3 Ways to Straighten Natural Hair Without Heat

woman with natural hair against blue sky

I straightened my natural hair for the first time in years with a silk press. I have to say it was a nice change. I loved that it was a temporary way to try something new, and I was able to get a good trim. The simple switch up got me to thinking if it was possible to straighten natural hair sans the blow dryer and the flat iron. When trying new styles that require excessive heat, you risk heat damage. And while heat damage is a concern for any hair type, natural hair has a unique challenge because you risk walking away with limp curls or even seeing your coils disappear completely. 

I have watched in-depth videos of beauty vloggers having success with a no-heat approach, but is it possible for a range of hair types? I talked to two hair pros, Angela Stevens and Alicia Bailey to find out if straightening natural hair with a zero heat method is possible, or if stretching is a more realistic choice. 

Meet the Expert

  • Angela Stevens is an Emmy Award-Winning celebrity hairstylist and Cantu Partner.
  • Alicia Bailey is a licensed Master Cosmetologist and the Global Education Manager at Design Essentials.

Start With a Smoothing Wash Day Routine

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Keratin Complex Keratin Care Smoothing Conditioner $24.00

The key to any hairstyle is starting with a good shampoo and conditioner. If you're going for a smooth, straight look, celebrity hairstylist and Cantu partner Angela Stevens recommends a Keratin-based wash routine. "Keratin smoothing shampoos and conditioners gradually help keep the hair straighter longer and don't have any harsh chemicals in them," Stevens tells us. Among her favorites are the Keratin Complex line, and It's a 10 Miracle Shampoo With Keratin ($53).

Now that we have our coils cleansed and conditioned, is it possible to straighten natural hair with zero heat? Well, it depends on your desired result. "Ultra-fine hair is the only texture that can straighten easily with indirect heat," Stevens advises. With Alicia Bailey, Global Education Manager at Design Essentials, adding that it "is virtually impossible to achieve straight hair [on 4 type hair] without some form of heat." 

Try a Hooded Dryer and a Roller Set

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Gold N Hot Professional Ionic Soft Bonnet Dryer $46.00

But, there is an indirect option that can help stretch the hair. "Hooded dryers are the best solution for smoothing and stretching because they provide indirect heat, which is better on the hair," says Stevens. As I was growing out my relaxer, I used flexi-rod sets to stretch my new growth as I learned to embrace my natural hair texture. Both hair experts agree that a hooded dryer and a set of rollers can be your best option for stretching or elongating your curls. "Roller sets, and flexi-rods with the right amount of tension, will give amazing stretch," Stevens says.

Try the Low Ponytail Method

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Invisibobble Clear Hair Elastics $8.00

"Guiding wet hair into a low ponytail will give it a good amount of stretch at the roots," says Stevens. I recommend applying a mousse and a non-flake gel before you start your ponytail so your hair is properly prepped. Next, Stevens says, we should gather the hair into a ponytail using "the rubber band stretching technique on the hair at the base of the ponytail. To achieve this, place rubber bands down the hair shaft an inch apart from each other until reaching the bottom of the ponytail will also give a good amount of stretch."

Try a Braid-Out or Twist-Out 

One other remedy is a tried and true: braiding or twisting the hair. When I want a stretched look, I place my wet hair into six large twists overnight to stretch out my coils, and it works almost as well as a blow dryer, in my opinion, without the heat.

But, Bailey has a better suggestion if you want the stretch without texture, she suggests, wrapping or molding the hair and allow it to air dry. But she stressed this method would only work on "a hair type that is already naturally straight or for someone who has a relaxer in their hair already." With that advice in mind, this might be an ideal method for someone who is electing to grow their relaxer out without big chopping.

All and all, Stevens wants us to know that "heat-free alternatives will only stretch the hair about 25-50 percent at most, and [4C hair] is prone to faster reversion. So while stretching natural hair is possible—to get a sleek, straight look without any texture, you'll still need to opt for a silk press at home or from a stylist you trust. 

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