Natural ladies, take pride in your gorgeous texture. It's also important that you embrace the versatility of your curls. That's the beauty of it: You have the power to switch up your style as much as you see fit. If you choose to wear your natural curls one day and then silky, straight strands the next, you can—and don't ever let anyone make you feel guilty for either. In a society where natural hair is being judged and curls are being fetishized more than ever, remember that your hair does not define you.
If, like me, you're not one to shy away from a silk press, aka a freshly flat-ironed 'do, then this post is for you. Flat-ironing your hair can go one of many ways. For me, some days my flat-ironed hair is bone-straight, but on others, it's obvious I missed the mark when my hair curls up a few hours later. Generally speaking, there's an art to flat-ironing that takes the right hot tools and products, not to mention time and patience, for your style to last. And for those with natural textures, it's even more crucial that you're using the right flat iron, blow-dryer, and heat protectant to avoid damaging your hair.
To help lay it all out, we called on two of our favorite pros, Larry Sims and Kendall Dorsey, who shared with us how they achieve the silkiest straight strands on their star-studded clientele. According to celebrity stylists, the below guidebook is exactly how to flat-iron natural hair for the best results.
Clients: Teyana Taylor, Cardi B., Duckie Thot, Yara Shahidi, Nicki Minaj, Trina, Usher, and more
His Step-by-Step Process
Dorsey believes that you should always start with clean hair to achieve a smooth, sleek finish. He recommends prepping with Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo and following this up with another extra-moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.
"Prepping the hair before flat-ironing is the most important," says Dorsey. He loves Pantene Gold Series shampoo and conditioner, which is a great moisture-boosting option for a reasonable price.
"Once you've completed the shampoo and conditioning process, use a hair serum with heat protectant," suggests Dorsey. "For thick hair, use a quarter-size amount of the Milbon humidity blocker oil. For fine hair, use a dime-size amount. This oil aids in blocking humidity. It's also light as a feather, has SPF, and is really hydrating."
"Next, comb through the hair," says Dorsey. "Then, using eight butterfly clips ($11), section your hair into eight sections, and clip each section away. Start with the first section and spray Milbon Weightless Replenishing Spray on each section before blow-drying to maintain moisture for smoother results."
After sectioning your hair, begin your blow-drying process. Once your blowout is complete, Dorsey suggests sectioning your hair again in four sections and using his fave flatiron from BaBybliss. "Flat-iron each section by separating them into three smaller sections. Flat-iron from the root of your hair with strong tension for a great result," explains Dorsey.
"Once your flat-iron is complete, adjust your part and using a silk or satin head scarf from your local beauty supply, tie your hair down for about 20 minutes to set smoothness," says Dorsey. He loves these satin scarves from Qfitt ($8). "After you've tied your hair down, unwrap it then finish with Oribe Anti-Humidity Spray ($42) to hold your style all day."
"Aftercare is important," emphasizes Dorsey. "To preserve your flat-iron, you should own a scarf, a shower bonnet, a large Dennis Paddle Brush, and three flat clips." Dorsey recommends wrapping your flat-ironed hair in a circular motion. (Check out this mini tutorial on how to wrap your hair.) "It takes a few tries, but don't give up. It works," says Dorsey. "Or, pull your hair up in a banana clip and put a silk bonnet on to sleep and maintain moisture. Sleeping on bare cotton with dry hair can make your hair fragile.
In terms of heat damage, Dorsey recommends using a heat protectant when flat-ironing your hair. We love the Cantu Heat Protectant Spray ($5). "Only flat-iron your hair once weekly," instructs Dorsey. "If you have puffy roots, get a keratin treatment to avoid overuse of the flat-iron. If you must use heat more than once weekly, flat-iron your roots for touch-ups in between washes."
Clients: SZA, Mary J. Blige, Gabrielle Union, Zendaya, Joan Smalls, Sanaa Lathan, Missy Elliott, and more
His Step-by-Step Process
Start by washing your hair for a clean canvas. "The Gliss Ultra Moisture shampoo and conditioner are great for smoothing strands and leaving your hair softer, stronger, and healthy-looking," recommends Sims.
"First, I always like to blow-dry hair with a Denman brush to elongate the hair cuticle from root to tip," says Sims. Sims, who uses the UltraLight Speed Dryer ($295).
"Once hair is dry, I recommend using the Smooth 'N Shine Straightening Polisher as it nourishes hair and protects from blow-dry heat, humidity, and breakage," explains Sims.
"To straighten, I go section by section, running a comb through the hair with a flat iron for a gorgeous, sleek finish," says Sims. "I love the Bio Ionic 10X Pro Styling Iron because it's so easy and quick to use."
While straightening, Sims's go-to is the Smooth 'N Shine Conditioning Polisher. "The black seed oil and coconut oil ingredients soften hair and fight split ends while providing body," says Sims.
His pro tip: "You must always use a heat protectant on your hair before using any hot tools," explains Sims. "And keep your tools under 425°F to preserve your hair and avoid any damage."
Now, you can have those bone-straight strands you see on your favorite natural hair celebs if you follow this routine. All in all, the best flat-iron results happen when you prep your locks with moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, followed up with hydrating, lightweight oils to promote shine. With natural hair, be sure that your hot tools work hard enough that all you'll need is a few passes through to get the sleekest strands.