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?

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9 Comments on "3 Reasons Heat Damage to Natural Hair CANNOT Be Reversed"

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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.

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… Read more »

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.


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.

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… Read more »
Lady J
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… Read more »

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).

Chaunta Black

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.