The Last Resort: Big Chop After Heat Damage

By: Amber Washington

After having natural hair for three and half years I had no choice but to cut my hair after heat damage…

Straightened Natural Hair

Straightened Natural Hair

This is my second big chop in the matter of 3 1/2 years.  And lets just say, I was not too thrilled about doing it for the second time.  But it had to be done.  You see, I had decided for my 7th wedding anniversary weekend, I wanted to be extra cute, so I got it straighten as well as trimmed.  I made an appointment with a stylist I had previously worked for and whose work I had seen on a daily basis.  I was comfortable with her doing my hair.  Let me tell you, when she was done, my hair was laaaaaiiiiidd!  It was the straightest it ever been.

But little did I know, I had just experienced the worst heat damage ever!

There was no heat damage 3 times prior.  So I was surprised by the extent of damage discovered when I went to wash my hair over a week later and after the first AND second shampoo it did not revert back.  By the third time, it slowly started to curl but very loosely and in sections.  I nearly cried when I got out the shower and saw my limp, lifeless hair. I immediately made a call to the stylist hoping for some type of cure for the damage even though I knew in my heart of hearts, the hair I had was gone.  She offered no true solution, even going so far as to say that my sulfate free shampoos and conditioners weren’t strong enough. She suggested liquid dish soap and that might do the trick. Um, if I could have jumped through that phone then, I would have.  I couldn’t believe this was the response from a 20 year hair care veteran.  Needless to say, she was no help and I was on my own.

The aftermath of a press gone wrong

The aftermath of a press gone wrong

Over the course of the next 6 months, I pretty much stuck to protective styles because with so many straight pieces and half curls and waves, I really couldn’t wear it out.  I did opt for a hair cut during that time hoping it would give me more options than pinned twists.  And it did for awhile, but due to the damage, my hair had broken off quite a bit and the straight pieces would only hold a curl for a day. It was then that I began to contemplate my 2nd big chop. Sigh……

Read: 5 Ways To Avoid Heat Damage

Before and After hair picI tossed the idea back and forth for about a month to month and half. I even consulted with Tamara, my friend and the lovely owner of this site, about potentially doing a 2nd big chop.  She brought up good points such as my hair would grow back healthier AND it would compliment my new hot body (I’ve lost 52 pounds since the birth of my son)!  I couldn’t argue with that point.  Shameless, I know.  But I still couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I just didn’t want to go through the TWA phase again, that is until the day of December 30, 2012.  After freshly washing my hair, I looked in the mirror at the disaster that was my mane.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

Without a word to my husband about what I was about to do, I begin to snip away at my hair.  Snip. Snip. Snip, snip.  Until it was all gone.  Again.  I looked at myself and couldn’t help but smile.  I actually like what I saw.  I felt….free.  Since, this wasn’t my first go round with the big chop, I decided to twist my hair instead of the usual wash and go at this stage.  The hubby saw me and didn’t say much or rather anything at all.  I knew he didn’t like it, but I also know he knows it will grow back.  So whatevs.

So here we are back at square one.  And I’m okay with that because this time, I’m more better prepared to take care of my hair.  I will be rocking more protective styles (twists and coils), the use of Jamaican castor oil for my scalp, deep conditioning, weekly of course and hennaing once a month.  And NO MORE HEAT!!!  At least for now.  Maybe a blowout in the future, but absolutely no pressing! I’m done with that!

Too keep up with me and my shenanigans, you can find me here:

Twitter: @notyourmomsgene
Instagram: @morethanamother

Has this ever happened to you or someone you know? 


25 thoughts on “The Last Resort: Big Chop After Heat Damage

  1. camelian

    Hello Amber, sorry you had to cut your hair after so much growth. I too experienced heat damage and had to cut it all my hair after it was halfway down my back. There was also the sense of freedom after cutting off the damage. A year and some change later it was back down my back. The good thing about cutting is healthy hair grows fast! Cudos to you for the courage to cut your hair and share your experience. You look great!

    1. Amber

      Hi Camelian,

      Thank you so much!! That is awesome your hair grew back so quickly! This has been such a journey and its only been a month but I couldn’t be happier. And during this time I can already see growth. Healthy hair does grow fast.

  2. Taia

    I believed hair as well has suffèred from heat damage. Is it normal to not see any curl pattern at the roots of your hair as well when it’s wet?

    1. Amber Washington

      Hi Taia,

      I would have to agree with Camelian. It sounds like its heat damaged as well. My hair was damaged from the root until a few inches, then either a loose wave/curl, followed by a tight curl then straight ends in some places. Absolutely dreadful! But I will say, having big chopped again and knowing exactly how to care for my hair, I do believe its the healthiest it has ever been and the little bit of growth I’ve experienced in just a short time is proof enough for me. Its not something I had ever planned on doing again, but I’m kind of happy just because of that. Whatever decision you come as to what to do with your hair, just remember, it will grow back. And in the mean time, have a little fun with wigs, extensions, scarves, whatever. If care for it, it will grow. 🙂

  3. Gwynne

    Yeah I have the same problem here! It’s been almost 4 years and now I’m going to have to chop it off!! Live and learn

  4. camelian

    Hello Taia! If the heat was close to your scalp, it could have damaged as far as the roots. When my hair was damaged after straightening, my bangs were stick straight while the roots closer to the back curled..much looser than my natural pattern. I thought I’d permanently damaged my hair, but my usual pattern grew out. And that’s when I started chopping lol! I had three different textures, all requiring different levels of maintaience. Just easier to start over sometimes. Good luck ladies!

  5. camelian

    Hello ladies! Along the subject of big chop, I recently had to chop another year’s worth of growth due to a haircut gone wrong. My biggest dilema with natural hair is proper cutting. After a year of no trimming my hair was becoming unhealthy. Additionally, my style had grown out to the dreaded “Christmas tree” shape so I decided to try the devacut. What I thought would be an inch or so of trimming and shaping resulted in EXTREMELY short layers at the top and a shag which retained my length. The style was not working with my curl pattern or face shape. Back to the salon to correct the damage which meant cutting more hair. My length is not at TWA, but no more ponytail for a while. Lesson learned: Knowing which cuts work best for your curl pattern, face shape, and lifestyle is the differnce between a cute style and big chop.There is plenty debate on dry vs wet cutting methods, but I think it depends on your unique hair personality. As long as you are happy with the results is all that matters. Unfortunately that may require some trial and error to find the cutting method that best suits your needs.

  6. From A_to_B

    Hello Amber. Your hair will grow back glorious and beautiful but I am so sorry you had to deal with such rash unprofessional behavior from the stylist. Although I am growing my hair out now just to change up my look, I do big chops on my hair all the time( I love short hair) and I must say nothing beats the feel of freedom it provides :-). Well happy hair trials and have a great day!

    1. Naturalhairrules Post author

      Hey Ahshia,

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I know Amber will appreciate your kind words.

    2. Amber Washington

      Thank you From A_to_B!!! Ugh, it still upsets me from time to time but I can’t and won’t dwell on it. Besides, I am seeing some growth already and I’m excited to see how my hair grows this time around. You have a great day as well!!

  7. Jasmine

    I’m also about to do a second big chop after two years….its really depressing me but now I know so much more about my natural hair and I believe it will be so much healthier! In my case I died my hair I love the color and got so many compliment but no one has to look at my hair like I do and its full of single strand knots and crunchy curls….time to start over!

  8. Allison Jones

    I’m going through this same thing now. I noticed the last few times I washed that it did not curl up the same. I thought my hair was just getting “tamed”. However, I’ve alternated between curly and straight for years with no issues. The only variable that changed was the stylists and his technique. He roller brushed and tgen flat ironed. Needles to say, I no longer go there! I’m going to do cut in a frw weeks. It’s primarily on the ends. I miss my natural curl pattern!

  9. Tina Grey

    Hello Ladies!! I cut my hair back in April due to heat damage after 5 years of growing my hair. It all began to go wrong last November when I attempted to do a blowout myself. BIG MISTAKE! I noticed immediately after washing that it was not the same. It went from bad to worse when I tried my mother’s hairstylist that she absolutely adores. I was getting the urge to flat iron since I hadn’t had my hair flat ironed since January 2012. I’d heard such wonderful things about him that I decided to give him a try. Big mistake #2! Afer that my hair was limp and lifeless. It had curl in some spots, but it just wasn’t the same. I made the decision to big chop, and initially I was very happy. But now I’m starting to get a little hair sick and I’m missing my big curly mane 😦 I don’t regret cutting it off at all. I know it was for the best and I know that my hair will grow back better and healthier than ever, but I’ll probably never go back to heat again. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in this!

  10. taryn

    Your story is so inspirin! Something similar just happened to me and it’s my first time and I didn’t know what to do now I feel better after reading this. You’re so brave

  11. Seann

    Same thing happen to me after 5yrs of growing my hair I cut the ends and will start again I totally understand the situation. I’m so glad I’m not alone and will never use heat on my hair again.

  12. Tina

    Wow. I know that the individual who’s experienced this doesn’t seem regretful, but I don’t know what I’d do if I had to the big chop TWICE. When I started wearing my hair natural I transitioned because I didn’t think the big chop was for me. I’m scared to use heat for this reason alone. I’ve never seen damage to that extent but I’m glad she dug in her heels and started over. I’ve known of people who’ve gotten chemical burns from perms, but never this extent of heat damage from pressing out their hair.

  13. Tameika

    Hey!!! I’m really sorry that this happened to you! Sadly, I have had the same situation. But I haven’t done a big chop yet. I was about 1 year and 10 months in my natural hair journey since doing my big chop. I had previously gotten my hair straightened while I was home on leave to get a trim. My hair started reverting soon as I stepped out of the salon. lol Anyways, so I wanted to get my hair straightened for my birthday back in 2013. So I did and I was very skeptical about wanting to go this hair stylist because I wanted to make sure she used heat protectant and low setting flat iron. So I let her do my hair and when I was done I look as though I had gotten a relaxer. I went two weeks with out my hair reverting back, then I washed it…………heart dropped. I experienced heat damage and I was traumatized because I did not know what to do with my hair after I washed it. I knew this lady didn’t use the heat protectant on whole head of hair because some areas were worst off than others. I refused to do a big chop. I started wearing bantu knot outs a lot just to blend my hair because I couldn’t do anything else to it. Since then I have gotten a trim from my home town hair stylist, and just recently I cut about 3 inches of hair off, I still have about 3 more to go. Lessoned learned…….. HEAT PROTECTANT and a stylist you trust.

  14. Jay

    Hey!! I am currently experiencing the same situation. I had been natural for about three years and at that point, I was really proud of my hair journey and how healthy my hair had become. Then that one faithful day I went to a Dominican salon to get it straightened. All my friends had done it and their hair was also on point and I hadn’t put heat on my hair in three years so, I figured how bad could it be. Boy, was I wrong. When I washed my hair, I literally could not get the smell of burnt hair out of my bathroom. Even out of my hair. Needless to say, my texture never returned and I am refusing this second big chop like it’s the plague! I’ve cut a significant chunk of hair off just because I was tired seeing it so lifeless, but, I’m sure i have more to go. I just cant sit through another big chop.

    1. Ronda

      This happened to me a month ago, I had been growing out my relaxer for two years almost and I was completely natural. I got it to a point of being healthy and growing and decided to go to a domican salon where the girl fried my hair. I washed it a week later to find something similar to the pictures above. I want to cry every wash day because it looks terrible. I have been cutting it piece by piece praying I won’t have to do a big chop but it seems inevitable as time goes on. I have rocked short hair before but it was short relaxed hair. I don’t know what short natural hair will look like and if it will look right in its natural state. I guess only time will tell…


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