Generally, I follow the mantra of “never say never.” However, there comes a time when you realize the likelihood that you will make certain decisions in the future are slim to none. In my case, hair straightening has become one of those decisions. Now, before you think my reason has to do with my views about representations of beauty and my opposition to conforming to a beauty standard, think again. Hair is…well, just hair and I happen to like wearing my hair in its natural state the vast majority of the time. Still, I also can appreciate a diversity of styles, including straightened hair. So why do I doubt that I will straighten my hair in the near or distant future? Well, I simply don’t see the benefits that at one time motivated my reason to occasionally straighten.

Occasionally, I would straighten my hair so I could see the “true” length of my natural hair. Sure, I could tell it was growing by tugging on a strand, but I felt that I never had the opportunity to enjoy my length progress (at least not fully) unless I wore it straightened. This was partially true prior to starting my healthy hair journey, when I didn’t know how to stretch my hair without heat or safely use heat. Now that I have reached my goal length, I’ve run into an interesting conundrum when it comes to hair straightening. My hair no longer seemed longer when straightened despite being stretched to its maximum. This may not make much sense, so let me explain.

Straight hair may display length but in my case it diminishes volume. Overall, my hair appears to be thinner, so while technically longer it appears that I have less hair. Below is an example of my hair straightened and my hair blown out in a textured style that shows how negligible a few inches of straight hair have on the appearance of hair when compared to a thicker, fuller style.

prof pic
Loose Braid Out on Blown Out Hair
Professionally Straightened Hair
Professionally Straightened Hair

Some of you aren’t keen on straightening your hair anyway, so my experience may not sway you one way or another. But if you do straighten often and have suffered adverse effects, you might consider other ways to display your length, if that is indeed one of your styling goals. This is especially true once you reach arm pit length and longer. Eventually you may find that when compared, your somewhat shorter, more voluminous hair doesn’t appear that much shorter than bone straight hair. The fullness of your hair can offset the shrinkage you might experience just as the length of your hair can be offset by its thinness, if your hair loses volume when straight.

If you value displaying your length and the thickness of your hair, styles such as roller sets or braid outs or loose bantu knots on blown out hair are much better options than flat ironing. Not only do you get the best of both worlds, (texture and length) but you reduce the likelihood of damage your tresses.

 

Do you prioritize length or volume when styling your hair? If you sometimes straighten your hair what are some of the reasons? Style? Enjoying your length?

Gen

Island girl raised in the most royal of NYC's boroughs. Proud nerd, social scientist, educator and recovering awkward black girl. When not listening to NPR, trying to grow spiritually, or detangling my fro, I'm searching for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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37 Comments on "Why I May Never Straighten My Hair Again"

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NaturallyMe
Each time before I wash my hair, I pull out my blow dryer like today will be the day! Then I wash (or cowash). And condition (or deep condition). And detangle. And then rinse and detangle. Then leave-in condition. Then moisturize. Then oil. And then I look at my hair, then down at the blow dryer, and a strange ache develops in my shoulders. My brain anticipates the agony. I inadvertently glance at the clock: god this is going to take how long??? Fortunately the baby cries, and the washer stops, the dishwasher buzzes, the mailman knocks, the dog barks,… Read more »
lynette
Coffeeandfingernails
Same here. I just did my second chop about 4 months ago to get rid of heat damage from the ONE time since I went natural that I decided to flat iron. The worst part was that as she was doing my hair and I felt it fall past my shoulders, I realized it was actually a bit longer than I realized (I would have guessed just at or maybe half an inch past shoulder length) and thought, Vindication! I must be doing everything right! My hair looked nice enough when she was done, but it was so dull to… Read more »
Nakema Moss

I hate straight hair. I personally look better with volume and curls. Natural hair ups the appearance in my honest opinion.

LeNette
My husband once “caught” me pulling down my hair to show the length. He asked, “Why are you doing that?” Me: “I’m checking to see if my regimen is working. I just wanted to see my progress.” He asked me if I planned on wearing my hair straight. I said no. He said, “If you don’t plan on wearing your hair straight, why pull it down? The length of your hair is where it naturally falls. Isn’t it?” We all know the “true” length of our hair is what it is when we pull it down or what the tape… Read more »
NancyM

I do roller sets all the time. Rarely do I feel the urge to flat iron. Roller sets stretch out my have enough to display some length with out losing volume. Good article.

KRants

Amen!

Erin

I prioritize volume when styling my tresses as well. Love the loose braid out look.

Brigite

Growing healthy hair is my main priority

JazzWife

What a great article. I appreciate deeply how you explained your decision not to straighten. I haven’t straighten my hair since 2009 and haven’t missed it at all. I prefer volume and healthy curls over heat straightened length.

Mary Walker

Oh, my goodness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought this but didn’t have the words to express it. I have nothing against straight hair. I just don’t like it well enough to invest the time and effort it requires to achieve. My hair goals all relate to my hair in its curly state. I want an arm pit length wash and go. How long that means my hair will be when in straightened is immaterial. I truly do not care.

Jasmine Banks

I totally agree my hair always looks flat and lifeless when its bone straight

KnottyNatural

After not using a flat iron since 2010, I had my hair straightened (by a professional) for Halloween and I realized a few things:
1) Who was the girl in the mirror with straight hair??? I didn’t like how flat and lifeless my hair looked (even though it had been curled)
2) It easily reverted, which made me feel that straightening was a waste of time for me
3) A blow out yields me voluminous hair that can be braided or twisted to yield beautiful textured styles!

Cygnet
My hair was still texturized the last time I flat-ironed it or had it blown dry on high heat. That was almost 8 years ago. I hadn’t wanted it done then, and I have no intention of ever doing it again. I notice that my hair shrinks more over time as it loses moisture. The more dehydrated it becomes, the more it shrinks. But the only time it’s ever stretched complete out is when I pull a tress taut so it can boing back into place again, just for amusement. Or when it’s so weighted by freshly applied product that… Read more »
Aliyah Morrison

I feel the same I like your hair better in a loose braid out hair crush lol it looks ok flat ironed straight though but kind of like everyoneelses hair . I always loved big curly kinky curly or kinky Afro hair ! I just finally decided to wear it .

Aliyah Morrison

I care more about having big healthy hair then seeing all my hair length . Big natural hair already looks long anyway and it looks way better than thin boring straight hair that anyone can get . I’m in the awkward stage length as long as my hair grows big is healthy and grows to my shoulders with shrinkage I’ll be ok .

alt-K

I love big, big hair. I have small locs (almost sisterlock size), and I’m so jealous of loose naturals with their big hair. I literally swoon (and I’m straight) over girls with big hair. So no flat, straight crap for me.

ladydulayne

I totally agree with this article. I have very thin, fine hair and the only way I have any fullness and volume is by wearing it in its natural, frizzy/bushy texture. The more its smoothed and straightened out, the thinner and limp it looks.Not cute on me.

donalda
To some extent I feel that an obsession with length to be a white supremacist concept born of a culture that has brainwashed black people into believing that their hair texture is inferior. That’s why I personally refuse to straighten my hair, because I came to feel that doing so would only confirm what THEY think of my people, my sisters in particular, and that doing so only confirms that white women are the beauty standard to which we are expected to emulate. While I won’t dictate to other black women the choices they should make with regard to hair… Read more »
HairAnomaly
My hair priorities are: 1) Grow a head full of healthy hair. 2) Accept the presence of single strand knots. 3) Achieve and maintain a voluminous, kink-curly fro every day. …. 1,462) Straighten my hair. The longer I am natural and the longer my hair gets, the more I love it and would not want to change it. My hair is stubborn, cranky, and does not like to be manipulated at all outside of its daily wash and go session, and I respect that. I can’t put my hair through a straightening session just to show off length or to… Read more »
clever_moniker

2) Accept the presence of single strand knots.

Yeeeesss!!

Yabbyrella

“to satisfy curiosity,” *stands up and slow claps* i try not to get irritated when family members/friends beg me to straighten my hair. they always back up their request with “don’t you want to know how long your hair is?!” sigh.

Harlee Jo
I’ve been natural for nearly a year and I wanted to see what my hair would look like bone straight. Number 1 it took me like 5 hours to straighten it because my hair’s so thick and it was my first time attempting to straighten my natural hair. Second when I was finished my hair was silky smooth and soft but flat and BORING and I wasn’t motivated to do anything else to it. It was such a waste of time. I never thought I would be one those girls advocating to not straighten, but here I am. I probably… Read more »
KnottyNatural

Same here! My hair blown out is just fine by meI I show off length and have fullness!

Lola
This does not seem odd to me. Not wanting bone straight hair was one nod to my natural hair journey. My permed hair could never, never, ever get bone straight nor did it stay straight longer than a few hours. The majority of my hair is an admixture of 3C/4a and especially the crown was chemically resistant. Frankly when I looked at my face after a perm I did not like what I saw. I wanted volume! So I prefer volume over length if you had to compare! I like them both. I can’t wait to get to your hair… Read more »
good2bfree

I can see my length best after I remove my mini twists. I haven’t heat styled since 2011.

LBell
The last time I heat-straightened my natural hair, I got so many compliments and “you should keep your hair that way” comments at work that I swore I would never straighten again. Actually I had already decided to loc and it was really a goodbye-to-straight-hair straightening, but even after I got rid of the locs I still refused to straighten it. It’s been 11 years since that last straightening. Recently I had an epiphany: I didn’t like straight hair when I HAD it (as a relaxer wearer). It had no life, it wouldn’t hold a curl, it broke off when… Read more »
Rose
I totally agree with this article, and I have felt the same way about straightening my hair. I have 4c hair, and although I have a lot of hair, each individual strand is very fine. When my hair is straightened it is sooo flat compared to a lush afro from first-day braidouts, let alone day two or three. I prefer the fullness. It’s my hair showing all of it’s texture and curl. It gives me hair style and character. When my hair is straight, not only do I look like everyone else, but I also don’t even look like myself.… Read more »
KnottyNatural

When my hair was straightened, I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself either!

Teeh

Love the loose braidout on blown out hair much better. Volume is what I’m going for. Never liked how my hair looked thin on relaxed or straighten hair.

Lo

Her heat free stretched hair is everything! This is why I never straighten my hair unless I plan to add extensions bc my hair only looks full in its natural state or in old twist outs ect.

tasha

I feel you on this! I had my hair straightened last month and my hair didn’t show much volume. I loved the length but I simply did not know what to do with my hair or how to manage it straight lol.

Not only that but some of my hair suffered a but of heat damage…which made me decide if I want a straight look I will probably go to a sew in or something to achieve that

name

Your hair looks great in your thumbnail! Is that a rollerset?

Tasha

Unfortunately, that’s not me lol. But for my hair I had gotten a silk blowout.

LaNeshe @Nesheaholic.com

That’s one of many things I love about being natural. When I had a relaxer my hair was so flat to my head. I love the volume of natural hair.

Deedeemaha

Best read in a long. Good info and insight.

Racine
This article was right on time as I’ve also reached a similar conclusion. Before my hair was at APL, the difference in my shrunken hair and my straightened hair was +50% My hair would be about 12″ long all around but easily shrink to a 4 to 6 inch appearance depending on the style. Also, my own hair is less than two years old at APL, so the wear and tear of a straightening session isn’t that damaging (because I’m careful and I maintain my hair with lots of TLC and deep conditioning). Now that I’m at MBL and gunning… Read more »
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