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If you have naturally curly hair, you’re probably well aware that it can sometimes take an array of hair styling products and heat tools to create a smooth, sleek look. It’s not as simple as quickly blow-drying your strands post-shower or swiping a flat iron over your hair—there’s actually a technique to straightening curly hair. But how do you know if you’re doing things right? Keep reading to learn how to straighten curly hair the right way, plus the most common mistakes you can make when straightening curly hair and what you should be doing instead.
As beautiful as your naturally curly strands are, we understand that sometimes, you just want to rock a sleek, straightened look. But before you reach for your flat iron, take a minute to refresh your knowledge on the basics of straightening curly hair. We’re walking you through every step, from using the right shampoo to that final spritz of hairspray. Here’s what to do:
First off, you need to wash your hair. Since curly hair has a tendency to get frizzy, use a system of frizz-fighting shampoo and conditioner, like the L'Oréal Paris EverPure Frizz-Defy Shampoo and L'Oréal Paris EverPure Frizz-Defy Conditioner. Use lukewarm water to rinse your strands, since hot water can strip your hair of its natural oils, which only exacerbates frizz. After shampooing, use a small amount of conditioner on the lengths and ends of your hair only. Post-shower, towel dry your hair with a microfiber cloth or a t-shirt, both of which will be gentler on strands than a cotton bath towel.
Editor’s note: Since curly hair tends to be more frizz and damage-prone, it can be a good idea to add a deep conditioner, like the L'Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner, to your routine, too.
Before you pick up your blow-dryer, you need to prep your damp strands with a heat protectant spray, like the L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle SLEEK IT Iron Straight Heatspray. Heat can be damaging to hair of all types, which is why it’s crucial to use a heat protectant beforehand—regardless of your hair type. To use, just spray onto hair in sections and brush through to make sure it’s evenly distributed.
Now that your hair is prepped and protected, you’re ready to blow-dry. Grab your blow-dryer and your round brush and get to work. To make things easier, section off your hair with a few claw clips, and focus on drying one small section at a time. Keep your blow-dryer on the medium or warm heat setting and be sure your strands are completely dry before moving onto the next step.
Once all of your hair is dry, clip it into a half-up, half-down hairstyle. Using your flat-iron, run the plates over small sections of hair, working your way through the hair that isn’t clipped up. You want to use small enough sections so that just one or two swipes of your flat iron can straighten out your strands. You'll also want to use your flat iron on the lowest heat setting that still gets the job done. Once the bottom half of your hair is sleek, let the top half down and follow the same process. The goal here is to smooth everything over. We know it seems like a lot of steps, but blow-drying before straightening is absolutely crucial to keeping your hair healthy. Never, ever attempt to use a flat-iron on wet or even damp hair. It can cause quite a bit of damage to your strands, and it also just won’t work!
Using too much leave-in product will weigh your hair down, so we suggest limiting the hair product you use to a few spritzes of a strong hold hair spray, such as the L'Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray Strong Hold. This will ensure that your newly-straightened locks stay in place, without causing them to appear greasy or weighed down. To use, shake the can first, then spray onto your hair, holding the can about a foot away from your head. If you feel like you need it, you can also use a dime-sized amount of frizz-smoothing hair cream, like the L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle SLEEK IT Frizz Vanisher Cream, on the ends of your hair.
Now that you know how to straighten your curly strands, double check and make sure you aren’t guilty of making any of the following mistakes.
If your flat iron has an on-off switch but no dial to adjust the temperature, it’s time to look for a new one. Everyone’s hair texture is different—so while a universal temp could work great on someone else’s hair, it may be too high or low for your hair. Look for a straightener that has multiple heat settings and use the lowest degree of heat that you possibly can while still only having to pass the flat iron over each section of hair once. This will help limit the damage the heat does to your hair.
You don’t want your hair to end up overly greasy after you’re done straightening it, do you? To avoid that scary situation, make sure you aren't loading your hair up with product pre-straightening. All you need to use beforehand is a heat protectant, which you should apply to your hair section by section before using a flat iron. Don't worry, you can still add a bit of leave-in product or hair spray once you’re done straightening!
If you find that no matter how many times you glide your flat iron over your hair, it just doesn’t seem to be getting as straight as you’d like, consider the size of the sections you’re working with. While you may think passing your flat iron over larger sections will cut down on your styling time, take our word for it and separate your hair into smaller, one-inch sections instead. With this technique, you’ll be able to straighten each section much quicker, and it could even allow you to turn down the temperature on your flat iron.
There’s a reason why stylists pull your hair upwards when they blow-dry it at the salon. Nope, it’s not just some fancy show—rather, the upward motion can help create volume at the roots. We know, it’s hard, if not impossible, to recreate a professional blowout at home. Instead of trying to re-do all of it, simply focus on blowing your roots upward. Then, after you’ve dried your roots, feel free to blow-dry the rest of your mane in a downward motion to help create straight movement toward your shoulders.
After you’re finished blow-drying and flat ironing your hair, you might be tempted to apply a ton of styling products to help keep your look in place and add a little shine. But when it comes to styling products, a little definitely goes a long way. If you want to use a serum, like the L'Oréal Paris EverSleek Frizz Finish Oil-In-Serum, apply a dime-sized amount from your mid-lengths to your ends. Don’t apply anything to your roots, since they can easily start to look greasy and unclean—definitely not what you want! Plus, applying product to your roots risks weighing them down and undoing all the effort you put into boosting volume at the roots.
We love updos and braids as much as the next gal, but they could be reversing all of your hair straightening efforts. While pulling your hair back won’t turn back time and bring back your curls in an instant, it can put kinks in your hair that definitely aren’t intended to be part of your straight hairstyle. So, after straightening, leave your hair down until it’s completely cool. Then, if you absolutely need to get your hair out of your face, use a soft hair tie (not a tight elastic!) to pull your hair into a low ponytail.
You know how your blowout looks so smooth the day you get it, but then you go to sleep and it’s all messed up in the morning? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Well, when you put a ton of time and effort into blowing out or straightening curly hair, your work doesn’t stop when you put your flat iron down. Even how you sleep should be tailored to your straightened mane! The way you sleep on your hair can help preserve your style or destroy it, depending on what you do. So, before you hop into bed, make sure to wrap your hair up in a silk scarf. Oftentimes, pillowcases can be rough, which can mess up your straight style, whereas silk is a lot softer. Sleeping beauty, indeed!
Want more curly hair styling tips? Check out our article, 6 Heat-Free Ways to Style Curly Hair.