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Ask CurlyNikki: I Was Betrayed By My Stylist

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Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by emailing them to BeautyEditors@essence.com.

READER QUESTION: My daughter and I are natural and have been for a little over three years. In October, I had our hair straightened by a licensed beautician. Me thinking that she knew what she was doing, it didn't bother me that she ran the flat iron through our hair 3-4 times. It wasn't until a week later when I washed our hair and noticed that my daughter's hair was bone straight throughout and mine was straight at the nape and temples that I knew something was amiss.  I figured that after a few washes it would revert back, but four months later and it's still straight. I now know that the stylist caused us both to have permanent heat damage. We both have hair that is to the middle of our backs and did the Big Chop back in 2009 (which was a source of contention in our house because my husband was not accustomed to seeing us with TWAs). I know that my husband would not approve of another BC. My question is, how do I care for our heat-damaged hair when cutting/starting over is not an option?

CURLYNIKKI's RESPONSE: I'm so sorry this has happened. Unfortunately, it's not at all uncommon. Transitioning out of heat damage is similar to transitioning out of a relaxer in that you have to have patience and choose styles that blend the two drastically different textures. When I experienced heat damage (serious breakage) a decade ago, I trimmed a little bit each month so that there was never a need for a drastic cut. The frequent trims and protective styles (lots o' buns) really worked well to cut down on my frustration while I clung to my length. Here are some other tips:

Avoid Heat. Excessive heat styling is dangerous as it compromises protein bonds. Using heat as a crutch while you transition can result in more straight pieces, an uneven curl pattern and breakage. If you'd like to show your length, try twist-outs, roller sets, banding and braid-outs.

Try Low Manipulation and Protective Styles. Choose styles that seamlessly blend the two textures and don’t stress your edges. Twist and braid-outs, pin curls, roller sets, buns and braids should be your style staples. Handle your hair gently and infrequently and remember to moisturize.

Deep Condition. Your heat-damaged hair needs protein to maintain strength and prevent breakage. I recommend monthly protein treatments and weekly moisturizing deep treatments with heat. Your hair will thank you later!

Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the book Better Than Good Hair.

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