The Hot Comb Is Back – But Is That A Good Thing?

January 7, 2023
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The Hot Comb Is Back – But Is That A Good Thing?

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Famous tools including roller sets, perm rods, gas-heated irons, and hot combs were originally utilized to create well-liked and time-honored hair fashions. But what if rollers took the place of your texturizing spray or volumizing mist? Or are perm rods snuck into your haircare regimen? It seems unbelievable in this day and age, but it would be foolish to rule them all out given the recent increase in the use of hot combs.
Any Black woman who is asked about a stovetop hot comb may cringe as flashbacks of the grease, the flames, and the sound of singeing come to mind. I haven’t used a hot comb on my own afro hair in about two decades. On the morning of my parents’ wedding, in our tiny kitchen in south east London, my mother straightened my afro by pressing (the popular name for  straightening textured hair).
Her arm was burned as a result of the searing hot tip unintentionally catching the grease-covered nape of my neck as she went towards the back. Throughout the remainder of her special day, the mark grew redder.
Similar recollections of the device are shared by hairdresser and salon co-owner Lorraine Dublin: “When I was a little kid, my mother used to have a hot comb that she used on her own hair but she’d never use it on me. I recall being overjoyed when she gave me a treatment and used it to straighten the front of my hair. Black women frequently share experiences similar to these.
Before possibly giving in to irreversible and frequently harmful chemical straighteners, hot combing was always a rite of passage for Black females as a way to try something new and view hair in a new perspective.
According to Sandra Gittens, an educator and author who specializes in hair history, “Annie Malone truly pioneered the use of the pressing comb in the States,” and “hot pressing appeared around the 1940s in the UK, with the entry of the Windrush population.” At a time when the natural texture of afro hair was far less accepted than it is now, the procedure was a common, less permanent way to adapt to European hair trends.
The risks of the hot comb were ever-present despite the fact that they were temporary. Without a temperature indicator, you couldn’t tell if you were scorching the hair beyond repair, and the proximity of the comb to the scalp posed a serious risk that might have an impact on hair growth.
Fortunately, the method we pressed our hair altered when electric straighteners were available and more widely used in the 1990s and early 2000s. It took less time and less energy to process the hair because of modern equipment and a temperature that was carefully controlled. The end was also just as smooth and far less greasy.
Since it took so much longer to utilize them at the salon, I quit using the hot comb about 10 to 15 years ago, says Dublin. Before applying it to the client’s hair, you would need to wait for it to warm up. The procedure took too long, which made the appointment longer.
However, heated combs are being employed once more as of late. Although they have the same physical characteristics as the traditional tool from earlier times, they are now mostly heated electrically and have functionality to rival some modern straighteners.
Thankfully, they no longer use grease or a flame to smooth down textured hair. The Pink Hot Comb was recently introduced by Mary Adekoya, a salon owner in London, who noticed the tool’s comeback in the States. “I noticed a demand for a much-needed product in the market. I discovered that many women want to create looks with a professional aesthetic at home, and I knew the Pink Hot Comb would be useful,” adds Adekoya. 
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Her updated hot comb combines the functionality of contemporary straighteners with the tool’s classic aesthetic. To prevent users from burning their scalp, there are 18 heat settings, a heat-lock feature, titanium coating, and an anti-burn comb protection. Adekoya thinks the hot comb might compete with straighteners if all these criteria are met, especially when it comes to protective styling.
Many Black women wear wigs, and the hot comb can always reach to the wig’s foundation and help it lay flat, giving the appearance of more realism. On Instagram, a short search of the hashtag #hotcomb reveals over 24,000 videos and pictures of Black women using the styling tool to precisely lay their lace front wigs.
But despite its resurgence in popularity, not everyone believes it will be successful. Talisha Cox, proprietor of Elite Hair Lounge, one of London’s most well-liked locations for silk presses, says, “Unfortunately, it’s a no from me. As I have personally discovered, electric hot combs can snag on hair, I highly doubt I will ever use one to press. Additionally, they don’t provide the silk press results that a straightener does smoothly.

Dublin concurs. She confesses, “I used to enjoy an old school press with a hot comb.” But I’ve been using straighteners for a long time, and there are so many options available to fit different hair types; I just find them to be so simple to use.

Whether you intend to reintroduce a hot comb to your personal hair routine or not, the reimagining of classic products like it will undoubtedly continue to catch the attention of beauty enthusiasts everywhere.

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