I’m On A Heat-Styling Break, So Here’s How I’m Dealing With My Hair

I’m rehabilitating my overstressed hair with these miracle products and easy styles. Here’s how you can undo damage, too.

A couple weeks ago, Marci asked how often we skip heat-styling our hair. My answer? “ZERO PERCENT OF THE TIME.”

I mean, I don’t heat-style every day, but I do it multiple times a week--curling or straightening before I shoot pictures for my articles, blow-drying after I wash it. I just don’t have the type of hair that looks nice when it air-dries. Or actually, it looks fine...if you don’t mind a dude on a flying horse showing up at your front door and trying to chop your head off.

Further complicating the equation: I have a dog who needs to be walked (or at least taken outside) several times a day, my hair is very thick and takes FOREVER to dry on its own, it’s starting to get cold in Chicago (and going out with a wet head is not world’s best idea), AND a large part of my job involves having nice-looking hair for photos.

So for my life, heat styling = essential.

Unfortunately, my hair hasn’t been agreeing with me.

Last week, something felt...wrong. My hair felt weak and stretchy. It was too soft in my hands. It didn’t feel like my usual brush-breaking mega-strong horse’s mane, and I knew I had put it through too much.

I am always telling you guys to know your own hair/skin/nails/etc, because YOU are the best judge of when something isn’t right. Here’s where I show you that I take my own advice: I knew that my hair wasn’t right, and that heat would only stress it out further. So I made the decision to temporarily retire my blowdryer, straightener and curling iron and take a two-week heat-styling vacation.

But as I’ve mentioned, my hair doesn’t air-dry nicely, and looking nice is a part of my job now. So what’s a girl to do?

Here are the products and hairstyles that have been helping me restore my crowning glory to it’s normal, healthy condition.

Care & Feeding

I wash my hair twice a week, and this is fine for me. I considered decreasing this to once a week, but it’s getting cooler and my skin (including my scalp) is just that little bit drier, so that wasn’t a comfortable option.

I still love the L’Oreal Everpure Smooth shampoo that I wrote about many moons ago, used with the Organix Keratin Conditioner and Organix 3 Minute Miracle deep conditioner. I’ve been slathering a mixture of those two conditioners on and sitting with my hair under a shower cap for a good ten minutes, just to make sure it’s really sinking in.

But that wasn’t enough, so I decided to try a leave-in treatment that a couple of my friends with coarse, wavy/curly hair like mine swear by. It’s A 10 Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin spray has been a LIFESAVER: lightly scented (it has camellia extract in it and I think that’s the smell) and incredibly luxurious and moisturising, it doesn’t weigh my hair down or give it that crunchy feeling when it dries. I just spray it in, comb it through and let it dry.

It’s the best leave-in conditioner I’ve ever used. I am IN LOVE.

It doesn’t provide hold or define my waves or any of that nonsense: all it does is what it says on the bottle: it conditions and it makes my hair feel wonderful. I felt the difference in my hair’s texture after one use, and it’s only improved since.

When I told my heart and soul sister Faz about my hair problems, she told me “Just do what my ancestors did: oil and braid!”

Putting oil in my hair has never really benefitted it, and I think that might just be my hair type, because I know heaps of people who swear by this method and have gorgeous hair. But the spirit of her advice was sound! My It’s A 10 leave-in conditioner came with a trial packet of their Miracle Deep Conditioner, so after I washed my hair, I slathered that through, braided my hair to the side and caught up on Nashville.

The packet says to leave it on for only five minutes, but I looked up the ingredients and none of them will do anything bad to your hair if you leave it on longer. After 45 minutes, I rinsed it out, and my hair felt so soft and healthy. It really was a miracle!

I did quickly realise that there was a flaw in my no-blowdrying plan: I have bangs. And, uh, they make some interesting shapes when left to their own devices. So I had to relax my no heat styling EVER rule somewhat to allow for the low heat setting on my dryer, used on my bangs only.

I styled them gently with a flat paddle brush, which didn’t give them as much bounce as my usual round brush-drying does, but it also didn’t require as much heat or stress. And I still think they looked pretty good.

From there, I let my bangs be great and the rest of my hair air-dry. Which was an entire THING in and of itself.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting... To Air-Dry Your Hair.

The first time I let my hair air-dry, I washed my hair at 6 p.m. When I woke up at 7 a.m, my hair was still damp.

Sometimes it sucks having thick hair.

So I thought back to how I used to dry my hair in high school, when I didn’t even own a blow-dryer. And then I was like, oh yeah, I lived on a hill right by the beach on the west coast of Australia. It was warm even in winter. I used to sit on my back balcony and comb my hair while the sun and sea breeze dried it for me like a damn mermaid.

So, that’s out.

I did reduce my drying time by using two Turbie Twists instead of one (remember how much I love those dudes?). I wrap my hair in one as soon as I’m out of the shower and let it pull some of the wet out of my hair. After about half an hour when the towel is sodden, I take it out, comb my hair gently, and then put it back up into a new, dry Turbie.

The material that Twists are made of apparently help pull moisture out of your hair, and they do seem to dry my hair better than wrapping a towel around my head. But they don’t take it ALL the way--you won’t pull it off and have bone-dry hair. More like still wet, but not dripping.

Anyway, from here I comb it quite a lot. The brushing action helps my hair to get rid of some of the extra water, plus I can pretend I am Marsha Brady. Ladies with hair that they wear curly may want to skip this, as I’ve found that it flattens out my waves. Also, be careful if your hair is REALLY damaged, as too much combing--please do not use a brush on troubled, wet hair--might break it. You are the best judge of your hair! Be careful!

I don’t want my damp hair getting all up in my life all the time, so I pulled my hair back into a low bun and used two Spin Pins to hold it in place. If you have medium to long hair and you don’t have Spin Pins (sometimes called “Pin Twirls,” depending on who makes them), stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, run to the store and buy them. They will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

All you do is twist your hair into a bun, then twirl one pin in at the top and one coming up from the bottom. Done. They’re comfortable, won’t dent the ends of your hair and your bun won’t move. How badly do I wish I had these back in my dancing days?

Low-Stress Styling

Usually, my hair is pulled up in a weird messy topknot on the very top of my head.

Unfortunately, even this started to become an issue, as I noticed a weird pattern of damaged and broken hairs that started right where the elastic of my topknot hit.


So it’s been all about the low styles lately, while my hair recuperates. Obviously my favourite is the low bun, held in place with the previously mentioned spin pins.

This works for me because I can pull my damp hair back and get it off my neck, it’ll dry into some nice loose waves AND the spin pins stop the dreaded Elastic Hair Tie Mark. If you work in an office, this is the perfect style because it’s simple and put-together while also being low-damage. It’s a classic for a reason.

I’ve also been into the loose Wednesday Addams braids, held at the ends with small, clear elastics. These bands are way too small to hold ALL my hair, but they work well at the ends of half of it.

I wear them with a floppy hat and a black coat when I go out, just to stop them from looking too adorable. These probably aren’t appropriate for work, but you can always pin them up into a braid-crown for a more put-together style.

After I showed you guys how to make hair bows, I wondered why I didn’t have any cute hair clips. I ran to Target and bought these suckers:

And they’re adorable, especially on the days when I want to stop my hair from flopping into my face but don’t feel like doing another low bun. Instead, I slide them in to my hair starting underneath my ears, and then clip.

All the hair-out-of-your-face benefits of a ponytail with additional sparkle. I love it.

After Faz’s oil-and-braid advice, I remembered how much I dug my Katniss-style single side braid, and I’ve been doing that a lot lately, too. I especially like fishtail braids because they distribute the weight of my hair a little more evenly, and they look a little cooler than your run-of-the-mill three piece braid. However you wear it, remember not to braid too tightly near your skull--this could potentially stress out and break damaged hairs.

As I write, I still have three days left in my heat styling vacation, and my hair is in much better condition that it was. I can’t say that I’m going to forgo blowdrying my hair forever, but I’ve certainly realised that even MY horse’s mane isn’t exempt from the damaging effects of too much straightening and curling.

It was also a good reminder of something that I tell you guys quite a lot: It’s easier to PREVENT damage than it is to UNDO it. I’m pretty good to my hair, but it’s clear that I could have been a lot better to it--and now I have to try to fix the problems that I’ve caused. I could have skipped all this by being better to it in the first place.

So guys, tell me: Do you ever schedule heat-styling vacations, or do you just skip blowdrying (etc) as needed? What is your favourite deep conditioner? How do you deal with overstressed hair situations? And for those of you who have wild hair like yours truly, how do you style it without heat so that it still looks good?