Reader Question: Can Relaxed Hair Grow While Using Heat?

I got this question last week on my tumblr page and decided to share my thoughts on the topic here.  Below is my response/personal feelings on the topic.  For the other relaxed head out there, what are your thoughts based on your personal experience?  Does the same hold true for you?  How much heat are able to apply to your hair and still see growth/retention?

My Response:

There is a little bit of truth to that because relaxers and heat tools both deplete hair of some of it’s structural components.  This makes it difficult for our hair to stay moisturized; and dry hair is more prone to breakage and split ends.  In most cases of excessive heat use with relaxers, the hair breaks away as quickly as it grows in.  That’s why it seems like the hair doesn’t grow.

The key word is excessive heat use.  Each person’s ability to grow longer relaxed hair while using heat differs.  A safe bet would be to not use heat more than once a week (or every two weeks) and see how that works for you.  For my fine and relaxed hair, I can use direct heat (flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers) for maybe 2-4 wash days in between my relaxers (that’s usually a 12 week span).   Indirect heat (hooded dryers) I might use up to 2-3 times a month.

It is true that if I never used heat, my hair would get to longer lengths faster. But I’d rather use heat and take a little longer to get to my goals (Although I have been thinking about going heat free until my next relaxer, but… that’s just a thought at this point).   Overall the goal is to do what we can to make sure our hair isn’t breaking off at the ends faster than the hair is growing from our scalp.

In addition to minimizing my heat usage, I maintain a hair regimen that incorporates strengthening and moisturizing hair products to keep my hair strong and elastic.  I hope that this clears things up for you. 

Happy Hair Growing,
Kim

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So, what say you? What has been your personal experience with heat tools, relaxing your hair and getting to longer lengths?

12 Comments


  1. I think the problems are the ends, especially if one has long hair. By the time the hair reaches the end, it har been through to much heat that a lot of them are worn out.


  2. That's an interest point you've made. It actually makes me want to go heat-free for this relaxer stretch while I think about that and let it marinate. Thanks for commenting.


  3. I definitely agree with your emphasis on excessive, though what this means is different from person to person. I could get away with using heat every week and still see length retention about a year ago but I haven't tried doing that lately


  4. In my case indirect heat is what has worked for me (roller sets) and direct use of heat only once in while and only on the newgrowth.


  5. Yeah, I try to avoid extremes in my hair journey. I know heat is not great, but it's not so bad that it can never ever be used while growing your hair out. It seems like so many are on a 100% "no heat" regimen and while it's a great thing to do for your hair, it's not the only way you can get to healthy hair. A lot of the times I feel like people are hesitant to start a "hair journey" because they assume it means that you can't use heat. There are people on a healthy hair journey who use heat and have beautiful hair. (see itgirlonline's youtube channel). It just depends upon what works for you. …with that being said, I still take time to do "no heat" every once in a while, because it IS good for the hair. 🙂


  6. I also rely on indirect heat from hooded dryers to straighten my hair in between relaxers.


  7. Interesting article, I am 3 months into my hair journey and trying to understand the whole heat thing, indirect heat and direct heat. I take it direct heat is using straightener or curling irons, and indirect heat is the steam, hand dry, however isn't a hand dryer still direct heat when used for roller sets, as it's 'bad' when you blow dry hair instead of air drying? Don't know if am making any sense


  8. You are making complete sense, Fractured 12th rib. Direct and Indirect heat are both capable of damaging the hair. And airdrying is always a better choice, health-wise, for your hair. But the way that I think about it is:

    Direct Heat is heat applied on the entire length of your hair through direct contact (think flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers, and any other heat styling tools) AND requires you to manipulate the hair while using the harsh heat;

    Indirect Heat is heat applied around the hair/not directly onto the entire length of the hair and is typically done when the hair is in a static position (less prone to breakage). So for example a hooded dryer creates a warm bubble around your head and warms/dries the hair gradually diminishing the likelihood of heat damage/breakage. (**I can see why you've added blow dryers/hand dryers to the indirect heat category, especially based on my definition but for the way that I use my blow dryer on my hair I tend to feel like it's more in line with the damage potential of heat tools. However, depending on how the blow dryer is used it could be switched to the indirect heat category).

    But yes, both indirect and direct heat create a situation where hot air or hot tools are introduced to the hair, which can be drying and damaging to the hair. I guess, I am just qualifying the hooded dryer because to me it's not as harsh as the other methods of heat styling. I notice more breakage with heat tools/blow dryers as opposed to my hooded dryer. But this is based on my personal experiences with heat. I know that some people's hair can not handle any type of heat, that is why I think it's important for people to figure out what "excessive heat" is to them.

    That was a great question, it really got me thinking! Thanks for commenting. 🙂


  9. My personal history with heat is that for six years straight I went to a professional hairdresser every two weeks. She would wash, detangle, take some of the moisture out of my hair under a hooded blowdryer, blowdry with a handheld blowdryer, then straighten it with a flat iron every two weeks. My hair was never unhealthy. It never stopped growing. I've always had hair past my shoulders and at one point I even had her cut it above my shoulders because it was growing too quickly and I didn't want long hair at that point in my life. Using heat properly and with the proper protectants does not result in unhealthy hair.


  10. Absolutely, I think it depends on (1) what your hair goals are, (2) how often you use heat, (3) what else you are doing to support healthy hair and (4) your hair strand thickness. You seem to have found a safe zone for the amount of heat usage that gets you the hair that you want. But I do think that that amount varies from person to person. I'm not sure I could use a flat iron and blow dryer every other week and maintain my hair's current thickness while gaining a 3-6 inches of length each year. I'd end up having to trim my fine hair strands more often than I'd like.

    Thanks for commenting, Betty!


  11. i am anit-heat. I've seen so much growth and thickness without out it, and there are so many alternatives to achieving 'straight' hair. check my journey at http://www.sheiloves.me link on the right titled 'my hair journey'


  12. I agree with you anything in excess is bad for your hair…I personally don't flat iron just cuz I'm lazy I did it once and it took too long 😃http://haircaregy.blogspot.com/

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