The question in 4th place in the recent poll was inspired by this email from Nicole - she asks,
'Can heat damaged hair be nurtured back to health? Some parts of my coily tresses have begun to straighten. I think the last flat iron I received was too hot :( Certain areas of my hair just dont feel the same. Is this reversible?'
Is heat damage reversible?
I hate to say it to you Nicole but unfortunately, the answer is no, it is not reversible. If you have soaked your hair in water and the curl has not returned, unfortunately, it is not coming back. You do have to soak your hair in water to get it back to its original moisture level. If you use very high heat unfortunately the protein in the hair can literally melt. To read more on this see my previous posts on
1. How hot is hot
2. A guide to straightening with heat
Can any other type of damage be fixed?
Not really and not permanently (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 263-286, 1987). For natural hair, damage is usually in three main forms:
1. Washing and combing will cause damage to the cuticle. Naturally the more gentle you are, the less damage you do
2. Bleaching or permanently colouring your hair will lift the cuticle.
3. Weathering - the older your hair, the less cuticle layers it has, the more damaged it will be.
Your main way to repair this damage is with conditioner.
Really just hair conditioner?
Conditioner contains a variety of agents which are particularly attracted to areas of damage. For example silicones are particularly good for temporarily fixing split ends. Fatty alcohols such as stearyl alchohol and surfactants such as behentrimonium chloride can adsorb (meaning temporarily stick) onto hair. (Don't tune out - See the diagram below!). However, all of these ingredients will wash out. The only remedy for damaged hair is to cut off the damage and let the hair regrow. This has the added benefit that the hair can reach a new and in many cases longer length simply because the old and weathered ends have been cut off.