Pressing Hair – is it good for the hair and does it help hair growth?

The short answer to this question is:
It depends on how you press your hair.

The long answer to this question is:
The word pressing can mean different things if you ask different people. To me pressing means taking a heated hair appliance like a flat iron or a pressing comb and running it through the hair to straighten the hair. There are many factors involved in this process which will determine whether or not pressing is good for your hair.

Pressing Can Benefit Your Hair and Help It To Grow If:

1. You don’t press your hair at the highest temperature on your flat iron or pressing comb. High heat can permanently alter the protein bonds in your hair and cause it to lose it’s naturally curly texture when you wash it. When pressing your hair, you should use enough heat to straighten it until you wash it again, but not to the point of permanently changing the natural texture of your hair. If you are using that much heat, you are damaging your hair.

2. You don’t press your hair every day. Again, applying that much heat to your hair will in most cases cause permanent damage to your hair.

3. You don’t press relaxed hair. Hair that has been relaxed has already been weakened by the strong chemicals used on it. Adding heat to the mixture will cause the hair to weaken further.

4. You detangle your hair before you press it. If you detangle your hair before you press it, it will make the pressing comb go through your hair much easier and with much less damage than if you try to use the pressing comb to detangle your hair. I talk about how to detangle hair before pressing in my book Twelve Steps For Growing Black Hair.

5. You use moisturizing hair care products to wash your hair and a thermal protectant, like Northwest Scents™ hair oil, while you are pressing your hair. I have found that one of the differences between hair that presses nicely, and hair that is brittle and breaks while being pressed, is the type of product used on the hair. If you use moisturizing products on your hair, then your hair will be smoother and softer after you press it. My experience is that when using natural products, like Northwest Scents™, the heat of the pressing comb causes the natural oils to penetrate the hair shaft which in turn causes the hair to be softer and more flexible. If you use harsh hair care products, like harsh shampoos which dry out your hair, or products made with lots of synthetic oils, these products will dry out your hair and contribute to breakage while you are pressing your hair.

6. You wear your hair so as not to pull it out. If you press your hair and then wear it tightly braided or pulled into a tight bun or ponytail, you will most likely cause hair breakage.

7. You use an electric tool. It is best to use an electric appliance for pressing your hair (an electric pressing comb or electric flat iron ) so you can regulate the temperature. Remember, you want to use enough heat to straighten your hair until the next wash, but not so much that you damage the protein structure.

8. You don’t get that burnt hair smell. If you smell your hair burning, you are using too much heat and you need to turn the temperature down.


6 thoughts on “Pressing Hair – is it good for the hair and does it help hair growth?

  1. I have to tell you: I am so happy I found you and this blog and your system I don’t know what to do.

    Almost a year natural with 4a/4b hair I have tried every product known to man trying to get some level of “softness” in my wiry, coarse hair. Over this year I noticed that my hair seemed healthiest, softest and HAPPIEST when i’d blown it dry or used a flat iron. Each time I would remember what I’ve heard stylists say to me my whole life: “your hair loves heat.”

    Yes! Yes it does! My hair loves heat. Granted, not so much with a relaxer but let me tell you, it sighs with a blow dry or “light” press.

    I was beginning to think I was delusional considering all the normal hair sentiment that says “heat is bad”. Nuh huh. Smart heat, for me, works. Now I just have to get enough length so that I can have more style options. But let me tell you – ‘fros, locs, twists – none of it worked for me.

  2. Which thermal pressing comb is less damaging to the hair, a “smooth back” or double press with “teeth” long its back?

    If both are used simultaneouly during the pressing process cause thinning of the hair?

    I have noticed when my hair is wet, some parts look stringy.

    I use hydrating and moisturizing, and reconstructive hair care products two per month when my hair is washed, conditioned, blew dryed, press/curled.

    October 2009

    1. Hi:

      I’ve never used a double press comb with teeth along its back, but as
      long as the second row of teeth are not pulling or snagging on the hair,
      I would assume that the double press wouldn’t be more damaging than the
      smooth backed comb. From my experience with pressing, and from my
      observations, when hair is damaged from pressing it is from the
      following reasons:
      -the hair was not detangled before pressing.
      -the comb was used at too high of a temperature.
      -the hair was pressed too frequently.
      The stringy hairs that you see are most likely a result of using your comb at too high of a temperature. When heat is applied at too high of a temperature to hair, the protein bonds in the hair realign themselves permanently, instead of temporarily. The nice thing about hair is that it grows back. To prevent any more stringy hairs consider having the
      pressing comb turned down.

  3. Thank you, I spent so much time experimenting with products and chemicals. My hair has been naturally kinky for over 6 years. I can’t wait to read the book the book. Finally some help for those of us who rather wear hair weave if we want to and not because we have to. I want my hair strong, long and thick like it once was.

  4. How often I can I do a light press? Currently, I do a light press once a week after washing my hair. I have 4b/c hair. A little heat helps to soften my hair and alleviate breakage of my ends.

    1. Your schedule sounds great to me. I recommend that you only press your hair after washing it. If you wash your hair weekly, then I would press weekly after washing (just like you are doing). If you wash twice a month, then I would press bimonthly, after washing your hair.

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