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Hair relaxers have a well-deserved bad rep due to the harsh chemicals that weaken your hair and burn your scalp. So you may think that using a hot comb or flat iron to press your hair is always a safer bet, but you’d be wrong. Using heat to press your hair can cause some of the same damage as hair relaxers, including scalp burns. Although these burns may be less severe than those from relaxers, they’re no picnic and have long-term consequences.
Scalp Burns and Hair Pressing
Unless you or your hairstylist is seriously negligent, the burns you suffer from pressing your hair are most likely to be first degree, or minor, burns. These types of burns affect only the outer layer of skin and do not go all the way through, according to MayoClinic.com. Your scalp will be red, you’ll feel a burning sensation, some mild pain and there might even be a bit of swelling. More severe burns cause symptoms such as increased pain and blisters.
Avoid pressing your hair shortly after washing it; give yourself at least 48 hours. Before a hot comb or flat iron comes anywhere near your hair, apply a protective gel to your scalp. Using the comb or iron on medium heat may mean having to go over the same area of hair two or three times, but it will make it less likely for you to burn and damage your scalp. Never apply petroleum jelly or any other greasy product to your hair when pressing it as these can run down the hair shaft and burn your scalp. Use a natural oil or a moisturizing lotion your hair will soak up about 10 to 15 minutes before pressing.
Making Matters Worse
One of the old-school ways of healing a damaged scalp is to dab on some petroleum jelly to help keep moisture in and speed healing. But — and it’s a big but — never apply petroleum jelly to a fresh burn on your scalp or elsewhere. The jelly will trap the heat and prolong the damage that the burn is doing. Instead, wait until the burn cools down. Running cool water over the burn or applying a cold compress will speed up the cool-down process.
Managing Long-term Damage
The damage that burns inflict on your scalp can have a lasting impact. For instance, the affected area may continue to develop scabs and become drier, which can lead to flakes and itchiness for months or years to come. Over-the-counter dandruff remedies will help suppress flakes and itchiness. Keep hair greases and petroleum jelly at bay and use natural oils that help your scalp to heal, such as lanolin, olive or jojoba.