuticles. This particular property is referred to the hairs plasticity. Some of this damage is reversible, therefore products containing proteins and ceramides and such have the ability to mimic the components of the hair and fill in those gaps (as illustrated above). Although you have to remember that it will not last forever due to age, styling, ect. Now when you have worn away and damaged the cuticle to the point where your inner layer, cortex, containing the keratin (alpha helix) is exposed, you will run the risk of causing that permanent damage. At that point you will have to cut. I like to think of it like this, your skin protects your organs (and everything else) from being exposed to the environment right? What do you think will happen if you had no skin? Definitely some irreversible damage!!! Unfortunately your organs don’t grow back by being cut out, so don’t try that one at home! Hope that helps some coming from a fellow scientist :) If not I recommend trying this website for reference.

      http://www.hair-science.com/_int/_en/index.aspx?tc=ROOT-HAIR-SCIENCE%5EHOME-HAIR-SCIENCE&cur=HOME-HAIR-SCIENCE&

  2. I cut mine. This happened in 2013. It hurt to cut it (because I was trying to let it grow long) but I knew it was necessary. Haven’t used a flat iron since, and only diffused heat now and then. My hair is much healthier now (and growing).

    I get the feeling some women feel they can “bring back” their hair but if hair truly does bounce back with lots of deep conditioning and protein, I don’t think it was damaged “past the point of no return.” Once hair reaches THAT point, there’s no rescue.

  3. I do think that this article doesn’t really explain the women whose hair *does* bounce back after a heat damage with the use of protein. The protein is doing its job by binding to the hair. I mean the hair still experienced damage, and a good conditioner over time on a consistent basis could build he hair structure back somewhat.

  4. Keep in mind people have different hair textures. Coarse hair can be damaged but it can take more abuse than fine hair before being badly damaged because the strands are thicker stronger. Mine is fine and I have accepted that I cannot use flat irons and curling irons or pressing combs on my hair without causing severe damage. I have had to chop my hair more than once in my life because of heat damage breakage. My cousin is relaxed and kept having to cut although trying to grow long. Now that she backed off the direct heat she is retaining length. Also heat and serums have a way of masking damage so even people whose hair may look good may be in crappy shape. I don’t understand why people with heat damage continue to flat iron. You are making it worse.

  5. Curly hair should NEVER, EVER be blunt cut the way it’s shown in the diagram!! This will only cause more tangles and breakage; I’m pretty sure the Obagi method is the only way to correctly cut curls.

    Never had a good experience with any hairdresser (white or black) until I found one who would cut my hair with this method while it was dry.

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