Dear FroBunni, I really want to straighten my natural hair, but I am afraid of getting heat damage. Is there a way to prevent this?
Ah, heat damage. Before I start, let me just say that there is no way to predict if you will or won't get heat damage. All it takes is one time. Now, I am not trying to scare you, but I am being honest about the fact that heat damage is always possible with heat. The good news is that there are ways to prevent heat damage.
Deep ConditionMake sure that you deep condition with a protein and moisturizing deep conditioner. A protein conditioner, like Giovanni Nutrafix Hair Reconstructor, will help to add strength to your hair during the flat ironing process (from the heat and mechanical manipulation). And a moisturizing conditioner, like Giovanni Avocado and Olive Oil Ultra-Moist Deep Deep Moisture Mask, will add extra moisture to your hair to help prevent dryness and retain moisture.
Just as well, when you wash after wearing your hair straight, you will want to use a protein and moisturizing deep conditioner again. The protein conditioner will replenish the protein that your hair lost due to the heat from the flat iron, and the moisturizing conditioner will replenish the moisture lost and help in reverting your hair back to curly.
Only Use One Heat Source
If you are going to flat iron your hair, instead of blow drying to stretch your hair, consider stretching your hair without heat by roller setting or using curlformers. This will prevent you from over manipulating your hair or using too much heat.
Use a Heat Protectant
And use a real one. Not an oil, which isn't a heat protectant. There are many different kinds of heat protectants on the market - sprays, serums, leave-ins. For my blowouts, I really like Giovanni Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Leave-In Conditioning & Styling Elixir, but they also have a heat protectant specifically for blow dryers and flat irons. The options are endless, but like all products, you will have a trial and error process of which ones work best...and of course, you may run into heat damage trying to find the right products.
Just be aware that if you use heat, there is always a possibility for heat damage. If you are really concerned and don't want to take the chance, consider roller sets or my method to straighten natural hair without heat. If you do straighten your hair, and find that you have damaged your hair, the only real option is to cut the damage off. There are some old wives tales of beer rinses, but I've actually never seen that working for anyone.