Heat harms your hair—this we know (some of us all too well). See, heat can restructure and restyle your hair pattern by breaking down the hydrogen bonds in your hair, which is what gives us the bouncy curls or stick-straight strands we want. But use hot tools too often (like, every single day), and it can ultimately mess with your natural curl pattern. As NYC-based hairstylist Jenna Pitocco tells mbg, “If you don’t use heat one day, your curls are like, ‘No, we’re supposed to be straight. We’re not supposed to be curly,'” and you may be left with strands that straddle a curly-straight limbo—not to mention they’re frazzled and dull from all the damage.
It’s not a fun situation to find yourself in because you can’t really reverse the damage. (You cannot heal dry, dead hair, remember?) The only thing that can really restore your curl pattern is time—as your hair grows, the new strands will sprout with their natural spring.
That’s not to say you must twiddle your thumbs in the meantime. You can encourage the hair to return to its natural pattern, but you’ll want to think of the venture in two ways: You can coat the hair with healthy nutrients to help it grow, or you can define the damaged curls to help them hold their structure (a relatively quicker “fix,” some might say). Here, we compiled tips for each route:
1. Minimize heat styling.
First things first: Put down the hot tools. Given that daily heat styling can deplete hair of hydration and nutrients, your first step is to give the strands a break from that constant wear. All the hair care lessons in the world won’t help if you continue to blast the strands.
Applying heat to your hair every day can open up the hair cuticle over time, which means moisture and nutrients tend to escape easier (and why your hair can become brittle and dry). Conditioning agents help seal the cuticle down, locking in water and preventing friction between the strands—which, in turn, also means less breakage (and healthier hair growth). That said, you may want to opt for regular hair masks, moisturizers, or oil treatments to quench thirsty curls.
For curls that are lacking a bit of spring, a quick scrunch of curl cream can enhance the pattern (and mitigate frizz, if you wish). It’s a top-notch product in many a curly girl’s lineup, as the cream offers definition and hold with plenty of elasticity and movement. If your curls need some extra help holding their structure, you’ll love one of our favorite curl creams.
Another way you can encourage definition is by hair plopping—a method where you “plop” your freshly washed hair on the top of your head and wrap it with a T-shirt to absorb excess water as it dries. The technique also simultaneously scrunches your strands, so you can achieve voluminous, defined curls. “That can [help] hold the structure of the texture your hair is supposed to have,” says Pitocco.
Once your hair is damaged, there is nothing that can mend the strands (best to go for a good trim). “The No. 1 thing that nobody wants to hear is that it just takes some time and patience,” says Pitocco. But in the meantime, you can condition and define the strands with styling tricks, as well as encourage healthy hair growth while your curl pattern naturally restores. (And on that note, see here for all the ways you can make hair grow faster.)