My Setback: Natural Hair Heat Damage

Adrienne August 17, 2010 50

After 6 months of being natural I decided to have my hair straightened. If I knew then what I know now I would have reconsidered. 

What took me a year to grow, 6 months transitioning & 6 months natural, was burned in less than an hour.

Had I known when I took the picture below that my hair was literally fried I wouldn’t have been smiling so hard :)

Sadly, I didn’t find out, although there was an obvious sign, that my hair had been damaged until 2 days later.

Check out the photos below.



What was the “obvious sign” you may ask. Well, it was the undying smell of burned hair. Being the optimistic person that I am, I thought the smell was coming from the product I had in my hair. “Maybe it didn’t mix well with the heat” I told myself. That night, as I slept the smell became stronger & even lingered on my pillows the next day.

By day 2 I grew tired of the smell, still not believing my hair was burned, & I missed my curls; so, I decided to wash my hair. As soon as the water from the shower reached my head the burned smell intensified but the volume of my hair did not. There were no tight coils and kinks; only loose curls and bone straight pieces. My natural hair had officially been heat damaged.

I was devastated! I washed & deep conditioned several times hoping that my hair would revert. A few areas did but, the majority did not. 




Where do I go from here ?  This is the end of the world, right? I guess I do another Big Chop, right? Wrong!

Heat damage is NOT the end of the world. I have had to repeat this phrase to myself several times over the past couple of days. I am not super women. I feel great sadness and disappointment.  But,  I refuse to let this get the best of me.

Instead of starting from scratch I have decided that slow and steady will win this fight. As my hair grows I will gradually trim the straight ends. In the mean time, I will be doing roller and twist sets to camouflage the damage.

 Surprisingly, I can already see an improvement in my texture, It has only been a week since I discovered the heat damage. Of course, the straight ends of my hair have not, and will not, revert back to my natural hair texture. But, the areas that were not badly damaged  have begun to regain its thickness. 

If you have ever experienced, or are currently experiencing, heat damage all is not lost. With the right amount of care and patience your hair will grow back. Keep your head up…I will be doing the same. :)

To view my “Heat Damage Update” click here.


  1. Tiffany FAison August 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    so sorry you got heat damage

  2. Lexi August 17, 2010 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Im so glad you didn’t decide to cut it all off. Even though it is permanent damage, drastic measures don’t have to be taken. Its good to think about it first and see how it gets. Sorry this happened to you

  3. kiki August 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Oh wowwww…that b4 and after pic made my jaw drop…i’ve seen damage from repeated pressing but just once? wow…after a few regular trims you will b back to your old curly self..that sucks though…and i know that smell all too well

    • Donni February 3, 2012 at 11:31 am - Reply

      Heat damage really sucks! You had very thick, beautiful natural hair, but discouraging as it may be, it will grow back. I know this because I have to tell myself that everytime I style my 8yr. old’s beautiful, thick, natural hair that has been partially damaged by heat. Her damage is around her hairline and nape. I guess the stylist was trying to get her hair extremely straight in those areas. I usually don’t straighten or get her hair straightened, but she begged me everyday for a week and I finally gave in. Now I just braid the front of her hair and do a twist out on the back of her hair most times to camoflage the damage. My daughter says she won’t ask for another press ever again…lol. She says “I knew my hair smelled funny when she was done.” Good luck to you!

  4. Jasalyn August 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Aww Adrienne
    that really has me scared now
    but I’m happy you’re in great spirits

    got a question!! Just as your hair suffered from heat damage, is it possible for natural hair to become over processed with natural hair products?? I’m still researching different products to develop the best hair regime. I’ve noticed I have a 3 c texture. The front is wavy n less tight, while the back is super curly and tight coils!!

    Plz help sister!!
    Love ya

    • Adrienne August 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      If the products you are using are natural, they do not contain any chemicals, then they shouldn’t contain any ingredients that my damage your hair.

      To my knowledge, over processing comes from chemicals. I have never heard of a “natural” product over processing hair.

  5. Tia Granberry August 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Looking at those pics really shocked me! It makes me wonder wht prodcucts u used while straightening ur hair? Wht was ur temp setting and wht type of heating method did u use? I’m really concerned because I like to straighten for big events and haven’t quite run into so much damage in one sitting. I did notice heat damage on the parts of my hair that was colored and have trimmed those parts off…which have resulted in me losing a lot of length! Wht would suggest a person do when getting natural hair trimmed?

    • Adrienne August 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      I did not personally straighten my hair; it was done by a stylist who used a flat iron. She did not use a heat protectant in my hair and I am unsure of how much heat she actually used.

      What questions do you have about trimming?

  6. Perfectly-Pretty August 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    I love how postitive you are staying about this issue! You’re AMAZING! *huggs

  7. Janet August 17, 2010 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Aww I’m sorry! I’m so paranoid about heat damage myself that I get antsy when I sit under the dryer for more than 10 minutes.

    One of my youtube natural hair go-tos NoLyeJustCurls had some heat damage after straightening her hair too. I think after some TLC most of hers reverted for the most part. Here’s her video about it if you’re interested:

  8. Adrienne August 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Thank you ladies for all the positive comments! I appreciate your support!! :)

  9. Tia August 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Well, I guess my question is…how often should us naturals trim our end and wht method would be more ideal? By method I mean should we blow dry and take the scissors to it or visit a barber and allow him/her to take the clippers to it? At this pt, I fear getting my hair trimmed but do understand it is necessary for healthy growth. So wht would u suggest?

    • curlywoman24 August 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      I think it is a mlsconception that curly hair has to be straightened to be trimmed. If that were the case, how is it that Curly-haired men get trims. If a stylist is really well versed in natural hair, she/he will be able to trim your hair in it’s natural state by doing just what barbers do, lifting the hair with a comb so they can see the ends better and trimming only what is necessary, unless a haircut has been requested.

      Secondly, how often a person actually “needs” a trim varies by the person and what styling methods they use that may cause damage to the ends. Trimming, alone, does not make hair grow. What it does do for us is keeps broken, split, damaged ends from increasing in length along the shaft and creating longer damaged strands. These damaged strands will eventually break off, so by decreasing how much of the strand becomes damaged by trimming once damage is seen on the hair, we retain more length.

      • Adrienne August 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm - Reply

        I agree completely with CurlyWoman24! Excellent answer!! :)

  10. LaShanda August 31, 2010 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    OMG!!! I just experienced the same thing this past weekend. I decided I wanted to get my hair straightened, so I went to a salon. I went to a young lady does my sister-in-law’s natural hair. I had her number for 3 months before I decided to call her, in fear of letting anyone touch my hair. I even told her that! Well, my hair was pretty straight, but I too could smell a faint hint of burnt hair. I tried to ignore it. This morning after I worked out, I washed my hair and I smelled burnt hair. I still ignored it until I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror horrified!! I had to camoflauge it as best as I could because I had to go work. When I got home I deep conditioned it. Some parts reverted but not all! I refuse to start all over, so I will be wearing two strand twists until I’m comfortable enough to cut some of the damage.

  11. E.S September 4, 2010 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for that post. I straightened my hair in July around my birthday. I looked good but it didn’t feel like me and the smell of burnt hair was killing me, so I washed it the next day. After washing it I noticed some of the strands became much looser and few strands were bone straight. I have 4b hair, so to see this difference in texture killed me (luckily its not noticeable since I wear my hair in twists).

    Just the other night I decided to cut/chop (some, not all) the damaged areas, but I was okay with that. My motto is “hair today gone tomorrow” — it all grows back in time. But anyways I just want to thank you for the post because I was considering do a big chop. But like you said it really isn’t the end of the world.

    One question did you experience any breakage or more knotting on the damaged areas of your hair?

    Thanks again. Patience is key.

    • Adrienne September 7, 2010 at 10:30 am - Reply

      You are more than welcome! I am so glad the post was helpful!

      To answer your question, I have experienced breakage & knotting. I have noticed that the strands of hair that have broken off are those that were severely burned. To combat this I have increased my deep conditioning. The more moisture my hair retains, the more pliable it is, and the less likely it is to break.

      Like you, I have trimmed some of my damaged pieces. I will be posting an update in the next few days.

  12. Waquele September 13, 2010 at 1:15 pm - Reply


    I am African American female with natural curly/wavy hair. I have been natural for three years after cutting all my relaxed hair off to transition through this process. I get my hair press weekly along with bi-weekly steam treatments and trims when applicable. Two weeks ago, I also colored my hair. However, lately, my hair is no longer reverting back to its natural curl and wave pattern (texture). Whenever I wash my hair, my roots are curly and wavy but the remaining of my hair is straight with a little wave pattern. My hair is in the middle of back it’s taken me 3 long years for it to grow and I don’t know what to do!!! I’ve been told my hair is damage from the flat iron heat and I will have to cut all of my hair off and start all over again…then I was told to lay off on the heat and get a sew in to allow the natural texture to revert back…I honestly don’t know what to do! Please help…Any advice personal or professional advice will help! I am considering a sew-in to at least salvage what I can and soon!

  13. FEMALE HAIR LOSS REMEDY September 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Good share, great article, very usefull for thanks.

  14. Gavin Obradovich September 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm - Reply

    Im thankful for the blog article.Really thank you! Fantastic.

  15. MrsW September 23, 2010 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    I have just discovered your website, and I love it. I am new to natural hair care, and I had a question. Many people in Atlanta have natural hair but constantly straighten it with heat. Will that cause your hair to lose its natural curl permanently? Is it possible to straighten it sometimes and keep the natural curl? How do you know the difference?

    Thanks for the site!

    • Adrienne September 26, 2010 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Hi MrsW

      I am glad you are enjoying the site! Thanks for visiting!

      To answer your questions: straightening your hair will not cause it to lose its natural curl pattern. However, using excessive heat while straightening will. In my case too much heat was used on my hair; the heat level was too high. This caused my hair to burn thus permanently straightening several areas.

      Heat damage can easily be identified by observing your hair after it has been straightened. If your hair is wet and does not revert to its natural state, it no longer curls or kinks, or there are pieces of your hair that are completely straight, that prior to straightening were not, you most likely have suffered some form of heat damage.

      It is possible to straighten your hair without suffering heat damage. By properly preparing your hair before straightening, deep conditioning and/or using heat protectants, & not using high levels of heat you are greatly reducing your chances of heat damage.

      I hope this has been helpful! :)

  16. CPA Network September 24, 2010 at 5:59 am - Reply

    Hi thanks a lot for a discerning post, I really found your blog by mistake while searching on Goole for something else closely related, in any case before i ramble on too much i would just like to say how much I loved your post, I have bookmarked your site and also taken your RSS feed, Once More thank you very much for the blog post keep up the good work.

  17. meli October 10, 2010 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    thank you so much for your positivity. I just found out about my heat damage and my before and after pics look exactly like yours. Its good to know that I don’t have to do a big chop again. i love your post and you definitely cheered me up.

    thank you again!


    • Adrienne October 11, 2010 at 11:43 am - Reply

      You are more than welcome! I am so glad I could help!

  18. CC October 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I’m a lil late to this post, but I have some concerns with my hair. My hair length is over 13″ long and I have heat damage. I cut my hair to the nape of my neck to grow my perm out in 2007 and refuse to cut it that short again although I MISS my natural curl. My problem is that majority of the length of my hair is straight and i feel like the only option for me right now is to have it straightened (atleast twice a month) or do a roller set which then I am still straightening my roots. So i feel like even though i am trying to get my natural curl back i’m still damaging my new grown hair which is defeating the purpose. I’ve done the whole cornrow thing and letting them out when it’s dry, but i have to do that like 3 times a week, which is another strain on my hair. i have a very thick grain of hair and i found that the iron (professionaly used) had to be high, what do you suggest? :o(

  19. myra January 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    So i got my hair pressed a week ago for the first time since ive been natural. I washed it yesterday and some pieces arnt coiling back up and its shedding really bad im so upset. Its also shedding really bad! Im pretty sure its heat damage because I went to the stupid Egyptians and they used the stove irons. Why did i do this to myself ugh?Anyway will my hair coil again or did they mess up my curl pattern? HELP ME PLEASE

    • Adrienne January 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      Without seeing your hair it is difficult for me to determine if you heat damaged hair will revert.

      I do advise that before you start to, or think about, snipping off the possible damage that you give it a little time. Try a few moisturizing & strengthening/reconstructing deep conditioning treatments before.

      Also, check out this post about a reader with a similar situation.

      I hope this help!

  20. NO! February 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Oh NO!!!! Now I’m seriously nervous. I just straightened my natural hair yesterday. While my hair stylist did an excellent job achieving a sleek healthy look, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead when I wash my hair and go back to my natural style O_O. My hair has a burned smell too. However it’s not as strong as what was described in your post. Why did I have to give into peer pressure???! That day several people had been pressuring me to get my hair pressed. I even had a co worker to suggest that I get my hair straight lol. It was my understand that one pressing won’t hurt my hair. From reading your blog I can see that I was wrong. Well wish me luck.

    • Adrienne February 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Hopefully you won’t have heat damage. Think positive! :)

  21. Drea March 21, 2011 at 2:55 am - Reply

    OMG! THis is exactly what happened to me & I had no response to it. I just got my hair professionally straightened & she did a wonderful job. I smelled the same smell that wet pressing smell & i figured it was standard w/ just leaving the shop until I missed my curls. When I washed & washed & clarified and washed again I still smelled the smell..& noticed that the texture of my hair completely changed! I did feel all was lost. THANK YOU for this post. It does make me feel better knowing that I can put a name to this “condition”. It makes me feel better also knowing that you were able to overcome this tragic situation. Thanks again for sharing.

  22. Barbra Gordon August 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    I have crazy thick hair that tends to run on the fuzzy side. I use Shielo Antioxidant Leave In Portectant because you CAN physically see the hair being sealed. My hairdresser is on strict orders to let me know if my hair starts drying out (so I can stop with the iron). She says it’s fine. And since she doesn’t sell me the thermal protector, I believe her.

    Shielo hair leave in protector works great on my hair. You can clearly see the spray protecting your hair from the heat. My hair is really thin and my sisters hair is extremely thick and it works great on both our hair.

  23. Samantha Gomez September 26, 2011 at 1:52 am - Reply

    Hello! My name is Samantha Gomez. I was browsing the internet for solutions on how to get my curls back after my hair had been straighten, and I came across your pose. I am natural as well, and I have been natural for 1 year now. I have experienced the same thing with heat damage, and it really blows!! I noticed the burnt hear smell for several days, and even after I washed my hair I still smelled it. There are small sections of my hair that will not curl anymore, and it is so sad…It’s like I have lost parts of my happiness lol. But I am beginning to get over it. I clipped a small portion of the straight hair off so it would not be as noticeable. But things are not as bad as they once were. Thanks you words have been encouraging to me!!!

    • Adrienne September 26, 2011 at 10:19 am - Reply

      You are welcome! I’m glad I could help! :)

  24. Sharon December 30, 2011 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Hi! I recently blow-dried my natural hair. I’ve washed it once since then, but it hasn’t got any of the pen-spring-like coils it had at the front and it the back isn’t wavy like it used to be. I used a the lowest heat setting on my blow drier, my hair wasn’t bone straight and I didn’t have any burning smells, so I wasn’t expecting anything to go wrong. It’s like my texture has been softened (almost like a softer “S”. My hair is still puffy. It’s like natural hair that has little definition (not that my definition stood out before, but I could feel the pen-springs). Do you think it will revert back to the way it was?

    • Adrienne December 31, 2011 at 10:12 am - Reply

      It’s difficult for me to give you an exact answer because I can’t physically see or touch your hair. However, I do know, from personal experience, it takes time for natural hair to revert back to it “original state” after it has been heat styled.

      Give it some time. :)

  25. Seslie March 18, 2012 at 11:54 am - Reply

    I am so devasted. I have blown dry and flat iron my hair in the past. But this time my hair didn’t revert back to it’s natural curly/wavy texture. I am so afraid that it won’t revert back. Right now I have it cornrow with added hair. I hope my hair reverts back. Do you have any suggestions? I promise myself that I will never do this again. I have promise myself, that I will embrace my natural hair and not take it for granted. I want my hair back.

  26. Rachel March 24, 2012 at 1:52 am - Reply

    THANK YOU so much for this post. This is my story EXACTLY, down to the time I grew my hair and that smell. The sad part is that I asked the stylist to put heat protectorant in my hair and she flatly refused.

    Well, you live and you learn right? This really encouraged me.

    • Adrienne March 27, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

      I’m glad this helped! You are right; “live and learn”. But, believe me; it will, and does, get better!

  27. Courtney June 27, 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Wow thank you do much for sharing your experience. I am in the same boat. I have been natural for over 3 years and love my natural hair, I made the foolish mistake of going to a beautician who did not specialize in natural hair and got my straightened. After only 2 days I decided to wash it out and was hart broken when my hair did. It go back I it’s natural texture. Thank you do much for sharing your experience, I now know where to go from here and what to expect. I won’t make the big chop but I may get braids for the summer to combat my straight ends. Please keep us posted of your progress.

  28. Megan January 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Wow the exact same thing happened to me only most of my damage was immediate! I could tell it was frizzled then the next day I was near bald :( ALOT fell out. Luckily it was only half my head. :(( I’ve been keeping it kinky twisted so not to have to cut it but every time I wash it…. It breaks my heart.

  29. Catina June 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    I’m so devastated. I’ve been natural for over five years. I’ve been flat ironing my hair for a year and a half. Every now and then, I went to the same salon to get it flat ironed (treating myself, or so I thought). Well four weeks ago I went back for a flight iron. I washed it and to my dismay it was straight, no curl pattern, except at the root. I told another one of my natural friends about my results. She said there have been reports of hair stylist using some type of conditioner that straightens hair. I thought, no, I’ve gone to this same stylist when I just wanted someone else to deal with my tresses for years, she wouldn’t do that. Well I text her (I thought that was the wisest form of communication, given my desire to rap my hands around her neck) and asked her what she used in my hair. You guessed it no reply. My hair has grown considerably and the thought of starting over, I can’t even put into words…

  30. DaiShanell July 7, 2013 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately, my hair suffered severe and extensive heat damage after only my third time of being straightened. I’ve been natural for 2 years and had my hair flat ironed two time prior, so I never anticipated my hair to be what it is now. It’s frustrating, devastating, and disappointing. As my hair was being flat ironed, I recall my hair sizzling and I asked the beautician why was it doing that. The so called professional beautician assured me that my hair was sizzling because of the anti-humidity product she put in it. My hair is coarse 4b and fine 4a in the very back. After a week of being straight, I missed my curls and washed my hair. The first two washes, my hair stayed straight as if it had been permed and I remember the smell of burnt hair that I had the first day I got it straightened intensifying. Even now, the smell on burnt hair lingers on the parts of my hair that have been burned straight indefinitely. I applied vinegar to see if that would restore my curls, but all it did was make some parts of my hair reasonable what it once looked like. My hair is still very straight with very loose curls. I DC’d using Kimmaytube’s LUV Naturals conditioner. I even applied a mixture of the conditioner with egg & EVO, but still straights. People keep reassuring me that my hair will revert if I give time. I know my hair and I didn’t have to put forth this much effort in getting my hair to revert the first two times so I’m not very optimistic about my curls returning. Outside of the three times I’ve had my hair straightened, I never use heat on my hair. 2 years in this journey and all my gentle care thrown down the drain at the hands of a careless beautician..

  31. amber sanders April 30, 2014 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Omg this really helped. I Flat ironed my daughters hair for the first time and my heart fell in my lap when her hair didnt go back to her beautiful curls THIS has helped me so much bc I was on the verge of cutting all of her hair off! Thanks alot. To keep up with me follow me on both of my IG ACCOUNTS at amb_starr_king and iambsounique1

    • Adrienne April 30, 2014 at 10:13 am - Reply

      So glad that this post was helpful!:)

  32. tina May 2, 2014 at 9:20 am - Reply

    It’s so sad when spend so much money on gettting our natural hair trim and flat iron that the stylist ends up burning it out. I currently have heat damage hair now I’m so pissed at my hair stylist. He used the products i gave him , he even put the heat protection in my hair. It’s just he had the flat iron on too high. My hair didn’t smell burnt. When i washed it today my curl pattern was so loose . I’m upset. The reason i went natural was to have healthy hair.

  33. Ariana August 26, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    To be honest it’s all a matter of perspective for some this would be a blessing because it means more single strand knots. With 4 unruly hair I would take heat damage which can be resuscitated over single strand knots, which always lead to breakage, any day!

Leave A Response »