By Terez Howard

When you are ready for a change with your natural hair, whether it’s curly hair or coily hair, you don’t have to pick up a relaxer to get a straight look.  You can straighten afro hair in 3 basic ways: with natural hair styles that stretch the hair, with indirect heat (such as a hooded dryer) or with direct heat (like a blow dryer or flat iron).

No matter which of the 3 ways you choose how to straighten hair, you must keep in mind that African American hair is very fragile.  Each coil in a strand is weak and a potential breaking point.  Straightening natural hair further weakens your strands and increases their potential to break.  Therefore, before you begin any straightening process, deep condition your hair.  A deep conditioner can help to strengthen your hair before the hair undergoes heat, which can damage your hair.  A protein conditioner will also strengthen weak spots located in your hair cuticles.

How To Straighten Hair With Natural Hair Styles

Straightening natural hair with hair styles is the safest way to straighten your hair.  Hair styles which will naturally stretch African American hair include: two-strand twists, Bantu knots, braids, cornrows, flat twists and palm rolls.  These styles will naturally elongate shrink-prone, natural hair.

In addition, all of these styles are considered protective hair styles, meaning they protect the ends of your hair (the oldest hair) from the elements.

However, these hair styles will not straighten natural hair to look bone straight; they merely stretch the hair, making it appear longer than it would if it were to air dry.  When you unravel your hair from any of the natural hair styles listed, a curly texture will remain.  But, it will look straighter, or more stretched, than it normally would.

Also, these styles can be used as a prelude or in conjunction with the next two ways how to straighten hair.

How To Straighten Hair With Indirect Heat

Indirect heat is the type of heat that does sit directly on the hair’s strands, like a blow dryer.  Indirect heat in the form of a hooded dryer has less potential to damage natural hair because this type of heat does not come into direct contact with the hair.  Your ends also are protected since your natural hair would be in rollers.  Repeated use or prolonged use of a hooded dryer, however, can possibly damage your hair.  So, be careful to not sit under your hooded dryer for hours and hours.

You can begin the straightening process by putting hair in braids or twists and then rolling them for a roller set. I suggest braiding or twisting first to stretch the hair even more. If you do braid or twist, your hair will have a nice wave to it. If you do not braid or twist, be sure to smooth the hair onto your rollers and roll all the way to the scalp to avoid puffy roots. Small sections of hair will help to smooth the hair.

Sit under your hooded dryer for an hour or two and gently remove your rollers as well as braids or twists.  Give your hair a finger combing and shake your straightened tresses.

How To Straighten Hair With Direct Heat

Direct heat is the most damaging way to straighten our fragile natural hair. It comes in the use of blow dryers, flat irons, pressing combs and curling irons. The rapid heating within the hair shaft depletes and removes moisture in your hair shaft. The increased manipulation of the hair will also damage your curls and coils. Splitting, cracking and peeling of the hair shaft are common side effects to straightening natural hair with direct heat. Just one session of too much heat on the hair can straighten it permanently. Yes, not only relaxers permanently straighten your hair.

If you must straighten your hair with direct heat, do so sparingly.  Use as few tools as possible.  Don’t use a blow dryer, pressing comb AND a curling iron.  When I straightened my natural hair, I opted to twist or braid my hair, dried it over night, unraveled and only used a flat iron to straighten it.  The results were straight natural hair.

After You Straighten Afro Hair

After you straighten African American hair with heat, you must:

  • Avoid the rain, snow, sweat and other moisture.  Water will make your hair revert back to its natural state.
  • At night, wrap your hair, braid or twist it or put rollers in it. If you do nothing, your natural hair will get tangled and puffy, especially if you sweat while you sleep.
  • Apply a non-water based product to keep your hair from drying out.  Heat is very drying to natural hair, so you must infuse it with protection.


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