Behold — The Hair Care Routine That Fixed My Heat-Damaged 4C Curls

It’s like magic.

The age old saying goes something like “it’s just hair” or “it’ll grow back” — at least that’s what I remember hearing when I did my big chop about eight years ago. Fast forward a few years and a labor-intensive natural hair journey, my hair did indeed grow back after chopping off my perm-damaged strands, only to be met with a new issue: heat damage. While I’ve now figured out how to fix my heat damaged hair with just four products, the gut wrenching feeling of not seeing your curls revert back after a blowout is one that is not easily erased via a deep conditioner.

Blowouts, silk presses, and I do not get along. After being so scarred from my big chop, (I had grown attached to my longer hair), I swore off heat the moment I decided to go natural in order to avoid such a drastic cut in the future. With the exception of blow drying my hair on cool to stretch out my coily 4C hair for easy styling, the last time I fully put heat on my hair was about five years ago (for my senior prom) — that is until this past August.

At the tail end of summer I got a blowout and trim that left me feeling like a new woman. There was heat protectant involved and I felt completely safe in the hands of my expert hair stylist. I felt newly confident and unafraid of heat, so I took another blowout appointment about a month ago, but much to my shock and dismay, this time I was left with significant heat damage (there was no heat protectant this time).

My 4C curls usually have a tight, coily pattern but I noticed that some of them looked elongated, limp, and almost straight, not to mention very frizzy and weak. I immediately planned to put my hair in a protective style to hide the damage, but not before washing and treating my hair with the four products that I always turn to when my hair needs a little TLC.

Dealing with some heat damageAnnie Blay

Keep reading to see the four step hair care routine that always gets my hair back in shape after any mishap, especially heat damage.

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Step 1: Repair With A Bond Building Treatment

The No.3 Hair Perfector from Olaplex is one of the brand’s best-sellers for a reason. The treatment (along with Olaplex’s other repairing products) restores damaged and compromised hair by working from the inside out with its patented single ingredient, Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate.

“The active ingredient in Olaplex will relink the broken bonds on the inside of hair to repair the damage,” Olaplex ambassador and expert hair colorist Bianca Hillier explains. “Before you focus on the exterior cosmetic slip you must begin the restoration from the inside out (if your bones are broken inside your body you must repair them prior to getting chiropractic work or a massage), this is exactly what the Olaplex technology offers.”

I begin by sectioning my hair and dampening it with water before applying the bond builder to my hair, working it through with my fingers and carefully making sure each strand is covered. I leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it out.

Step 2: Cleanse With A Repairing Shampoo

After rinsing my hair, I shampoo with JVN’s Undamage Strengthening shampoo. To say Jonathan Van Ness’ hair care line blew me away is an understatement. After using it just one time my hair felt and looked healthier, not to mention so soft. The entire JVN line consists of four categories that address different hair concerns: Embody, boosts hair volume while removing buildup, Nurture helps hair return to its healthiest, most hydrated self, Undamage revitalizes hair that’s undergone heat, bleach, or color damage, and Complete, features treatment and styling products for all hair types.

The Undamage line is my go-to from the brand currently. I use the shampoo, squeezing a liberal amount into my palm and working it through my hair, smoothing it through so as not to cause too much tangling.

The star ingredient in all JVN products is hemisqualane — made from sustainably sourced sugarcane then bio-fermented, this super-ingredient works to reduce frizz, penetrate the hair shaft with moisture, reduce damage, prevent breakage, all while also cleansing your hair.

I truly feel my hair get stronger and healthier after every use.

Step 3: Detangle With A Hydrating Conditioner

While I love the JVN Undamage conditioner (and often use it after the shampoo), when my hair is really suffering from heat damage, I turn to a childhood favorite. Castor oil is widely heralded as hair super-food, but especially so in the Black community. I vividly remember my mom oiling my scalp with castor oil after wrapping up a wash day — she used the Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil conditioner.

Detangling my 4C hair is the bane of my existence but this conditioner makes it 10 times easier. It has great slip which allows me to finger detangle my coils before passing through with a wide tooth comb, which reduces shedding and breakage. The thick creamy conditioner is formulated with wheat proteins to penetrate the hair shaft and help to strengthen weak strands. And of course Jamaican Black Castor Oil (along with sesame seed oil and rosehip oil) assists with the treatment of dry, itchy scalp, and deeply nourishes hair while promoting and stimulating hair growth.

I apply it in sections (four to six) and although it’s not a deep conditioner, I always let the product sit in my hair for about 5-10 minutes, usually while I clean up the slight mess I made from detangling.

Step 4: Treat With A Deep Moisture Mask

After detangling I rinse out the conditioner, keeping my hair in the sections I previously parted. I then begin to apply the Nurture Deep Moisture Mask from JVN liberally throughout each section.

My favorite thing about this mask might be the scent (lemon, black currant, white orchid, sandalwood, and vanilla), but it should be how moisturizing it is. This clean, intense conditioning treatment deeply infuses my hair with moisture leaving it healthy-looking, soft, and smooth with little to no frizz. The addition of rice protein in the mask really works overtime to strengthen my strands that have been weakened at the hands of heat styling tools.

After washing this out, I put my hair in small to medium twists using the Sienna Naturals Leave In Conditioner and Design Essentials Natural Almond & Avocado Curl Enhancing Mousse, and allow it to “breathe” before my next wash day or protective style.

In total, this regime takes me about two to three hours from start to finish (if you have coarse natural hair you know that’s actually on the shorter side). The combination of deep penetrating, strengthening ingredients in each of these four products really come together to repair my heat damaged hair, providing much needed life to my otherwise dead, weakened strands.

Annie Blay

While this routine is highly effective, it won’t necessarily work for all levels of heat damaged hair. “The extent of the damage needs to be determined by a stylist. Some damage can be repaired however sometimes a cut may be best for the overall aesthetic and health of the hair,” says Hillier.

So if you find yourself facing some damage after rocking a heat-styled ‘do, don’t immediately panic as it may feel like your hair’s life is flashing before your eyes. The right ingredients in quality products applied in a strategic order can revive your curls sooner than you think. And maybe take a breather from blowouts for a while to discover some new protective styles, or just ask your stylist to go heavy on the heat protectant next time.