10 Ways to Maintain Flat-Ironed Natural Hair

Woman with flat-ironed hair
Keep your flat-ironed natural hair smooth and sleek. alejandrophotography/E+/Getty Images

You're natural, and you love your chemical-free tresses. But every now and then, you want a temporary change, just to switch up your usual look. During the fall and winter, when the humidity in the air is lower, many naturals turn to their flat irons to create a smooth, straight hairstyle.

If you've straightened your natural locks in the past, you know how much work that entails. You don't want all your time and efforts wasted with a straight look that doesn't last into the afternoon! Once you straighten your hair, learn how to maintain your style until the next shampoo. These 10 tips will help you get, and keep, your straight 'do.

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Choose the Right Season to Straighten

Straightened locks will last longer in winter
ultramarinfoto/E+/Getty Images

First, you'll get better, much longer-lasting results, if you flat iron in the right season. There's not much point in going through this process during the height of summer when humidity is super-high for most of us. It's best to wait until fall and winter to pull out the flat iron; otherwise, your sleek results can easily morph into a puffy, frizzy 'fro once you step outside and the summer air hits your mane.

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Wrap Hair Every Night

Knowing how to wrap your hair helps you create an easy, heatless set that's simple to take down in the morning. It gives your hair volume and body, and requires no additional heat or "bumping" of ends. Not everyone is adept at wrapping, though; plus, some women want more curl in their hair than wrapping provides. You can also pin-curl or Bantu knot your straightened mane at night. Both methods are as gentle as wrapping and will provide more curl or wave to your style. Even a dozen pin-curls in your hair will only take minutes to create, so putting your flat-ironed tresses up at night isn't a time-consuming chore.

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Apply Lightweight Oils or Serums

When your hair is straightened, you want to keep your look as lightweight and bouncy as possible. The best way to achieve this is to avoid any heavy products that will weigh down your mane. Light oils and serums made especially for straight tresses are your best bets. If your hair is very fine and easily weighed down, only apply products to the ends of your style; avoid putting anything on your roots. Some good serums/oils to try include (all available ​on Amazon):

These concentrated serums and oils tend to fall onto the pricey side, but a little goes a very long way when it comes to these types of products. You can easily get by with several drops for your entire head of hair.

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Do Not Reapply Heat

Once your natural hair is straightened, do not reapply heat until your next straightening session. If you did a good job getting your tresses smooth, there's no need to flat iron it again, especially if you're wrapping/pinning your mane every night. As long as you properly prep your hair before bed, you shouldn't have to do much in the morning besides ​shaking it loose, comb it or simply run your fingers through it.

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Use Anti-Humectant Products

Some people battle humidity most of the year, even in the wintertime if they live in a tropical climate. The humidity in the air may not be as high as it is during the summer, but there's still enough moisture in your environment to give your straightened locks a run for their money. Look for products specifically designed to fight humidity and keep your tresses frizz-free. Good picks include (available at Amazon):

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Protect Hair When You Work Out

It's often tough to maintain a straight look when you exercise frequently, but some women make it work by choosing the right way to wear their locks when engaging in cardio or other sweat-inducing activity. Whatever length your tresses are, you should wrap them or secure them in some way while you work out. You may have to braid, twist or bun it; shorter hair can be wrapped and then tied down with a scarf. This is one of the few times a cotton scarf can work with natural hair as it will absorb some of the perspiration. If, however, you notice your edges suffering as a result, other options are available, including the Save Your Do GymWrap and the Bondi Band moisture-wicking headband (both available on Amazon.com).

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Don't Wear This Style Too Long

It can be tempting to wear your flat-ironed 'do as long as possible. After all, you spent a big chunk of a day getting your natural texture to do something against its nature. Some women go weeks and weeks before cleansing their hair again, and this just isn't healthy. Two weeks is even pushing it as a maximum for wearing flat-ironed tresses, but some women routinely go four weeks, or longer. Although you're trying to avoid as much moisture as possible while your mane is straightened, going too long without hydrating your hair is asking for trouble. Cleansing with water moisturizes your tresses, so it's important not to deprive your strands of regular doses of hydration.

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Use Dry Shampoo As Needed

Whether your sleek look only lasts a week or you can stretch it to two, you may find your hair and scalp need refreshing between cleansing. A good dry shampoo can soak up any excess oil while also freshening your scalp. To get the best results, apply a small amount to the roots of your hair; avoid getting dry shampoos down the length of your style, unless you want your hair to look dull. Any of these options will do a good job of doing away with excess oiliness while you're enjoying the straight look (all available on Amazon):

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Avoid Water-Based Products

Humidity is basically moisture in the air. While your natural locks are straightened, you're trying to avoid contact with moisture as much as possible to prolong the style. The usual water-based products which are so hydrating for your curls aren't what your flat-ironed tresses are looking for. You'll probably have to set aside your favorite daily styler/moisturizer until you return to your natural mane. Otherwise, applying water-based products can cause your straight style to frizz and revert.

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Protect Your Hair in the Shower/Bath

Even if you don't work out regularly, you do shower or bathe, and you'll need to protect your straightened tresses during this time so that water and steam don't make a mess of your sleek look. It's a good idea to take a layered approach to bath time. First, wrap, pin-curl or prep your hair in your preferred style. Cover with a silky or satin scarf, tied securely around your hair. (Two scarves can ensure even less moisture getting in.) Then wear a shower cap with a good elastic band that's not likely to slip off and allow water in. The cap I've used and had success with is the Betty Dain Fashionista Collection Mold-Resistant Lined Cap -- the elastic is secure and tight-fitting, it dries quickly and, with several funky patterns available, it's just cute.

Once you've mastered the flat-ironing game, make sure your tresses are as smooth on day seven as they are on day one by applying these tips. Your hair could look like you just stepped out of a salon when you know how to maintain a sleek style.