There is a common misconception that flat ironing is healthier for the hair than relaxing it. This is only true if you flat iron the hair at a temperature suited for your hair type and condition. I’m going to break this all the way down and try to simplify it (I hope).
I often hear the term “training” when it comes to flat ironing naturally curly hair. I often wince when I hear that term used because of the true meaning behind the term. When one refers to “training” hair they are simply describing a “thermal texturizer”. In other words, the flat iron is doing the same job as a very mild relaxer that is not left on long.
Hair relaxer is a caustic, alkaline chemical that causes a permanent change in the structure of the hair strand. Flat iron uses heat and the plates to create a temporary physical change in the structure of the hair and is returned to the original structure once water is wet. However, the cells of our body can only withstand so much heat before they are damaged or destroyed. When the temperature from your flat iron is too high for your hair texture, it begins to permanently destroy bonds that were only temporarily broken. The hair can withstand a lot but constant abuse with the flat iron will eventually reduce the quality of the hair resulting in breaking down or completely removing the natural curl pattern in the hair.
There are 3 types of bonds in our hair that we alter when we style our hair. For the most part we deal with 2 of the bonds. I like to do analogies so I will compare the bonds in our hair to make-up. We have 2 bonds in our hair that are temporary changes in the hair, like the temporary change we get when we wear make-up. There is one bond, which is my favorite bonds, that is so strong it can only be changed under extreme conditions. This change is permanent like that of plastic surgery. So now you get it? You can always wash make-up off and go back to looking like your regular self (roller sets, finger waves, flat ironing, twist-outs, rinses). Plastic surgery is permanent and has some risks involved and can permanently give you the look you have been wanting (relaxers, perms, super hot flatiron, permanent haircolor).
If you want your hair to be its healthiest make sure your understand the effects your styling options have on it. Before you “train” your hair make sure you are ready to accept your hair’s new learned behavior!