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Straighten Your Curls Safely With These Foolproof Tips From The Pros

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Photo by Deagreez/Getty Images

If you’re blessed with a head of natural curls (you lucky babe), your bouncy coils without a doubt elicit some serious hair envy. We’re head over heels over natural curls, but we know that when it comes to styling hair, everyone craves a little hairstyle variety sometimes. Kind of like how people with super straight strands might love to switch up their style with bouncy waves and play with texture. If you've been blessed with a curly mane and you're looking to temporarily straighten your hair, it's a totally doable (and worth it) task. But in order to straighten curly hair safely (we’re all guilty of going overboard with a flat iron every now and then), without damaging the natural curls you were born with, there are just a few extra steps and techniques that people with curly hair textures should keep in mind before turning up the heat.

Below, we'll go over what people with curly hair need to do before, during, and after the hair straightening process to achieve smooth, glossy strands (that last!) without damaging hair. We've even tapped two amazing hair pros, Julia Mannino and Lana Grand, to share some of their favorite tips and tricks on straightening curly hair.. Read on for everything you need to know.

Want to style your curls up and away from your face? Put ‘em in a bun. Try one of these super easy buns for curly hair.

About the Experts:
Julia Mannino is a hair stylist and Co-Owner of RoyaHairNYC
Lana Grand is a celebrity hairstylist based in Los Angeles.

5 Steps to Straighten Curly Hair

An image of a curly-haired woman wearing a yellow pullover sweatshirt depicting uncertainty on the straightening iron held.
Photo by Deagreez/Getty Images

1. Shampoo and Condition Your Curls.

When it comes to achieving smooth, sleekstrands, it all starts with the cleanse.“You are going to need products that will speed up the styling process, provide maximum shine and moisture, and close the cuticle of the hair to protect it from the heat,” Mannino tells us. To prep, she recommends washing with a sulfate-free or paraben free shampoo and following up with a silicone-free conditioner. Some of our faves? Kerastase Bain Micellaire Riche Shampoo and SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate & Repair Conditioner.

2. Dry Your Curls.

One of the best tricks for fighting frizz and scoring sleek strands? It’s all in your towel. It turns out that regular bath towels tend to be too harsh, so when you wrap your strands up to dry, you’re actually roughing them up, which can create frizz and breakage. Instead, wrap your wet hair in a microfiber towel like the DevaCurl Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel. It’s super gentle on strands, resulting in a smoother blowout and faster drying time. 

3. Add More Moisture.

“Curly hair naturally lacks moisture and is prone to dryness and frizz. This, combined with the fact that its pattern is not linear and has ridges down the whole shaft, makes it weaker and more vulnerable to breakage and heat damage,’ says Mannino. After brushing or combing to detangle hair, you’ll need a few hair products to prep.”Pay attention to the ingredients lists–coconut oil, castor oil, soybean oil, almond oil, aloe, milk protein, honey, and apple cider vinegar will all help to moisturize and nourish the hair," Grand tells us.

One great way to keep hair hydrated is to use a leave-in conditioner, like the FOXYBAE Flaminglow Leave-In Conditioner + Biotin. Apply to towel-dried hair, starting at the tips and massaging your way up, stopping just before your roots. Not only will it condition, it will also keep frizzy hair under control, which is key when working with curly hair. 

4. Use a Heat Protectant.

Because this hair type is so prone to overdrying and breakage, it's important to add an additional shield to your strands before using any heat tools. “I would prep with a smoothing blow dry cream (ipsters love BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection and Heat Protectant Crème) and a heavy heat protecting oil spray,” Mannino suggests.

5. Blow Dry Your Hair in Sections.

With your hair now fully primed and prepped, it's time to grab your blow dryer and a round brush. “Stretch out curls and dry them with a blow dryer and brush before using your iron. Preferably a boar bristle brush for maximum tension. Divide hair in four equal quadrants—two in the front and two in the back, ” says Mannino. Grand also advises against rough drying (using only a hair dryer with no tools to dry your hair as fast as possible) as this can increase frizz.

Here’s how: Split your hair into small sections, using a hair clip or hair elastic to keep the rest of the damp hair out of the way. Then, with the blow dryer on the medium to low heat setting, use the round brush to keep the targeted section straight as it dries. "Make sure your hairdryer has a nozzle attachment on and is always pointed down," Grand says. "This will help the hair to get straight faster and control frizz." Continue blow drying section by section until the entire head is dry. Your curly hair should now be smooth, but don't stress if it's not perfectly straight at this point—that's what flat-ironing is for.

6. Use a Quality Straightening Iron.

Be sure to use a hair straightener with temperature control capabilities, like the T3 Lucea Flat Iron, which also has ceramic plates for even heat distribution. “Use a flat iron on 350-375 degrees. Start at the bottom of each quadrant grabbing half inch sections, and work your way up to the top. Go slow and only pass over the section twice,’ says Mannino. Repeat until all hair has been straightened.

Grand also suggests reducing heat damage by investing in a straightener with single-pass technology to minimize the number of times you use the iron on each strand of hair.

7. Lock In Your Look.

After all that effort, you'll definitely want to do everything you can to make sure the hairstyle stays in place. “After the blowdry, You can finish with a lighter oil and anti humidity hairspray. Stay away from wet products that will ruin your blowdry and make your hair frizz and start curling again,” Mannino recommends.

An image of a curly-haired woman showing a cheerful smile while holding a flat iron on a pink background
Photo by Deagreez/Getty Images

Even More Pro Tips for Straightening Your Curly Hair

1. Blow Dry Before Styling.

People with straight or wavy hair can sometimes let their hair air dry before using a straightener, but curly-haired folks should always opt to blow dry wet hair instead. Yes, this does mean more heat styling, but using a round brush to do a quick blow out will help to lock the strands in a straight position and will dramatically cut down on the time you spend actually straightening the hair with a flat iron.

2. Use a Low Heat Setting.

"Curly hair is naturally dry and has an uneven hair fiber shape," says Grand. "This means it tends to be more fragile than naturally straight hair." To protect curly hair from breakage, overdrying, and frizz, it's super important to use the low to medium heat settings on both the hair dryer and the flat iron (ideally nothing over 375 degrees Fahrenheit).

3. Invest in a Silk Pillowcase.

Using hairspray will definitely keep your hairstyle locked in place throughout the day, but if you want to also ensure next-day results, Grand suggests sleeping on a silk pillowcase. They cut down friction between the hair and the fabric and will do wonders to prolong the results of freshly straightened hair. Oh, and a little secret: Wrapping hair in a silk scarf will work too! Spritz or dust in a little dry shampoo and you’ll be good to go for day two.

Mannino’s Quick Tips to Save Your Straight Style

  • Only wash once a week and never skip the conditioner. 

  • Do a leave in deep conditioning treatment once a week. Pay attention to what your hair is lacking (which can be moisture or protein). 

  • Do not use an iron to refresh it everyday. A blowdry and brush is alway better.

  • Apply oil to your ends everyday.

  • Reapply heat protectant every time you style

  • Use a silk scrunchie if you pull your hair back.

Want hair products personalized for your curly hair delivered to your door each month? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated March 23, 2022 12:00 AM