Monday, August 15, 2011

Revisiting Childhood Series - Pressing Comb


Ahhh...remember the good old days when you could smell hair burning in the kitchen from someone getting their hair fried and layed to the side with a good old fashioned pressing comb. You know the kind that you put on the stove and once it got hot, it was ready to run through your strands to straighten out curls and kinks. Use a little hair grease and you are sure to have shiny straight locks once it's all done.  You might even have a crispy ear, or forehead burn to go with your nice hairdo if that pressing comb managed to get a hold of more than just your Yes it's funny now, but it can be torture for a little girl whose only other option beside wearing their hair in all its natural glory, or getting a relaxer, was the smoking hot pressing comb, or hot comb as some people call it.  Okay, that was just my overdramatized description. In reality, pressing combs are not that bad if used properly.

I commend my stepmother because at one point she had three girls' hair to keep neat and presentable.  That meant washing, conditioning, blow drying, pressing and styling three heads of hair which normally took majority of a Saturday to complete. The worse part though is that it was only going to last until the next wash day then the process must be repeated again. To her credit, we always looked nice when we left the house.

Although this is a post in my Revisiting Childhood Series, many adults still use a pressing comb either regularly or occassionally to straighten their natural hair. One thing that is different between now and back in the 80's when I was getting my hair pressed is probably the use of heat protectants. More people are knowledgeable about heat damage and the use of heat protectants now thanks to wealth of information that is shared on the internet about properly caring for your hair.

Using a hot comb is a way to straighten the hair that will not cause permanent results like chemicals because it does not break down the chemical bonds of the hair. However, the use of heat frequently and/or at high temperatures can cause the hair to become "heat trained" and the hair's curl pattern will be looser than it is naturally. There may be some that disagree with this statement (I have read one blogger's post in particular where she stated using a hot comb with not change your curl pattern). Just to be clear, a hot comb will not change the chemical bonds that made up your hair's texture or curl pattern, but continuous use of heat can change the "appearance" of your curl pattern which I believe is due to heat damage. Can heat damage be avoided? Absolutely, through the use of moderate heat temperatures, heat protectants, and infrequent use of heat.

An alternative styling tool to the pressing comb that produces the same, if not better results is the flat iron. This particular tool gets use from both natural and relaxed ladies. I have never used it on my hair when I was natural but I do occassionally use it on my daughter's hair when I want to stretch out her hair to give her styles more length and less texture compared to if it were just washed and air dried.

My verdict for the pressing comb is a big A-OKAY. It is perfectly fine to use in my book but only if it is used the right way. The comb should not be smoking, your hair should not be smoking/burning, and a heat protectant is a must. Also, if it's used regularly, be prepared for possible curl patterns changes. Many women will agree that they have experienced this.

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