Transforming wavy hair into a stick-straight style often involves the copious use of chemicals, hair dryers, and flat irons—all amped up to their highest, most follicle-damaging heat settings. But women have been straightening their hair for decades without heat, too—long before ceramic plates, tourmaline, or ionic who’s-it-what’s-its were even a glimmer in T3’s eye.
While heat-free hair straightening techniques might not work for everyone—”Honestly, it’s not very realistic to achieve a straight style from a strong wave or a curly head of hair without using some kind of heat or hot tool,” says Jill Engelsen, senior stylist at New York City’s Butterfly Studio—it is possible to get close if you’re starting with naturally wavy, medium to fine hair. That’s also not to say natural hair and extremely wavy hair types do have any no heat options. Natural and deep wave types can always try using rollers or stretching hair by wrapping it around the head.
So, for those looking to achieve straighter locks without risking damage, here are seven professional DIY tips for straightening hair the heat-free way.
Start with the right shampoo and conditioner
“It’s very important to begin with a proper shampoo and conditioner made for straight hair,” says Scunci‘s celebrity stylist Laura Polko. “Post-wash, try to get out as much moisture as possible, then apply a smoothing cream—or use leave-in conditioner to prep your hair and use a smoothing serum or oil, depending on hair type, to finish.”
Use an ultra-absorbent towel
“Heat-free straightening techniques work best on fine to medium hair texture that is straight or slightly wavy,” says Engelsen. And though it can take hours for hair to totally dry, Engelsen recommends jump starting the drying process by using an absorbent fabric like Aquis, which helps wick moisture out of the hair quickly without causing damage and frizz.
Keep brushing your hair until it’s dry
“For long to medium styles that straighten easily, brush wet hair down and pull it tight with your hands every few minutes until it dries,” explains Engelsen. “On naturally wavy hair, this technique will give you the undone city-chic look you often see on runways—and you can finish the style off with oil or pomade on the ends to smooth things out.” If you’re unsure about what brush, start with the Wet Brush.
Wrap your wet hair around your head, then wait
“Growing up in Argentina, I saw my sisters drying their hair with cold air and then finishing with a technique called toca,” says celebrity hairstylist Ricardo Rojas of Ricardo Rojas Atelier in New York City. “The process starts by drying hair with cold air until almost dry, then grabbing sections and pinning them around your head, wrapping them all around. My sisters did this at night and would wake up the next morning with straight and silky hair.” Engelsen also recommends this type of method. “Start by wrapping it around your head and securing it with large bobby pins with a cardboard type material under the surface of the pins to prevent dents,” explains Engelsen.
Use jumbo rollers
“For long hair, use about six jumbo rollers and section the towel-dried hair to the rollers’ width, comb it up, and wrap your hair flat against the roller,” says Engelsen. “Then, secure with a duckbill clip on each side.” Plastic rollers, over Velcro or foam, work better to achieve a smoother effect.
Use the right products
“I use a gel like Oribe’s gel serum,” says Engelsen. “It fights frizz and smoothes hair beautifully.” Engelsen also recommends using a heat protectant like L’Oreal’s Sealing Repair Lipidium Double Serum.
Try the cold air setting on your hair dryer
“I recommend using a blow dryer with cold air and no product, using a combination of a brush and your fingers to help straighten,” says Rojas. “Once completely dry, use a natural product like coconut oil to relax the cuticle of the hair and eliminate frizz.”