Sep 13, 2023

How To Protect Hair From Heat Damage Naturally: Simple Changes To Make To Your Heat Styling Routine

Protect your hair with these simple changes

Formulate user Emma has some questions about heat styling:

I love love love straightening and curling my hair. It's so therapeutic to me and totally a part of my morning routine. I think it's a part of my identity at this point, being the person with really nicely styled hair. It's something I take pride in, and I've styled my hair with heat every single morning since I was 14 (for reference, I'm now in my 30's. I'm not kidding about this being part of who I am! Why else would someone wake up early if not to style their hair). I also know it's very bad for my hair. My stylist told me I need to start doing more to protect my hair. And she totally has a point, because I noticed that my hair won't grow past a certain point. She says it's breaking off from all the damage, yikes! It's also become a lot more difficult to get my ends to hold a curl. The bad thing is that because it's much more difficult to get it to hold a curl, I want to subject it to even more heat styling! My stylist says that as I've gotten older my hair has changed, and it's just less resilient to heat styling than it was when I was younger. Which is tragic, but also makes sense? Blah, I know this is a problem and I need to make a change. But where can I even start? I don't want to give up all my heat styling, seriously I love messing with my hair, and it's something I've always done. Are there any strategies that I can naturally slip into my routine to protect my hair from all the heat? Thank you so much in advance!

Thanks for writing, Emma! It sounds like you're in a real pickle. Your stylist is right, one of the most damaging things you can do to your hair is to style it with heat. But with straightening irons, hair dryers, and curling irons being so popular, we understand that completely steering clear of them just isn't realistic. Instead, here are a few ways to naturally modify your routine and lessen the damage that your hair endures.

1. Wait Until Your Hair Is Dry To Style

Always wait until your hair is completely dry before straightening or curling it. Either let it dry naturally or use a hair dryer. Exposing your hair to high amounts of heat while it's wet can boil your hair from the inside out - definitely a haircare no-no.

2. Use Tools With Adjustable Temperature

Look for heat styling tools that allow you to adjust the temperature. For instance, when curling or straightening your hair, turn the temperature down. Don't use the maximum setting!

When you are blow drying your hair, use the warm setting rather than the hot setting. Some hair dryers offer a cool setting, which is ideal.

3. Use A Spray-On Conditioner

There are many spray-on conditioners on the market that are heat protectants; there are moisturizers for your hair that will protect against heat damage. They are usually called Thermal Protection sprays. Never exposure your hair to heat styling tools without one of these sprays -- otherwise, you're sure to experience some damage. 

It's true that certain synthetically derived ingredients, like silicones, are extremely effective in protecting your hair from heat damage. If you want to stay all natural, look for the ingredient hydrolyzed wheat protein. Scientists believe that this ingredient can work similarly to silicones, in that it causes the hair to heat up more slowly, which reduces overall damage.

That being said, the best way to protect your hair is by laying off the heat styling altogether. No method works perfectly, and most heat styling sprays only have about 50% effectiveness.

4. Give Your Hair A Break

Sure, it's nice to have those gorgeous straight locks or lush looking curls, but try to give your hair a break in between. Instead of using hot tools to style your hair each and every day, try to use them every other day instead.

It'll also help your hair to wash it a little less frequently. Scrubbing and water exposure can be quite damaging to hair, so an extra day of dry shampoo can be quite helpful to your hair in lessening the amount of cumulative damage you incur.

5. Invest In A Deep Conditioning Treatment

Deep conditioning treatments can do wonders for protecting your hair from the heat. They can temporarily knit together damaged hair fibers, reducing the likelihood that the damage gets worse or spreads up the hair shaft when you expose your hair to heat. They also have the ability to coat your hair (in a good way), reinforcing the protection provided by the cuticle. Deep conditioners contain ingredients that are drawn to gaps in the cuticle -- they plug those gaps, so moisture stays in your hair and doesn't escape in the presence of heat.

Like spray on conditioners, many deep conditioners contain silicones and other synthetically derived ingredients. While these ingredients are pretty darn great for protecting hair, you can also find naturally derived alternatives. Proteins and amino acids, for example, can also cover gaps in the hair fiber, giving your hair some extra protection. 

6. Use Ceramic Plates

Look for curling irons and straightening irons with ceramic plates. These are less damaging on your hair.

7. Hold the Hair Dryer further from your hair

When hair drying your hair, be sure to hold it 15-20 centimeters away from your head in order to avoid burning. This might sound trivial, but it makes a big difference! The further your hairdryer is from your hair, the more the heat is able to disperse. This way, no single section of your hair is getting boiled.

8. Style Without Heat

You can accomplish many styles without using heat. Go old school and put foam curlers in your hair overnight. Braid your hair and sleep on the braids overnight. Searching YouTube for how to curl hair without heat will net you countless ideas. Heatless curls are also a major trend on TikTok right now -- go check em out! 

9. Get the Most Out Of Your Hairdryer

Don't just use your hairdryer to dry your hair. Use it as a styling tool, and skip the heat tools that you normally use afterwards. Again, searching YouTube for ways to straighten and style hair with the blow dryer alone or the blow dryer on a cool setting will give you a ton of ideas.

10. Make your style work for as many days as possible...

Dry shampoo is your friend! Do everything that you can to prolong your hairstyle after you create it. That way, you can skip a few days of heat styling. If you want to prolong your curls, pull them up into a ponytail on the very top of your head before going to bed - this is called pineappleing. If you want to prolong straightened hair, either pull it into a high pony while you sleep or tuck it into a silk bonnet. Touch up your style each day with a little bit of product to help it keep hold.

11. ... or modify it into a ponytail style

Yesterday's sleek straightened hair can be today and tomorrow's sleek ponytail. If your style didn't hold up overnight, embrace what's left to create a glam ponytail. If your hair looks greasy at the root, bring out that dry shampoo or pull on a headband to accentuate your ponytail. The longer you can go between heat styling, the better. 

12. Utilize heat styling techniques that impact your roots rather than your ends

Your ends are the oldest parts of your hair. Your roots, meanwhile, are far younger and likely still have the cuticle intact. Try to focus on styles that involve heating your roots rather than your ends. This is typically most helpful for blowdrying - let your ends dry naturally, and blow dry your roots only.

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