Blow Drying: The Heat is On!

As a natural, I used to depend on blow drying my hair because it was my antidote against shrinkage. I didn't mind what length my hair was because once I started, I knew I could have thicker, longer and bigger hair.

Now some naturals can brave the hot air and come out unscathed, but I'm not one of them. Each time I pulled that paddle brush, or comb attachment through my hair while drying, sprinkles of broken hair blanketed my bathroom sink and floor. I knew it was wrong, but my hair looked so good. However, I soon discovered this gorgeous hair came with consequences:

1) According to Dr. Draelos, Dermatologist with the AAD, "blow drying damages hair as the high heat can actually boil the water in the hair shaft leaving it brittle." Hair breaks when it is brittle so it is important that tightly curled hair gets as much moisture as possible. Any styling that removes moisture will lead to hair breakage.

2) Use of the blow dryer also can break off wet hair when combing and brushing are done alongside it to straighten the curls out. Dr. Draelos adds, "In addition, vigorous combing of wet hair also can cause hair loss, since wet hair is more elastic and more vulnerable to breakage than dry hair." To get that straighter look, I would have to straighten out my curls with a paddle brush or a comb attachment while aiming the blow dryer directly on my hair. Cool or medium settings were a joke. My hair laughed at those temperatures and wouldn't even budge unless the blow fryer was on high.

3) Bubble hair can occur if you have a dryer that overheats. Bubble hair is a condition that occurs when the hair is overheated by a hair dryer (does your hair smoking sound familiar) and bubble-like areas appear on the hair shaft. These bubbles contain a gas (not hair) and are points of damage, making the hair weaker. In the study when the hair dryer was examined after 90 to 120 seconds, the surface temperature of the hair exceeded 300 Celsius, which is 572 degrees Fahrenheit (Detwiler, Carson, Woosley, Gambling, & Briggaman, 1994). Now this hair dryer's coils glowed red and was an older model and should have been discarded. Yet how hot does your blow dryer get?

Most tightly curled naturals, if we're honest with ourselves, we live on the high setting, because our hair will not respond to any other one. However, that can be the difference between longer hair and broken hair.

I don't want to be a parade rainer when it comes to heated styling, because I know it makes natural hair look good, but if you're looking to grow your hair long and keep it from breaking, air drying in braids or bunning your hair while wet may be a better alternative to stretch curly hair.

Read here about why blow drying may have negative effects for tightly curled hair.

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  • Detwiler, SP, Carson J.L., Woosley J.T., Gambling, T.M., Briggaman, R.A.
        (1994) Bubble Hair Case Caused by an Overheating Hair Dryer and Reproducibility in Normal Hair with Heat. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 30(1),54-60