How to Straighten Curly Hair, Directly From the Experts

Ella Balinska with straightened hair

@ellabalinska

Having textured hair is basically a superpower. It allows you to transform (your hair, that is). Extra curly, coily, wavy, or the smoothest and straightest strands are all within your reach—and not every hair type can claim the same.

The key to unlocking textured strands' supernatural ability is simply a matter of TLC. Watching your heat temperatures, having the right tools on hand, and a heavy reliance on hydrating shampoos and moisturizing conditioners are all a part of the equation when it comes to morphing those textured tresses into a straightened, smoothed out 'do.

To unlock this potential on your own, keep reading for tips and a step-by-step guide on how to safely straighten curly hair, straight from hair experts Brendnetta Ashley and Carolyn Aronson.

Meet the Expert

  • Brendnetta Ashley is an award-winning hairstylist and curly hair expert based in San Francisco.
  • Carolyn Aronson is a licensed stylist. She is the founder and CEO of It's a 10 Haircare.

Here's What You'll Need:

  • Hydrating shampoo
  • Moisturizing conditioner
  • Conditioning mask and/or leave-in conditioning spray
  • Heat protectant
  • Clips for sectioning
  • Blow-dryer with nozzle attachment
  • Straightening brush
  • Heat-resistant comb
  • 1/2 or 1-inch flat iron
  • 1/4-inch "pencil" flat iron* (optional)
01 of 07

Start With Clean Hair

Back view of freshly washed curly hair

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

One of the many perks of natural texture is the minimized need to wash your hair frequently. But when doing a major transformation to smooth, straight styles, having freshly clean hair is the first step. "It is absolutely crucial that you keep your hair clean," says Aronson, who suggests a moisturizing shampoo for both curly and coily hair types. Any lingering product build-up can cause the hair or scalp to burn during heat application, so you want to remove those barriers and give yourself a clean slate.

If your texture falls more on the side of coily than curly, Ashley recommends washing the hair at least two times. For any amount of texture, she suggests a shampoo that's both hydrating and moisturizing for your curls, like Schwarzkopf's BlondMe All Rich Shampoo.

BlondMe Shampoo
Schwarzkopf BlondMe All Blondes Rich Shampoo $20.00
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02 of 07

Condition, Detangle, and Section

Condition and detangle the hair, then section the entire head into four quadrants.

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

The manual for having curly hair calls for a lot of conditioning. "Textured hair actually has a different structure to it and is usually dry," says Aronson. Without proper conditioning, the hair is prone to snapping, she warns.

Before beginning the process of straightening, Ashley notes that using a deep conditioning mask will provide added hydration and restore the strength of the hair. "Allow your conditioning mask to sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing," she advises. If your hair is also colored or has experienced other exposure to further damage or dryness, consider letting the mask sit overnight and rinsing it out in the morning. Those extra hours will leave your strands smooth and protected before you begin to apply heat.

If you can't afford the time for an overnight treatment, simply follow up with a leave-in conditioning spray. This is beneficial to all curly hair types after proper conditioning so that the hair is detangled and easy to manage. "I recommend It's a 10's Coily Hair Mask ($40) after washing your hair and Miracle Leave-in ($25) before brushing it out," says Aronson.

"Once you have rinsed, detangle and section the hair," Ashley says, and after applying your leave-in spray, brush through the hair with a Denman or your preferred detangling brush. Ashley finds sectioning the hair into four even quadrants to be the most helpful: "This will allow you to have more control when it's time to blow-dry," she says.

03 of 07

Apply a Heat Protectant

Apply A Heat Protectant

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

Protection against heat and damage is the number one priority when taking curly or coily hair through a drastic style change, especially on a structural level. Tackling one section at a time, you want to spray a generous amount of heat protectant. Ashley recommends BlondMe's Blonde Wonders Glaze Mist ($21) to both seal in shine and protect against heat.

You'll want to apply your protectant before any heat application, blow dryers included. "If your hair is bleached or predisposed to damage, keep that protectant at hand and re-apply to your sections later before each pass of the flat iron," says Aronson.

04 of 07

Dry Your Hair

Blow dry the hair with a nozzle and brush

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

It's time to begin your blow-dry. Blow-drying without a nozzle attachment can cause the hair to pouf out, and this transformation is all about smoothing out the hair with control, so be sure to add a nozzle attachment to your dryer to help direct and control your heat flow where needed. Ashley advises staying at a medium heat setting to keep the hair protected. (Remember: Avoiding heat damage is our number one priority.)

You'll also want to have a straightening brush on hand. With good tension, a straightening brush will help ensure that heat is being distributed to every strand in your subsections. Aronson points out that some directive nozzles have combs attached to them already, and those may also work great for curly hair types in place of using a separate brush.

Denman Straightening Brush
Denman Straightener Brush D79 $33.00
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05 of 07

Straighten Your Roots

Use a small flat iron at the roots

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

Once the hair is dry, turn your flat iron on at a low to medium temperature. Ashley points out that your iron temperature can always be adjusted based on the coarseness of your hair, but adds that "a lower temperature and thin subsections will give you the best results." If your hair leans more coily than curly, Ashley recommends beginning with a pencil flat iron, usually about 1/4-inch in size, near the roots and hairline.

06 of 07

Straighten With a Comb

Use a heat-resistant comb alongside your flat iron

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

Those with looser curl patterns can get by without a separate flat iron for their roots. But roots aside, all curly and coily textures should stick with a flat iron that's no larger than an inch in width, according to Aronson. A 1/2-inch or 1-inch flat iron and a heat-resistant comb are the tools needed at this point to alter the hair's mid-shaft and ends. "Insert your comb," instructs Ashley, "then place your flat iron behind the comb. Your comb will lead, and your flat iron will follow, gliding the iron all the way through to the ends of the hair."

Avoiding temperatures above 400 degrees and only gliding along each subsection one time is going to help keep strands protected through the process. "Slow and steady will give the best results," says Ashley.

07 of 07

Finish Your Style

Once smooth and straight, finish your style as desired

BRENDNETTA ASHLEY

"Your straightened style should be expected to last three to five days," Aronson says. You can use your flat iron to create big, soft curls (as shown) and create a slightly different look on the third or fourth day for versatility, but if you do opt for something requiring another dose of heat application, "never turn the heat above 350 degrees," Aronson warns. "And be sure to use a protective serum or spray before ironing the hair again."

To extend the life of your new, smoothed-out texture, "sleep with a satin or silk head wrap to help hold the style." A soft or medium hold hairspray with oil in its formula for shine and protection can help lock in your new look. And if you decide to put your hair up in any way during that week of straighter strands, be sure to use crease-free accessories, like Teleties, that won't put a dent in your efforts.

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