Heat Stretching 101 For Natural Hair

I have always spoken publicly about my use of heat on my natural hair. It is something I have chosen to do to manage my natural hair due to my lifestyle and my personal taste. Using heat has helped me to maintain healthy hair, retain length, and reach several hair length goals. In this post I hope to share with you my experience, my methods, and hopefully those of you who have been searching high and low for this information will get the info you need to make your own personal decision when it comes to using heat.

Straightening natural hair - flat iron alicia james

  • Why do I use heat in my regimen?
    I personally like how easy my hair is to manage when I use heat. My knots and tangles are very minimal and I experience less breakage and shedding throughout the week. I have really tight 4a curls mixed with 4b and 4c hair. My hair shrinks up to over half of it’s actual length. It tangles so much, it makes it difficult to maintain health and length. So, my goal is not to have straight hair, but to manipulate my hair in a way that helps me to maintain it easily daily. During the time that I started using heat I retained more length than ever in my journey. I started a growth journey on Youtube in my second year starting at about shoulder or armpit length and in about two years on my four year anniversary reaching waist length.

My Journey To Waist Length

  • When did I first use heat?
    I started using heat on my natural hair when I turned 2 years natural. It was the day of my second year anniversary and I did my first blow out since being natural.
    I used a flat iron on my natural hair for the first time on my four year anniversary.
  • Why did I wait so long?
    I waited because I was still learning about my natural hair. When I first went natural I didn’t even know I was going natural. I had no confidence in my natural hair and my ability to maintain it. So, after my first year I found Youtube and blogs. There was so much information out there, I continued to take in every single thing. I have literally gone through so many phases in my natural hair journey due to information I thought was “fact”. As I progressed in my journey I continued to educate myself, but I learned to only take what I needed and leave the rest behind. This was one of the best things I could have ever done in my journey, because I developed my “keep it simple philosophy” when it came to my hair. Anyways, I got rid of the fear of heat damage, and burning off my hair. I finally decided to jump in, enjoy my journey, and do the things that worked for “my” hair.
  • How often do I use heat?
    When I first started using heat, I was only comfortable with once a month. This later changed into twice a month (every two weeks), and now I use once a week. I would NEVER use more than once a week.
  • What tools do I use?I started using blow dryers regularly, but later found it less stressful on my hair to use a flat iron. I know what you are thinking flat iron less stressful than blow dryer what? The blow dryer for me completely dries my hair out sometimes, but I noticed the flat iron kept some of that moisture in. So let’s start off with how I used my blow dryer and what I used.

*Heat Stretching With Blow Dryer: I used the tension method to blow dry my hair. This made it easier to stretch the hair without over manipulating the hair and running a brush or comb through my hair over and over again. I used the blow dryer on high air with low heat. When the blow dryer is on high air it makes the low heat a little warmer, so it doesn’t take forever to dry.

Tension Blow Drying

*Heat Stretching With Flat Iron: I use the “Andis Ceramic Multi Heat Flat Iron”. The highest temperature on this flat iron is 375  degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is labeled in numbers 1-20. 20 being the highest heat. I use the flat iron only on level 10. If 20 is the highest heat, that means it would be close to around 375 degrees Fahrenheit. I would assume level 10 which is half of 20 would be half of 375 giving me about 187.5 degrees or a little more. Although we do know that temperatures no matter what the box says varies when it comes to flat irons, so you have to use your own discretion. The reason the temperature is so important is because healthy hair burns at 450 degrees. I personally don’t want to be anywhere near that. Also, I feel comfortable knowing that I am still pretty close to the average temperature of a blow dryer which is about 100-150 degrees. Now, these are things that make me comfortable this could be different for everyone. I only use my flat iron on clean, dry hair. Before I use heat I always do a thorough deep conditioning and sometimes a light protein treatment. Heat takes moisture out of the hair, so deep conditioning adds a little bit more moisture without completely drying the hair out during heat usage. When I flat iron the sections I go over each section ONCE. I also don’t hold the flat iron in place, I go down the strand gently, but as fast as possible to get the results I am looking for. Again, my goal is not “bone straight hair”. I am literally just heat stretching.

  • What is heat stretching? I started to refer to my heat usage as heat stretching because number one I didn’t want my use of heat regularly to be mistaken for heat training. I am in no way trying to change the natural texture of my hair. I love my curls and coils, and I love that my hair still has versatility after over three years of regular heat usage. Heat training is when you are intentionally adding an excessive amount of heat to your hair to change the texture of your hair and in the end making it easier to manage. With heat stretching you are not using excessive heat. You stick to low temperatures in order to maintain the structure and health of your hair as much as possible. Your only goal is to literally just stretch your hair pretty much like twisting, bunning, African threading, wrapping, braiding, just to name a few. I have chosen to use this method over the others, due to better results and success.
  • My Tips For Preventing Heat Damage

* I changed the way that I looked at using the flat iron in comparison to my relaxed days. As someone who has natural hair, I know my hair and understand that it frizzes at the drop of a dime. Going for bone straight hair is useless, and unrealistic for “me”. This is why I just focus on stretching and not necessarily straightening. When you are trying to straighten natural hair and get that bone straight look, you feel compelled to use high heat to achieve those results, and it leads to unhealthy practices for some.

* Moisture is key. Deep conditioning your hair before and after heat usage could be one of the best things that you do for your hair. Always keep in mind that heat takes the moisture from your hair, so adding to it can only help. Also, I find that going for long periods trying to maintain straight hair leads to dryness and breakage. This is why I have chosen to wash weekly and heat stretch weekly. I need to keep my hair clean and moisturized regularly. This gives me a week of nicely stretched hair. It also keeps me from going long periods of time without water in my hair, which I find to be very dangerous for my hair.

* Low Manipulation Is Your Friend. When I heat stretch I usually go for a low manipulation hairstyle. Buns are my go to hairstyle, and this keeps me from over manipulating my hair throughout the week. It also makes it easier to keep the hair stretched. When I heat stretch my hair the goal is always to make it easier to manage and maintain my hair. So, excessive styling would defeat the purpose and could do more harm than good especially when paired with heat.

  • How do I maintain my heat stretched hair with fitness, weather, etc.? Again I will mention realistic expectations. Frizz, shrinkage, etc. is a part of the journey. I have not found any method that completely prevents these things. To minimize frizz I always focus on how I prepare my hair. One thing that I know causes frizz is dryness. I always deep condition my hair thoroughly before using heat. I am big on oils so I love to add oils to my hair to not only add shine, but help “minimize” frizz. I live in a climate that has high humidity, so I understand that if there is a lot of moisture in the air, my hair will revert. There is no way to stop this process. Our hair is made up of bonds. One of the bonds that makes our hair so awesome are the hydrogen bonds. These bonds allow our hair to be shifted into so many amazing shapes, curls, etc temporarily. When moisture is introduced into the hair it changes the bonds, once it dries it stays in whatever shape you have placed it in. Once water is re introduced into the hair it causes the bonds to be broken and in the end revert. This is why humidity is NOT our friend when we have an amazing twist out. LOL! When we are having a high humidity day, the truth is I go for a bun. This keeps my hidden so that I can keep it stretched longer.
  • Heat Protectant: I have tried a couple of different heat protectants in the past, but for about two years I have been using extra virgin olive oil. I started to use this oil as a heat protectant, because I didn’t really like the way heat protectants made my hair feel. After careful research I decided to start using the oil, it was already a regular part of my hair regimen, so it was not a hassle.  Extra virgin olive oil as a high smoke point meaning it can tolerate high heat. You still want to be careful with this, because that all depends on how high the heat is you are using.  Extra virgin olive oil’s smoke point is 375 – 405 degrees Fahrenheit, 191 – 207 degrees Celsius. Even though this is the smoke point, you don’t want to use heat that is extremely hot, because that could make the oil ineffective. In my opinion this goes for any type of heat protectant. Always go as low as possible when using heat, that is my personal rule.

*A Few Other Oils You Can Use As A Heat Protectant
-Grapeseed Oil
-Argan Oil
-Coconut Oil
-Avocado Oil
-Sunflower Oil

  • When Not To Use Heat: All of the information that I have provided above is ONLY when dealing with HEALTHY hair. You do not want to add heat to damaged, brittle, dry, breaking hair. Adding heat will destroy the hair even more only increasing your hair problems. So just make note to always pay attention to your hair, how it is behaving so that you can a make a good decision on whether you should or should not be using any heat. The truth is sometimes our hair just needs a break from some of the things we put it through during the year including heat,  certain styling routines, etc. Examine Your Regimen to find what could be affecting your hair and when it is healthy you can make a decision on how much heat if any to use.
  • Quick Notes – How hot is too hot?!?! Just make a note that HEALTHY hair burns at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Fine hair can burn around the 200s – 300s. So, make sure you are familiar with the type of hair you have. I just always have a rule for my hair and I never go near 400. I will barely touch 300. Again, the lower you can go and achieve the results you like the better.

This article is in no way to encourage others to add heat styling to their regimen. This is for those who are currently using heat or may be considering. This is based off of my personal experience and research. In the end using heat is a big decision when it comes to hair maintenance. You have to always be very careful and understand the risk that comes with doing it, even just once. DO YOUR RESEARCH! I truly hope this helps someone!

If you would like to discuss this more in detail or if you have any other questions regarding natural hair. Click The link below! I look forward to speaking with you! Google Helpout - Natural Hair ————————————————————————-

“easy natural hair”

Click MsAliciaJames.com For More “Natural Hair” videos!

Flat Ironing Natural Hair

Flat Ironing Natural Hair
Flat Ironing Natural Hair - Front View
Flat Ironing Natural Hair - Back View

Flat Ironing Natural Hair - Ponytail

I guess you can say this was a two day process. I didn’t want to rush it, and I wanted to make sure that my hair was well protected and taken care of. I have no regrets, and I am really enjoying my straight hair!

Products Used:

  • Golden Wheat Deep Cleanse Shampoo by Giovanni
  • Smooth As Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner by Giovanni
  • Direct Leave In Weightless Moisture Conditioner by Giovanni
  • Smooth As Silk Xtreme Protein Hair Infusion by Giovanni
  • 100% Vegetable Glycerin (any brand)
  • Brazilian Smooth Keratin Blowout Cream
  • Andis 1 1/2″ Ceramic Flat Iron

My Process:

  • I shampooed my hair with my Golden Wheat Deep Cleanse Shampoo by Giovanni. It is very important to flat iron on clean hair.
  • I did a nice protein treatment with my Smooth As Silk Xtreme Protein Hair Infusion by Giovanni. I wanted to make sure my hair was nice and strong.
  • After my protein treatment I did a deep conditioning to add back in the moisture after the protein treatment. I used my 100% Vegetable Glycerin (any brand) and Smooth As Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner by Giovanni. I didn’t do a oil treatment, because sometimes I don’t wash it all out. I didn’t want my hair to be oil and weighed down.
  • After my deep conditioning I applied my Direct Leave In Weightless Moisture Conditioner by Giovanni and Brazilian Smooth Keratin Blowout Cream (heat protectant). I put my hair in medium twist to let air dry overnight.
  • The next morning I took down my twist and blow dried my hair using the tension method.
  • After my hair was blown out, I sectioned the hair into four different sections. I started with each section, breaking it off into smaller pieces to flat iron. I only did one pass. I flat ironed on 15. It goes up to 20 an the hottest temperature is 375.
  • When I was done flat ironing I applied a small amount of Brazilian Smooth Keratin Blowout Cream. (heat protectant)
  • I cut about 3-4 inches to even out and any straggly ends


I love it! I want to wear it straight for as long as possible! My hair is not extremely straight, it has some body. I wasn’t looking for a bone straight look. Also, I understand with my natural hair texture it may require hotter heat to get bone straight. I am not interested in risking burning my har off! LOL!  I am maintaining my hair at night by using the “bunning method”. I am not looking to have bone straight hair. The bun gives me movement.

Videos Of My Hair Journey



Flat Iron Natural Hair - Alicia James

Yes, I had to have a little fun and post only 1/2 of a flat ironed photo for you! LOL! It keeps it interesting! I will be posting a full photo tomorrow! I am really loving my straight hair. It is super cute, and yes,  I have been swinging it! Not sure how long this will last, but I will try to get at least two weeks out of it or more. It is not super super straight, but it’s straighter than it has ever been. I had to trim slightly.It looks like it is going to rain today, and the humidity is kind of high, so I will bun it up when I go outside today. 🙂

I will have details on what I did and used coming soon. Just enjoy my nice tease!

“Easy Natural Hair”
Click MsAliciaJames.com For More “Natural Hair” videos!

“Natural Hair” Frequently Asked Questions

1.)    Do you typically wash your hair in sections, now that your hair is longer?

If washed loose do the strands wrap around each other?

How do you prevent knots and tangles?

No, I do not wash my hair in sections. I tried it before in the past, and I didn’t like it.  I wash my hair in the shower, and I find that it makes it easier to detangle the hair and decrease the number of knots.

2.)    How often do you wash your hair?

Do you have any stress spots or spots where your hair grows slower?

If so, what do you do?

Do you cut it or see if it catches up with the rest?

I wash my hair weekly. The crown of my head seems to grow slower than the rest. My hair naturally grows in layers, so it is obvious some spots grow faster than others.

The back of my hair grows faster than the rest. I cut about 3 or more inches off in the past, to even it out. I felt like it looked like a mullet. That is the only time I have cut my hair to even things out.

3.)    Did you ever trim your hair? If so, How often and How much?

Did you have any setbacks? If so, what?

How much do you think your hair grows? months, years, etc.

How long do you leave your twist in?

How do you moisturize while wearing twist?

How much growth did/do you get from wearing twist?

Yes, I trim my hair only when needed. Usually it is every 6 months, so twice a year. I had to trim my hair, because at one point I was blow drying once every 1-2 months, and needed to make sure I was getting rid of any dry or split ends from that routine.

I think my hair grows the average ½ an inch a month, but I also think it grows faster at the end of the year. It seems like my hair always transforms at the end of each year.  The most important thing is retention. I believe I retain about 4-5 inches each year.

On average I will leave my twist in for about 3-4 weeks.  When wearing twist, I moisturize my ends by spritzing them lightly with water and then adding a little oil or leave in.

I retain a good amount of length when wearing twist. If I wear them a full month, I may retain ½ an inch, which is average.

4.)    What is the best way to retain length, or

What routine worked best for you?

A consistent regimen including keep the hair cleaned, weekly deep conditioning/hot oil treatments, low manipulation, and protective styling. These are all the things that really helped to keep my hair healthy and also help me to retain more length.

5.)    What are some other good protective hairstyles without braiding or twisting?

There are so many different hairstyles you can do with natural hair. I just recently did a video with my winter protective hairstyles. You can check that video out. There are several styles you can do with loose hair. The styles I did with twist can also be done with loose hair.

Link here to “Winter Protective Hairstyles” – http://youtu.be/ICH4QUnbFmw

6.)    I would really like to know how you stayed motivated.

Did you ever get the urge to press your hair?

I am two years into my journey with no heat.

My goal was to reach waist length first in 2013, but I am really fighting the urge to blow dry or press.

What kept you from pressing your hair?

I can’t say that I resisted the temptation. I used the blow dryer for the first time since being natural at the beginning of my second year. After that I would blow dry once ever y 1-2 months. I was able to resist the flat iron, but I will be flat ironing for the first time in December. I wanted to wait until I reached waist length before flat ironing.  I never really had a fear about using heat, so it was not something that made me nervous. I will say if you have set a goal to not use heat until waist length, I encourage you to try to stick to your word, but if you decide not to wait, I will not be mad. Always remember to keep it fun, and you have the right to do whatever you want to do with YOUR hair.

7.)    I know you are celebrating waist length, but would you ever consider cutting your hair?

Talking about the future, where do you see your hair in the next five years?

Would it still be natural, red, locs, etc.?

I don’t see myself cutting my hair any time soon, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it. I enjoy having long hair right now.  I have discussed with my husband donating hair when it gets really long.

I have thought about coloring my hair with henna. I am slightly interested in reddish brown hair. I also told my husband I may do locs when I am older, maybe in my 50s or 60s. You never know what can happen

8.)    How do you keep your hair moisturized throughout the week without getting product build up?

How often do you wash?

What are your staple products?

How do you deal with single strand knots?

Who are your favorite natural hair youtubers?

I am currently using lighter products. These are products with more natural ingredients, so they don’t usually cause a lot of product build up. I was using Cantu in the past, which was a great product, but it had silicone which can build up on the hair easily. You have to be careful if you are applying it every day. Silicone can be great for adding shine and maintaining styles, but it can also cause a lot of product build up. I also wash my hair weekly, so my hair is always thoroughly cleaned. My must have product is extra virgin olive oil. I have used it for most of my natural hair journey and my hair loves it. I don’t think I will ever stop using it.

Single strand knots are a normal part of having curly hair. I get them, my daughter who has looser curls get them.  To minimize them my normal solution was to just keep the hair stretched, but lately I have been doing wash and gos, so I had to come up with different methods. I refresh my hair daily, so I make sure to do a light finger comb to make sure there are not strands tied around each other or itself. I also make sure to always wash in the shower. It really helps when the running water runs down your hair and stretches the strands out for you. The water makes it easier to detangle the hair, and prevent more knots and tangles.

9.)    Do you think you would have reached waist length without the big chop?

Yes, there are many people who are able to transition to natural hair without big chopping. I did the big chop, because I was just curious about my hair. At the time I had no idea I was going natural. I didn’t know anything about going natural etc. There are lots of long term transitioners.

10.) Were you ever embarrassed after your big chop?

What did you do in order to overcome the feeling of wanting to relax?

Please go over your hair products and regimen?

Yes, it was a little hard in the beginning when everyone was responding negatively to my hair. It was such a drastic change for me, I had to get used to it. In the end, it didn’t matter though. I had already made up my mind, and in the end really didn’t care what anyone thought about the hair on MY head.

The products I am currently using is extra virgin olive oil, Giovanni Shampoo, Conditioner, Leave In. Sometimes I mix a little glycerin in my conditioner. I also use a little eco styler for my wash and go.

“Natural Hairstyles” – My 10 Winter Protective Styles

"Natural Hair" MY 10 Winter Protective Hairstyles

Hi everyone, it’s Alicia and I am doing a really quick video on my favorite winter protective hairstyles. A little bit about my winter regimen it is the same as the rest of the year. I don’t really do anything different. I live in Houston. It doesn’t get really cold here. During this time it can go all the way down to the 50s and under and then the next day I will be in shorts.

So, let’s go through my favorite styles. Here on Youtube I have created so many different hairstyles. So, what I have done is compiled a bunch of the styles I have done in the past.

Some of these styles were done on blown out hair, stretched hair, curly hair; you can do them however you like.

The first hairstyle is the hair bow updo. This was a cute hairstyle that I saw on Paris Hilton. I did this hairstyle with my two strand twist, but it can also be done on loose hair. It is a really simple and fun hairstyle.

The next hairstyle is an elegant simple updo. It is a really nice style that you can wear to dinner or a nice event including a wedding or you can make it fun and wear it casual. It is still nice and will give you a beautiful look.

The next style is the big bun with my loose two strand twist. I love wearing the loose twist over the regular two strands, because you get a fuller look. We already know the bun is something that can be done with loose hair.

Another style with my loose two strand twist is this really fun and funky updo. This is one of those hairstyles where I was just experimenting with my hair, and trying to create a new hairstyle.  That is the great thing about hair. You can just have fun with it. Play around with your hair to create really fun but nice hairstyles.

This next style was created by Draya from the first season of Basketball Wives.  It was really cute on her, so I had to try it. I did this style while wearing two strand twists. It’s simple and it’s cute.

Next is the side bun, one of my favorite updos that I have ever done. You can call it a French twist, it looks very similar. It’s a beautiful hairstyle, simple to do with a banana clip and a few hair pins.

Another style is what I like to call, the tuck it in hairstyle. It almost looks like it is something that is complex, but it is very simple. It has a very nice and conservative look, but I think it is also something you can make casual.

Also, the Angelina Jolie Golden Globe Look.  It was really beautiful on her. I saw it on her, and I had to try it. You can dress it up or dress it down. I always like to try styles that I can wear anywhere. That’s what keeps it fun, doing the hairstyle that fits you or that fits your lifestyle.

One of my go to hairstyles….. the high bun with the banana clip. If you have been subscribed to me for a while, you know the banana clip is my best friend. I have had the same one for over two years. You can create so many hairstyles with the banana clip. I always get the question, where did I get my clip from, I believe CVS or Walgreens.  It’s not the little thin flimsy ones, it is nice and thick.

My last hairstyle is the sort of messy bun. When I uploaded this hairstyle video, I uploaded it as a messy bun, because I didn’t really try to create a clean look. I just threw it up in a ponytail and threw some pins in it. So, that is why I called it a messy bun, but It still has a neat look to it.

You can click on each video to watch the complete demo of how I do that hairstyle.

Thank you!

Quick and easy tips on growing and maintaining natural hair!

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