We love a good controversial natural hair topic, and the latest one seems to be about heat trained vs heat damaged hair. Granted it’s not a new topic of discussion, but it seems to be gaining some more traction in light of some pretty famous natural hair “gurus” in the natural hair community chopping off their long luscious locs to start over with healthier hair.

So what exactly is the difference between heat trained and heat damaged hair? Well at the vary basics of each definition

Heat Trained hair

Heat training your hair is the repeated process of straightening your natural hair with heat in order to make your hair a more “manageable” texture. I put “manageable” in quotes because that’s a whole other natural hair controversial issue that we will save for later.

Heat Damaged hair

is hair that has under gone excessive extreme heat and will not revert back to its curly state after several washes.
Signs of heat damaged hair are:
– curls that will not snap back when you gently pull on them (think length check pull)
– hair that is dry/brittle looking and to the touch (often leads to excessive shedding and major breakage)
-hair that can no longer hold on to its original natural curl

So what exactly is the difference?

That is what many naturalistas argue about. I believe it is the semantics of word choice. Naturalistas often associate damaged hair as hair that just looks and feels terrible. Sometimes your “damaged” hair may not look as horrible as you would associate the word damage with. Therefore they refer to their hair as being heat trained. The truth of the matter is the proteins in your hair have been broken down… essentially permanently damaged and will never revert to their original state. That could be the possible look some women are going for (a sleeker/straighter permanent style without adding chemicals to their head) but no matter how we name it the facts are the facts. The hair has taken a physical change and with excessive heat training comes the possibility of breakage.

So remember whichever route you take as a naturalista whether a curly haired or straight haired one the health of your hair should always come first before any styling option. Heat does not always have to be the enemy but always in moderation and with preventative care. Heat protectors and deep conditioning should be essential tools in your regimen that includes the use of heat!

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5 Responses to Heat Trained VS. Heat Damaged Natural Hair

  1. Thank you for this! I was also of this school of thought. I thought my long “healthy” hair was heat trained bc it was super long (tail bone length) and wasnt difficult to straighten. Then I decided to go “heat” free because I loved the look of bigger hair…and once my hair started to grow out I realized that my hair was damaged! Not like a perm…but similar…the protein was stripped and my curls were compromised. I had to grow out my hair again…another transition. People need to be educated on this. Not saying “heat training/damage” is terrible…just understand what you are working with! Thank you for this post!

  2. Here’s the thing about the “excessive and extreme” heat definition for damage… Everyone’s hair is different and can tolerate a different amount of heat. I have 3c/4a very fine curls and coils and pretty much any form of heat beyond a mild blowdry causes my curls to change. At one point in time I was getting my hair straightened every 3 weeks with no heat touch ups in between and my hair was a straight as when it was relaxed even though the stylist was using heat protectant and medium heat. So I would argue that not everyone can “heat train”. for my hair there is no middle ground it either goes straight or it’s coily corkscrews.

  3. Thank you for this article. In the beginning of my hair journey I believed that my hair was “heat trained.” When I realized that it was damaged either way, I cared for my hair as though it was damaged and I saw a drastic improvement in the health of my hair.

  4. Here’s two things that work for me – when I overly heat styled my hair. #1 is the hommade approach where you can use a teaspoon of olive oil and two teaspoons of mayonnaise – apply to your hair and then cover it with a plastic cap and leave it on for thirty minutes. That is the cheapest way. If you are a super busy mom like me and work also, you can use the heat leave-in protector from the Shielo brand BEFORE doing any heat styling. The Shielo protector will stop the heat from damaging your hair, and it just makes it super shiny and soft again.