African American woman typically use chemical relaxers to straighten hair. There are many, however, who cannot or will not put chemicals in their hair. For these women, wearing their hair straight means pressing the hair. Another reason hair pressing is desirable is because it is temporary. So if you have naturally kinky hair, but occasionally want to wear it straight, hair pressing is the solution for you. Pressing hair has nothing to do with an iron; at least not the type of iron that you use to press clothes. Instead, the tool used is a hot comb that can be heated with fire, or through electricity.
Prepare the hair for pressing. Before your press black hair, it must be washed and dried. Use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for use with heat products. Blow-dry your hair on low heat until it is dry. Do not leave hair damp as the water will steam and possibly damage the hair shaft.
Separate the hair into sections. It is wise to make 16 to 20 large braids in preparation for pressing black hair. Each section to be pressed should take up no more than 2 square inches on the scalp. For thicker hair, you will have to separate it into smaller sections.
Allow the comb to get hot. Set an electric comb on a six setting for medium to coarse hair and on seven for thin or fine hair. An electric hot comb should not get hot enough to burn your hair, but to be cautious, test the hot comb on a paper towel to make sure you don’t burn your hair. If the paper towel gets burn marks, turn down the heat.
Run the hot comb through your hair similarly to the way that you would when you comb your hair. Insert the comb into the section of your hair near the scalp and run it through the hair while firmly pressing the back of the comb against your hair. When one section of it is sufficiently straight, move on to the next section.
When all sections of the hair are straight, brush the hair and check for straightness. Carefully press the front and back edges of the hair by pulling the hair straight with one hand while running the hot comb tips through it with the other. Comb through the hair with the hot comb in any places that are still kinky.
There are many heat-protection products that you can apply to hair before pressing it.
Do not try to press your own hair; it is easier to trade services with a friend and do each other's hair.