Straighten me out!
September 21, 2011 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Please help me deal with my hair

I did a search for the exact issue I am concerned with, but didn't quite locate anything substantial enough to answer my question. Basically, I have longish, fuzzy hair (pic link further down), born naturally curly, which has slackened as I've grown older. For most of my life I have blow dried my hair straight, and often used quality ceramic straighteners to do the job, too (GHD brand).

Problem is, I am receiving mixed messages from actual professional stylists. My hair tends to frizz quite badly and I have always suffered split ends, but the thing which bugs me the most is the dry fuzziness. No product on earth can assist me (I have tried), and only the sleek results of heat drying come anywhere close - so I really don't want to go 'natural' anytime soon. My hair is simultaneously thick and fine (depends on the mood), and is quite strong regardless the frizz. So on to the question: Is it true that straighteners are much worse for your hair than hairdryers? One stylist says yes, the other no, and it doesn't matter how respected the salon. I just can't seem to obtain a decent reply. My own experience has taught me that sometimes it works both ways, so the confusion deepens.
Ok, I wash twice per week, good shampoo and condition, and allow it to dry in a ponytail to flatted the curls. Then I blow dry in sections and hope for the best, but the results are always very 'poofy'.
Alternatively, when I used to use the straighteners I would simply wait for it to dry then go. Often the results were sleek, but there were periods where my hair looked parched.
Now, after 8 months of not using the straighteners my hair is still a fuzzball. This might be nature, which I am willing to accept, but it would be a lot easier for me to use the irons, so if the hairdryer isn't a great deal healthier I would prefer to go back. Not sure what to do.

Added info Here is my hair!
1. Left natural and combed out after drink in a low ponytail.
2. After the hairdryer and irons.
3. Tonight, ready for a wash and all rapunzely from a top knot.
Hope they help a bit!

It has never been chemically treated or coloured. I am also in my thirties and live in the UK. I currently use Kerastace products, which for the past 10 years have worked very well.

So, what's the deal? I'm getting the feeling that the hairdryer isn't much kinder to my hair than the irons, and the stylists are not telling!

Ps, I am not willing to cut my hair just yet.
posted by noella to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
My better half had the same type of problem ("dry fuzziness" in back) and swears by the Brazilian Blowout treatment. However, on preview, this does not look too safe, so ymmv etc.
posted by noahv at 4:00 PM on September 21, 2011

Please forgive the typo's, autocorrect is destroying my life.
posted by noella at 4:02 PM on September 21, 2011

Your hair texture looks pretty similar to mine, so I understand why you want to blowdry/straighten it! I think the truth is that pretty much any form of heat styling is going to be damaging to your hair at least a little bit. I think any stylist that tells you a hair dryer or straightening iron isn't damaging is kidding themselves.

As for whether one is less damaging than another, that really depends on the quality of the hair dryer and straightening iron in question. A cheap drugstore hair dryer is going to be tons more damaging than a fancy ceramic iron because cheap drugstore hair dryers aren't very powerful and you will likely need to blast your hair over and over and over to get it dry. A high-end hair dryer, on the other hand, usually has a super powerful motor that will dry your hair much faster, which limits the time that heat damage can actually occur. If you have both a high-quality hair dryer and a high-quality iron, then you're really doing the best you can do.

If your hair doesn't look damaged and crappy when you use the hair dryer and/or straightening iron to your heart's content, then just go with it. It may not be the best thing you can do for your hair but, well, it's just hair. You can get the split ends trimmed and it will grow back and I promise it will be fine.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it helps, my GHD irons are 5 yrs old now, and my hairdryer is by Babyliss (about £20....uh-oh).
posted by noella at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2011


You need a thermal protectant serum, like this one, and you need to rough-dry (upside-down, fingers, no brush, on "warm") until about 2/3 dry. Then get a good hairbrush (ooh, maybe this ionic one!) and blow-dry in sections. Important: if your dryer doesn't have one, get one of those nozzles that only lets air blow in a certain direction. It's called a "concentrator" and it's the small middle item in this image. Air only going in one direction keeps your hair follicles from standing up all nimbly-pimbly and looking frizzy. On preview, do as dear joan suggested and just get a high-end hairdryer. It's really worth the money. When you're done, you can decide if that's enough or if you need to flatiron the top pieces. Since you already only wash your hair twice a week, some dry shampoo at the roots and a blast from the dryer on warm temp with your head upside down should be enough to keep the style.
posted by stellaluna at 4:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have that same awful waviness in my hair, though I keep it much shorter. Last time I got my hair cut I bought some Paul Mitchell hydrocream whip and it's done wonders for frizziness, especially when I blow dry instead of flat-iron. Everyone at the salon was like "OMG this will change your life!!!" and I was yeah, yeah, whatever -- but it made blow drying so much easier that I'm converted. The line's super skinny serum also does a pretty good job taming the frizziness, especially at my ends, but it doesn't make my hair as silky smooth as the whip. I know you said no product works, but the whip stuff is pretty awesome and I think it's worth a shot.
posted by lilac girl at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have a similar sort of hair texture. My hair is also fine and used to be quite thick, but for various reasons it's about medium thickness now.

I realise your question is about straighteners vs hairdryers, but you may be able to solve the underlying problem by changing some of your other techniques.

Three things that have worked for me:

Switching to sulfate-free and silicone-free products. This has made a huge difference, especially since I have to wash every day due to my oily scalp. I realise now that I was drying out my hair, even though I used the most gentle shampoos I could find, and then trying to balance that by laying heavy conditioners on top. No wonder my hair managed to be both frizzy and lank at the same time.

Sulfate-free and silicone-free products are becoming more mainstream, so you should be able to find some in a large pharmacy. Otherwise, health food stores have them. I'm currently using Burt's Bees shampoo and a Trilogy conditioner, but as with anything, you may have to try a couple to find ones that suit you best.

I've never been able to use leave-in products, because they weigh my fine hair down too much. The one exception is Moroccanoil Light. The light version is, well, really light, and I find it helps keep flyways down without being greasy.

And the third thing that's worked for me is embracing my hair. I always had in-between hair -- it wasn't perfectly straight, but it wasn't curly either -- and for years I tried to make it straight. Now, with the sulfate-free, silicone-free products resulting in less frizz, I just sort of go with the rough waves that it ends up having. Obviously, this wouldn't work if I had an office job, but for casual wear I think it's kind of cute.

Best of luck with your hair!
posted by Georgina at 4:55 PM on September 21, 2011

Have you tried coconut oil on your hair? It works remarkably well.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I started washing my hair in cooler water and it makes the curls sing. Ditch the heat.
posted by effluvia at 6:18 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have hair with exactly your texture, and this has done wonders for it:

- Use cooler water
- Wash with a silicone free cheap conditioner--not a deep conditioning type (the V05 conditioners are great)
- Condition with a silicone-free excellent moisturizing deep conditioner, preferably something with aloe or jojoba--and mix a few drops of additional jojoba oil in.

Mixing jojoba oil in with the conditioner is really the magic touch. And the conditioners you use have to be silicone-free, because the silicone conditioners leave deposits on your hair that you then have to use harsh shampoos to remove, making your hair even more dry and frizzy.
posted by schroedinger at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Am I the only one who thinks your hair looks beautiful, including in its natural state? I don't think you need to worry so much. I say forget the straighteners and dryers, except on special occasions when you can pay to have it done professionally.
posted by pitseleh at 8:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

I have your hair.

Thick, long, but thin strands. And curly/wavy when it it is long. I am 41 years old and I was a hair model back in my teens, I've paid both a lot and a little for hair cuts....

The frizzy parts are damaged and you need them cut off - NOW.

After that, my Hair Shaman lightens up my layers by cutting into the bulk, while leaving the length. It is hard to find someone who does this right. Keep looking. Be prepared to lose some length your first time or two because split ends carry up towards the shaft and it takes a while to grow that out if you want to keep your length. After the initial purging of "bad hair", the proper cut won't seem much different length-wise from what you have now, but will look much much better.

Go to a better stylist. My $500 cut and color was not nearly as good as my current, that costs about $160 - so be picky!

Find someone you love to take care of your locks. They need care,

That is all.
posted by jbenben at 11:29 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think your hair looks great- what's wrong with it?
posted by bearette at 3:17 AM on September 22, 2011

A couple months ago, I was in Sam's Club of all places, and there was a newish hair straightening system demonstration booth. I have similar frizzy, wavy, thick hair, and the demonstrator saw my ponytail and literally walked me by my shoulders to the styling chair. I hadn't used any product or blow-dried my hair, and she used this straightener that used steam and ceramic to straighten it. It worked great! I used to straighten my hair first by blow drying it straight, then going over it with a straightener. This thing she used skipped the blow-drying step and really took about 8-10 minutes. Then she used a rice-protein based spray that was alchohol free to help hold it in place. (It made my hair a little stiff, but had no alchohol in it so it was supposedly less drying.)

The straightener was called E.V.A. and *claimed* to be healthy for your hair, but I think there is some damage to it like all heat-based straighteners. But, if you are interested in a slightly different straightener, it might be worth it. I can't search for their site now, but they were based in LA.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:20 AM on September 22, 2011

I have similar hair texture, plus it's been colored for so many years no one knows my natural hair color. For me, the biggest thing that dialed down the frizzy was getting regular trims. I know you said you didn't want to cut it, but there is a difference between cutting your hair and getting maintenance trims. For years I skipped going to a stylist until my hair got so long I couldn't deal with it because I was broke. Then I found a stylist that would cut my hair and give a free maintenance trim in-between. It was like I was given a new head of hair. I could walk out of the salon and look awesome and still manage to have the same pretty hair months later. When it would start to frizz, I'd go in and tell her, and she'd trim the broken dead stuff off and Bam! Back to frizz-free.

I blow dry my hair almost every day, and straighten it every day. I do use Kevin Murphy's Easy Rider to act as a smoother and it makes good bit of difference. But honestly, I can tell the difference if I've skipped my trim. Right now, it's been about a month since my last cut and the frizzy is creeping back in.
posted by teleri025 at 7:05 AM on September 22, 2011

My hair texture is also similar to yours. I used to really dislike blowdrying until I started going to my Hair Whisperer, who uses Davines products. I use the Melu line (heat shield before and serum after) -- I am an every other day shampooer, and the next day my hair is still straight and light feeling.
posted by waitangi at 3:42 PM on September 22, 2011

Oh, and I do all this with no flat iron -- I think that might be more frizz-inducing than the dryer? I know when I have used it, the amount of broken hairs increased and ended up more fuzzy the next day. I also have learned to embrace (a little) my natural curl. :)
posted by waitangi at 3:46 PM on September 22, 2011

I think the truth is that pretty much any form of heat styling is going to be damaging to your hair at least a little bit. I think any stylist that tells you a hair dryer or straightening iron isn't damaging is kidding themselves.

I agree. Also, you may want to add Kérastase Nectar Thermique and Fluide Chroma Riche to your routine for a bit of protection and polish; use them after conditioning and before drying. They really make a huge difference (here's my hair before and after straightening).
posted by healthytext at 6:08 PM on September 25, 2011

You folks are fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing your stories and advice. There's so much for me to think about here.

Apologies for the delay in answering also: I have been sidetracked with real world, hair-free issues just lately.
posted by noella at 7:31 AM on October 2, 2011

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