Given the Euro-centric standards of beauty, women face a tough choice on a daily basis. Some struggle to keep their weight under check. Others strive to get the perfect tanned/bleached skin tone, whilst some others are wrestling to achieve the ideal long and straight hair look.
As the long, luscious, straight hair sits on top of the hair hierarchy, those that do not meet those standards feel left out or anxious. The dilemma is strongest in the Black community, where women naturally have curly or tightly coiled locks.
Thankfully, the modern hair straightener or flat iron is a respite from unpleasant slurs and even racial discrimination at times. But the pressing question is whether regular hair straightening comes at a high cost and is worth it.
Stick around as this blog delves deeper into the optimal frequency of hair straightening for women of all hair types (coming straight from the horse’s mouth).
How Often Should You Run a Flat Iron on Your Hair?
In most cases, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hair straightening. The weekly frequency depends not only on the hair type but also on other factors such as the technique you use, the condition of the tresses, and so on.
In any case, Jason Lee, a hairstylist and founder of Mela & Kera, along with Aaron Grenia, the co-founder of IGK Hair Care, recommend hair straightening only two to three times per week. Even these numbers are highly dependent upon the present condition of your hair.
For instance, if your hair is too fine (not thick enough), it is more prone to damage. It is best to straighten finer hair at most once per week. Also, keep the temperature low. Wavy, coiled, and curly hair would require higher temperatures.
Now, let’s break down hair-straightening frequency based on the hair type.
1. Curly Hair
Distinctly wavy and curly hair types require moisture retention as moisture is easily lost from the strands. Hence, overuse of hair-straightening can lead to loss of moisture from the scalp. Curly-haired women must have a stock of good heat protectants and moisturizing shampoos in their haircare repertoire.
Your hair-straightening routine should look somewhat like this – use a good moisturizing shampoo and conditioner a day before straightening. On the said day, apply a heat protectant first and then begin straightening at a moderately high temperature (400 – 450◦F).
Do not exceed the straightening routine more than twice every week.
2. Straight Hair
Hair that is already straight does not require much time or effort to achieve that ultra-sleek look. It is recommended that you apply a layer of heat protectant or primer as you transition from damp to heat-treated hair.
Never begin the straightening process without gently detangling your hair! Straight hair needs a maximum of five minutes to get the desired texture. Anything more than that could cause severe damage, such as a dry scalp, brittle strands, etc.
Also, keep the temperature low, ideally between 300 and 350◦F. Women with straight hair can straighten twice a week, provided they have thick strands. In the case of finer strands, do not exceed once per week.
3. Coiled Hair
Coiled, thick hair requires ample moisture to look shiny and healthy. A layer of heat protectant before straightening is advised, even for coiled hair. However, it’s better if the products contain castor oil, jojoba oil, and Shea butter as one of its main ingredients.
Another great way to prep the hair for straightening is a good leave-in conditioner that detangles the strands. Coiled hair is often a lot more fragile than other types. Hence, you must be extremely gentle with the heating process.
Also, apply an oil-based finisher that will prevent loss of moisture from the heat-treated strands. Coiled hair can be heat-styled up to three times per week, but this number depends upon the health of the strands. If you notice a dry scalp, an increase in hair loss, and hair breakage, limit your weekly use of hair straighteners.
Is Self-Expression and a Desire to Conform Hurting Women?
In a 2022 study of the effects of hair straighteners on the strands and scalp, The National Library of Medicine made a shocking discovery. Before we get into that, it is important to mention that heat-related hair damage has been long known among women.
However, this study revealed that chemicals in hair straightening products lead to hair loss (alopecia), scalp inflammation, and hair color alteration. These are not even that bad when compared to long-term repercussions in the form of uterine cancer – the most common cancer of the female reproductive system.
Research has shown that around 65,950 cases of uterine cancer were reported in 2022 alone. Of these, at least 60% were women from the African-American community because they tend to use hair relaxers a lot more than others. Since then, numerous women have filed a hair straighteners uterine cancer lawsuit (predominantly from the Black community).
A 2022 CNN interviewwith a former cosmetologist from the Black community, Eris Eady, found that women with coiled hair face intense societal and economic pressure to straighten their strands. Eady also revealed that she had been trying to get pregnant with no positive results. Learning of hair straighteners and their link with uterine cancer made her wonder if her former years of hair-relaxing have affected her ability to become a mother.
The damage may extend beyond uterine cancer, as found by TorHoerman Law. According to the firm, plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against companies like L’Oreal USA for injuries like breast and ovarian cancers.
Women rely on hair-straightening products to fit in with contemporary beauty standards. Some do it as a form of self-expression, but the payoff raises eyebrows, and rightfully so!
Towards a Better Future
It is true that most women are so accustomed to straightening their hair that they can’t step out of the house without it. In light of the damage, the best thing to do is reassess your options, especially if going all-natural is not a possibility.
Some way to protect yourself from hair straightener chemicals is to adjust the frequency of straightening per week (as this article has shown). Also, ensure your hair straightener does have different modes for heat adjustment. Avoid flattening or ironing the same section twice, and air-dry your hair as far as possible.
Finally, ditch all haircare products with sulfates and parabens, and straighten your strands only after you’ve applied some sort of moisturizing heat-protectant!