Photo: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
If you want to straighten your African-American tresses, make sure you do it safely. You have several options when it comes to altering texture, either permanently or temporarily. You should use extra caution when using heat-based or chemical methods, but even these can be done safely. Your hair can be straight, lightweight and bouncy without damage, as long as you follow directions and use basic common sense.
Roller setting is a gentle straightening method that uses no heat or indirect heat. If your hair is very tightly curled, you may not get optimal straightening results, so your hair won't be pin-straight. Women with less curly hair texture will get straighter, smoother hair by roller setting. After shampooing and conditioning, saturate hair with setting lotion or mousse. Part your hair into sections no wider or thicker than 1 inch. If you roll thicker sections of hair, it will only prolong the drying process. Beginning at the bottom, roll magnetic rollers all the way to the scalp and use hair clips to secure them. Let your mane air dry or sit under a hooded dryer. Your hair must dry completely before removing rollers for the straightest results.
Wrapping is a gentle way to straighten African-American hair. Apply setting lotion or mousse to damp hair and comb through, combing down from the crown so that it falls over your neck, ears and forehead. Begin on one side of your head and smooth hair in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Use your hands to mold your hair to your head in one direction; if your hair is long, you may wrap around your head more than once. Use flat clips to hold stray hairs in place. Dry completely before unwrapping.
You can safely flat-iron or hot comb your hair until it is straight, but use precautions. Always use a heat protectant before thermal styling. Use irons or combs with adjustable temperature settings and set the heat on the lowest level needed for straightening. Press small sections of hair at a time so that you only have to pass the heat tool over them once or twice. Do not heat style your hair more than once a week and wrap it every night to keep it straight and smooth.
Relaxing relies on chemicals to straighten hair and is a safe procedure if you do it correctly. It's a good idea to visit a licensed cosmetologist to apply your relaxer, but you can do it at home with a relaxer kit if you're careful. Wear the gloves that come in the home relaxer kit to protect your hands. Follow the directions to the letter, including rinsing all of the relaxer from your hair and following up with a neutralizing shampoo. If you don't neutralize, you will damage your hair. Only apply relaxer to new growth to avoid overprocessing, and don't get chemicals on your bare skin.