Straightening Combs for African-American Hair

Get your hair straight with a straightening comb.

Photo: Amos Morgan/Photodisc/Getty Images

Also known as hot combs, straightening combs go far back in the history of African-American hairstyling. Whether your mother remembers getting her hair "pressed" in the kitchen as a little girl, or you have fond memories of holding your ear, praying you didn't get burned by the hot comb, this styling tool is definitely a staple in the black community. If you're new to hot combs, however, you should take extra precautions to make sure you don't burn your hair or skin.

About Straightening Combs

Straightening combs come in three forms, though each achieves the same results and most are made of a heavy-duty metal. Many women who straighten their hair at home have the type of hot comb that they can heat on a gas or electric stove. Your stylist probably uses the type that they heat in a mini "oven," though these get really hot and should only be used in the salon. Or, if you want to really be on the safe side, an electric hot comb that won't get hotter than the temperature you set for it may be the best.

Straightening Comb Techniques

You can use your hot comb to style your hair completely, or you can just straighten your roots with it. Nowadays, many women use flat irons to straighten their hair and a hot comb to straighten their roots. However, if you want to style you hair completely with a hot comb, you should straighten your hair in ultra-small sections, starting as close to your roots as possible and working your way down. Follow up your press by curling your hair with a curling iron. This style is what most refer to as a "press-n-curl."

Straightening Comb Dangers

Straightening combs are known for their ability to get coarse hair super straight, but also have a less savory rep as being too hot to handle. Combs that you place on a stove or in a mini oven can get very, very hot, so always test your comb first because putting it in your hair. Place the comb on a paper towel, and if it burns or singes the paper, it is definitely too hot. It should create a light burn mark on the paper at most. If you put a too-hot hot comb in your hair, the hair will burn and fall off -- right in front of your eyes. Additionally, it's very easy to burn your forehead, ears and neck with your hot comb, so be very still when getting your hair pressed, and very careful when doing it yourself!


Tons of black women have abandoned their hot combs in favor of ceramic flat irons, which are much better for your hair than hot combs. Give your hair a good blow-dry to loosen your curl, focusing on your roots to make sure that they are straight. In fact, the blow-dryer should have a comb attachment to give you a good blow-dry. When you're ready, straighten your hair in thin sections, starting from the back of your hair and moving to the top of your head. When you're done, your hair will have a shine and flow to it like never before.

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