I’m a fan of YouTube make-up and hair tutorials – especially when it comes to retro looks. My first discovery was Iris J. She was especially active with her uploads from 2007-2010 and I referred to her work for my burlesque styling on the regular. What I liked about her videos besides being amazed by her beautiful long, thick locks was that she was well-spoken, poised and charming. The quality of the video is poor compared to today’s standards, but this was also before the current YouTube age of drama, clickbait and fast cuts. If the content is good and without negativity and gimmicks I’m a fan regardless of video quality.
As I watched her videos I discovered she had many tips for no heat styling. My hair was long and dyed dark brown at the time and I was doing my best to keep it healthy. My hair doesn’t hold styles very well so to give it volume I used hot rollers, teasing and lots of hairspray for all my retro looks. They were fast and effective, but also harsh and damaging. In 2013 I cut my hair short and used wigs for burlesque in part to start over with healthy hair and healthier habits (less heat, less products, less chemicals).
Fast forward to today and I have short natural hair that is VERY soft and healthy. I have only used a hair dryer twice in 18 months. I’ve never used a curling iron, hot rollers or a hair straightener. While I don’t have much hair to work with as I’ve had a pixie, now growing it out and have some length to play with. My hair looks and feel very healthy and I want to keep it that way.
So what’s a person to do when they want some volume, curl and hold without the damage? Go back to the basics of no heat styling.
Pros of No Heat
Using heat can cause hair to become dull, dry and damaged. No heat styling will help prevent frizz, split ends and breakage. You can have shiny, bouncy hair without using chemically loaded products that come nearly always in plastic bottles. It’s also easier on your budget because you won’t spend money on expensive tools (buying them in the first place or replacing them when they inevitably break or get nasty with product buildup). If you like no heat styling you can then sell your tools or donate them – minimize and simplify! Plus, no heat styling is environmentally friendly – you will not need to use any electricity (that saves money too).
Cons of No Heat
Not using heat means you will be air drying your hair and this will take some time. It reminds me of the 1950s expression for not being able to go on a date – I’m busy drying my hair. This was not necessarily an excuse. It was a reality. But I think setting the time aside for some body care can be selfcare. Plus you can read or watch a movie as your hair dries. It’s not time wasted in my opinion.
No heat styling also requires time and some patience as you learn a new skill. For a curly or wavy look that means pin curls, foam rollers and rags. Thankfully, there are many tutorials out there.
Setting your hair at night and sleeping on it can save you time. I’m a light sleeper and I find I can sleep in foam rollers, but not pin curls.
If you have wavy or curly hair, absolutely straight hair can be a challenge without heat tools, but some people have found some success. I’m curious to try this once my hair is long. Expect an update in 2-3 years. ;-)
If You Do Use Heat
Minimizing the amount of times you use heat tools will help prevent damage.
Don’t wrap or rub your hair with a terry towel after wetting it. Some people advise using a microfibre towels, but I’m not a fan of them because they are made from petrochemicals and do not biodegrade. They also shed their fibres (as all clothes do) in washing and these tiny plastic particles end up in our waterways causing noticeable microplastic pollution on coastlines. A better option is a worn out cotton t-shirt.
Use only using a hair dryer on slightly damp (not soaking wet) hair.
Use a flatiron with a ceramic plate and follow the manual’s time limits. Typically for a maximum of 5 seconds on dry hair.
Get regular trims! Every 4-6 weeks! This is what kept my long hair less damaged. I still had length and kept the split ends at bay.
Don’t use banana clips ever. My stylist told me she can always tell who uses them from the breakage she sees in certain spots. Elastics can do much the same so I made my own with old black tights and pantyhose.
Super Popular Video
For more tips on healthy no heat hair I suggest you check this video from Sarah Nagel of Holistic Habits. She is a big fan of hair oils and massage which of course so am I!
BTW – I’m working a blog post with step by step photos of me styling my short hair without heat and using foam rollers. My first attempt created a fun 1980s new wave look I think will be great for a night out. Stay tuned!