Heat damage has to be a naturalista’s greatest fear — besides breakage, of course. If you have tight or kinky curls, you’ve probably relied on a blow dryer, diffuser or flat iron to retain length or stretch your curls because the shrinkage struggle is real. But applying a lot of direct heat to your hair will only lead to dryness and loss of your natural curl pattern.
To achieve healthy hair, it’s best to stick to heat in moderation or none at all. Obviously, some natural hairstyles work better with stretched hair, so you’ll be surprised to learn that there’s a method we’re currently obsessed with that doesn’t require any heat: African hair threading.
African threading isn’t some new hair trend on Instagram or YouTube. In fact, it’s an ancient art that women across Africa have worn for centuries. The technique has recently resurfaced among the natural hair community as a heat-free protective style — even Texas natives Erykah Badu and Beyoncé are big fans of the style.
The practice of African threading provides all the protective advantages as braids, only it doesn’t stress the scalp and edges like most braided styles. The technique can be used on virtually any hair type, length or texture. In addition, you can wear your hair threaded underneath wigs as a healthier alternative to cornrows.
Not only that, it’s a far better method at stretching than twisting or braiding. Natural devotees also sing its praises for the low-maintenance factor. Because threading involves very little styling and manipulation, it keeps your hair intact while it grows naturally.
As you can see in the tutorial above, a thin, matte-like black thread or a thicker colored thread with a glossy finish is wrapped around strands of hair—from the root all the way to the ends. Depending on your desired style, you can leave the thread on for 15 minutes or for a few hours.
Of course, the longer your hair is banded, the more stretched it will become. However, to reduce any breakage, threading professionals recommend not banding the hair too tightly or in small sections. If you’re in need of a little heat-free inspiration, here are some dope African-threaded styles we spotted on the Interwebs.