By Aleesha Badkar published
Ask anyone about their beauty guilty pleasure and most will admit to heat styling then worrying about damage from hair straighteners afterwards. Let's face it - even the best hair straighteners, used with the upmost care have the potential to wreak havoc on our hair.
Throughout the years, as at-home hair styling has become more popular and heated tools on the market have evolved into more advanced and, in turn, more inclusive gadgets, they’ve become a staple in most households.
But while you’ll seldom find a curly girl’s dressing table that doesn’t sport one of the best straighteners for curly hair, we all know that overusing hot tools can do irreparable damage to our locks. And now that society has stepped into an era of empowerment and being proud of one’s true self, many women are taking the opportunity to ditch the straighteners and show off their natural looks.
Been trying to ignore that little voice in your mind that’s telling you to do the same? Here’s everything you need to know about how to stop using straighteners and what happened to three women when they braved it...
Do straighteners damage hair?
Hair-straightening addicts can often find themselves in a vicious circle. Even the The best hair dryers can leave flyaways, so we reach for the straighteners to eliminate frizz and leave hair sleek and shiny. However, the high levels of heat in most straighteners, as well as the friction caused by dragging the styler through hair lengths, can lead to coarse and dry locks if used too often, causing breakage in the hair shaft and opening the door for excess frizz.
“Damage caused by hair straighteners to the hair’s cuticle can leave the surface prone to frizz and curling,” reiterates Craig Taylor, creative director of Hari’s Salons. “This can prevent shine, as only smooth hair is capable of reflecting shine.
“While hair-protector sprays provide a film and coat a layer over the hair they aren’t magic and can only help a little, if at all.”
How can you repair damage from hair straighteners?
“Excessive heat can cause damage to fine new hair, which can split and break off,” explains Craig.
By stopping excess heat exposure you’re giving hair the opportunity to heal, leaving strands more nourished and the hair cuticle stronger, in turn leading to shinier hair.
“When you’ve broken the habit of straightening your hair, the damage caused can be seen and it would be worth using hair treatments to restructure the hair’s strength and to smooth and repair the hair ends. Slowly the hair will start to show signs of improvement in its quality,” advises Craig.
“A good way to break the habit of using hair straighteners is to have a salon-smoothing treatment.
“Adding keratin to strengthen the hair will keep it smooth, straighter and stronger,” he adds. “This process will prevent the need for hot heat on the hair and make a very noticeable difference to the quality of your hair”.
What happened when these women stopped using hair straighteners? Three ladies share their experiences
Beth Hunt straightened her hair for 14 years before going cold turkey
“I must have been about 15 or 16 when I started straightening my hair. Poker-straight hair was in back then, so I wanted to get the same look. As I started working, I also thought having straight hair looked more sleek and professional, so went along with the style. The main word to describe my hair type is ‘thick’ – it’s the kind of hair that takes two people to blow-dry in the hairdresser and it grows at a crazy rate. It’s naturally curly and very long, with tighter corkscrew curls on the underneath, and looser on top. As all curly haired girls know, it never curls the same way twice!
I’ve even had a few questionable styles due to my curls, where I’ve asked for a cut that you should only really get if you have naturally straight hair; I braved a fringe at university and (because I’m a sucker for punishment) again a couple of years ago. And it was a disaster. I’d straighten it in the morning, and by the end of the day it would be all over the place – and don’t get me started on getting caught in the rain.
For 14 years I used hair straighteners almost daily, except if I was on holiday or in hot weather. I rarely used heat protection and I had a tonne of split ends – I even noticed that when I brushed it strands would just break off at the end! But it was still glossy so to me I thought it looked pretty healthy.
But the daily straightening was doing nothing to help me get out the door quickly in the mornings. I’d wash my hair every other day and after 20-30 minutes blow-drying would then spend another 45 minutes straightening it. And regardless of my time and effort, the natural curls would usually fight their way through anyway, so by the end of the day my beautiful straight hair would develop a sneaky ringlet (or 10!) again.
My transformation came last year when, during a bout of rare tropical weather, I was getting sick and tired of spending more than an hour on my hair and being a sweaty mess at the end. So on a whim I started just using conditioner to scrunch my hair when it was wet and left it to dry naturally. Little did I know how many lovely compliments I would start getting from people – some of whom I’d known for years – who just assumed I had naturally straight hair, which led to me feeling confident enough to keep it going.
It’s now been more than nine months since I used any heat on my hair (including a hairdryer) and a whole year since I reached for the straighteners – and I can safely say I won’t be going back. Visibly, I’ve had no more split ends! I’ve also got fewer wispy hairs around my face where the hair had broken from straightening them (ironically to make them less noticeable). It’s also glossier and more manageable now than when I first started avoiding the straighteners.
I would possibly consider a hit of heat for a special occasion if it was required (like a wedding), but I’m finally really comfortable and accepting of my natural hair – greys and all – so haven’t felt the need to.
It can be a shock to the system leaving the house with wet hair in the winter, but the time it’s saved me is brilliant. I wash my hair twice a week maximum now – usually to coincide with a work meeting or night out. I’ve been fairly loosely following the Curly Girl Method for just under a year and try to use products without alcohol or sulphates where possible.
I wouldn’t go back to using straighteners. It’s not that I don’t like straight hair – I have so many friends with beautiful, straight hair and I’m still pretty envious that they can look so chic without spending hours singeing it – but after turning 30 in August, I’ve finally come to accept how I am and not fight it. I think it would be amazing if everyone could be empowered to feel that way – irrespective of their hair type.”
Yasmin Terkmani quit straighteners after twice-daily styling left her locks straw like
“I got a pair of straighteners when I was 16 years old because at the time there was such a trend to have perfectly straight hair. I have very thick, wavy long brunette hair so always felt self-conscious at school around all the others girls, which is why I begged my parents to buy me a pair of straighteners and I went on to use them every single day – sometimes even twice a day so I could maintain that dead straight look!
Before I started using straighteners my hair was as healthy as could be. I rarely used heat on my hair (just a quick blow-dry now and then) and everyone used to comment on how lovely and thick it was. However, after around two years of intense straightener use I noticed my hair becoming straw like – it wasn’t as thick as it used to be and it was really dry and damaged. I began using a heat protection spray, which helped slightly, and shampoo and conditioner for dry and damaged hair, but nothing I tried seemed to be able to get my hair back to how healthy it used to be.
After that, I continued to use my hair straighteners just out of habit for around three years, but not as often as I used to – giving into them only a few days in the week or if I was out at the weekend. It would take me a good half an hour in the morning to get that perfect poker-straight look. It would be the first thing I did when I got out the shower and if I was going out in the evening and getting ready again I would even do it twice! But last year when I started a full-time job in London, I didn’t have the time every morning to do my hair, so I decided to take the plunge and ditch the stylers all together – and my hair has never felt so good.
My locks have managed to get back so much of their natural goodness and my hair feels a lot more healthy. Before it felt so burnt out, dry and even had that horrible heat smell to it. Looking back at pictures, I don’t even like how straight I used to wear my hair – it was really flat and stuck to my head! But now it has life, volume and its natural thickness is returning.
I do still blow-dry my hair and occasionally I use heat rollers if I am going to a special event, but I haven’t used my straighteners at all since breaking the habit and am falling in love with my natural waves and embracing them 100 per cent.
It now takes me less than five minutes to style if I’m not washing it, as I simply wake up, give it a brush and I’m good to go. I’m embracing my hair in its natural form, which has even led to more compliments than I ever got when it was straight. I would potentially use straighteners once in a blue moon if I was going out, but I would never ever go back to using them the way I did before.”
Emma Copeland gave up on irons after extensions left her with bald patches
“I started using hair straighteners around the time when GHD launched its first styler and would use them pretty much every day or every other day for over 10 years. I have quite fine hair but lots of it and, as I usually tend to have bleached blonde highlights, it breaks very easily, meaning that I always need to style it to stop it from going wavy and frizzy.
At the time when I used heat tools I also had extensions in my hair and used to curl it everyday with the straighteners and straighten the short bits at the top to make them flatter and blend in better. I would use leave-in conditioner spray and hair masks to try and counteract too much damage, but it ended up being a relatively futile exercise.
I stopped using straighteners around six years ago after I had my extensions taken out because my hair was ruined! I had bald patches at the roots and broken ends – it was awful. I’ve found that my hair is in much better condition since – it’s visibly stronger and doesn’t break as much, and I’ve definitely noticed fewer split ends.
I now only blow-dry my hair (apart from those pesky times when I’m stuck at a friend’s house and all they have is straighteners), as I don’t want to add any more damage.
My hair is shorter now than it was when I used to straighten it, as I no longer have extensions, so it’s so much more manageable and the easy bob style only takes 10 minutes to blow-dry in the mornings!”
Aleesha is digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows what to spend your money on. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including, Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. A year on the w&h news team gained her invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first—as well as an AOP awards nomination.
She's in the know about the latest fashions, clever gadgets and reliable lifestyle buys—and being a product specialist on a brand for bold women means that Aleesha also knows a thing or two about the must-buy sex toys. When she’s not playing around with new products and testing anything she can get her hands on, Aleesha spends most of her time with her head in a current bestseller, trying out new recipes, exploring different wines and (in non-COVID times) has been known to be a bit of a jetsetter after spending a year living in Madrid.
Follow her latest shopping & lifestyle advice, beauty insights and social antics on Instagram at @aleeshabadkar.
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