How To Prevent & Repair Heat Damaged Hair
From blow drying and curling to flat ironing and waving, our tresses endure a lot of heat styling on a daily basis. While hot tools can definitely leave your hair looking more stylish and put together, over time, heat damage can lead to dry, dull and brittle strands. And if you color or chemically process your hair, this damage is compounded, since it’s coupled with the effects of the chemicals used to produce your desired hue.
When the hair strand is compromised from heat, the outer cuticle layer—aka the hair’s protector—begins to break down and exposes the medulla, the strongest part of the hair. This will cause loss of melanin (color) in the hair and a decrease in nourishment, which leads to visibly broken, dry and sometimes even frizzier hair.
Unfortunately, no hair type is immune to heat damage, from the curliest of curly to the straightest of straight. Whatever the texture, however, there are thankfully plenty of ways to minimize heat damage without having to toss out our beloved heat-styling tools altogether. Here are some go-to solutions for protecting strands from heat damage, no matter the texture, length or color.
Get regular trims
While at first thought, cutting your hair might not seem like it could help prevent heat damage, the reality is the healthier your strands, the less damage heat will cause. Once the hair begins to break or split, it will continue to work itself up the hair shaft to the point where you have all of these short hairs you didn’t have before. You can prevent this by trimming your hair even just once every couple of months, although stylists recommend doing so every 8–12 weeks.
Use a high-quality shampoo
To strengthen the hair barrier so that it’s strong enough to withstand heat damage without breaking we recommend using a high-quality shampoo and conditioner to help moisturize and detangle. After washing and conditioning, use a light spray or detangler to add another layer of strengthening and protection.
Air dry whenever possible
Air drying might take longer, but it will save your hair from serious damage in the long run—even if you do it just once or twice a week. If you have naturally curly hair that you love to wear straight or super straight hair that you love to make wavy. We suggest allowing your hair to air dry first and then applying the hot iron onto your newly air-dried strands. Alternatively, you can try hairstyles that don’t involve heat, such as braids or even a messy bun.
Use a moderate heat setting
One of the biggest mistakes people make when using a hot iron is turning the heat setting up too high. The sweet spot for most hair types is 150–200 degrees, although coarse, thicker textures may need closer to 300 degrees. Never use a settling higher than 400 degrees because that’s when all textures will start to get damaged unless your hair is keratin treated.
Always apply a thermal protector
Before you take the heat to your hair, even with just a blow dryer, it’s always recommended that you use a heat protectant, which creates a barrier between your open hair shaft and the heat. Spritz over wet hair a few times and then use a wide-tooth comb to distribute it from roots to ends of hair. As an added bonus, a lot of heat-protectant serums tend to detangle strands, as well, creating less friction and breakage when you comb through.
Use hair masks regularly
If you do heat-style often, one of the best ways you can expedite your hair’s recovery is to do a hair mask at least once a week. The mask will help keep moisture in your hair and add a layer of protection when you style with hot tools.
This is one of the simplest ways to cut out some of the damage you may be causing your hair. A better blow dryer with a proper nozzle will eliminate having to work as hard and long on your hair because it will take less time and therefore apply less heat. We also recommend using a boar bristle brush since it doesn’t heat up the way a ceramic or metal brush does. Instead it pulls the natural oils through the hair without drying the hair out. A ceramic brush will be consistently heating the hair and may be too much for certain textures.